Dutch Uncles Interview
Manchester indie-poppers Dutch Uncles return to Tramlines Festival this summer after playing a stunning performance on the main stage two years ago. This time around they grace the intimate confines of Queens Social Club with their third album, O Shudder in tow. We caught up with frontman Duncan Wallis to chat about the past, present and future of the band.
So new album O Shudder is your third studio album; what makes it stand out from the previous two?
The way we’ve always approached our music, we always know what time signatures we want to use, it’s something we’ve built upon [from previous albums]. We make things more accessible and never try to be indulgent. It’s a lot more accessible on the first listen. People can expect less guitar – it’s a lot more new wave. Chorusy bass-lines and synth noises. We have made synth lines more integral this time with guitars over the top; but it’s more of a synth album this time.
Can you tell us more about your music style?
It’s unashamedly ’80s, which is not something we planned to do; it’s not like we started writing loads of ’80s bands on a white board or anything… You have to admire ’80s songwriting, especially the characters that singers and writers both put across. It’s bold stuff. At the moment with current indie bands, a lot of it is kind of bedroom produced. It’s introverted, it blends a lot from garage, I get that and I appreciate that. We still treat this band like a live band. Our live show isn’t a load of laptops and we make use of guitars.
So where do you draw inspiration from when you write?
We’ve increasingly tried to make it a more natural, organic process that includes everyone. Three albums ago it was just Robin showing us a song, and then I’d add lyrics. More recently, we had Robin sat at the piano and he wrote one riff so we produced this riff. The challenge is to be more like a band. Writing is a painful process if you don’t keep doing it. If you spend a year touring and not writing, it’s hard to get back to it. In terms of what inspired me to write this album, I told myself this is what I want to do with my life. If you’re not finding interesting things in society, you write about yourself. There are songs that get personal on the album, but that didn’t mean to happen.
So where does the name ‘Dutch Uncles’ come from?
It was a book I saw in a book case at my Dad’s house and it just looked good. It was an old book with a good font on the spine and we just went with it. We said the words to each other and our minds went blank. It doesn’t make sense, but the words were an interesting combination. It sounds nice, but it doesn’t really mean anything.
You’re playing at Queens Social Club as part of Tramlines – excited?
Yeah very excited, it was our favourite festival when we last played it two years ago, there was a circle pit to the Grace Jones cover we did, ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. We’re looking forward to it, especially Queens. It’s a great opportunity.
Are you bringing anything different to the stage this year?
Yeah people will definitely recognise a difference. Our guitarist Sped (Daniel Spedding) left the band earlier this year so we’re treating the band as more of a four-piece now. There’ll be a visual difference; we’re treating it as a very fun challenge to recreate the old stuff as a four-piece. We’re going to try and do a cover of Yes, ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’. We’ll think of something to make it special.
What are your other plans for the year?
There are a couple more singles in pipeline and I think we’re discussing touring after festivals, but it depends how many we play and how the singles do over the summer. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from previous albums; it’s not to predict things. Just wait to see how much it gets sold, how successful it is, and then we act on that. Don’t be too hasty, and see how it charts and kind of go from there. It’s a laid back approach but it comes from experience; there’s nothing worse than two tours in a year and you’re on your last legs and then don’t know how to put together a set list. It’ll be nice to not wear ourselves down.
What about any overseas plans?
There are no overseas plans just yet, though we’d like to! The last two times we played overseas was when we supported tours; Wild Beasts then Paramore. Unless one of those [support tours] comes around again then it’s unlikely, because we have a very British sound. We get told we sound too British to tour Europe.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
Good question, I honestly don’t know, I haven’t gone to university so I’ve never thought about it. Acting would be good, but I’m probably too bald to try that now.
True, I can be a cross between Jason Statham and Terry Gilliam, that’d be my style!
Catch Dutch Uncles at Queens Social Club at Tramlines Festival at 10pm on Sunday June 26.
Weekend tickets are on sale now for £30 from www.tramlines.org.uk.
Words: Adam Benney