If you’re a fan of the indie scene then you’ll definitely have come across Dutch Uncles. But they’re not from the same mould as other current bands with that perfectly styled look and pop-ish undertones that are almost too catchy. This Mancunian quintet are purely interested in making their own music and aren’t afraid of experimenting with their sound. Their home town is so proud of them they even briefly named a burger after them! If they ever did endorse anything I would suggest alcohol so that they could call it Dutch Courage *ba-dum-tss* Here’s what frontman Duncan Wallis had to say to us.
Defying gravity shot by Adrian Lambert
LF: Hi Duncan! I’ve been listening to your music for a while but as I was doing research for the interview I found that you guys don’t actually have Dutch uncles! It’s from a band you were original in, is that correct?
DW: Yeah, the band I was in before I met the other four was called Dutch Uncle and it was picked out by the singer at the time, I was the drummer. Then when the five of us got together we were called Headlines- terrible name! It was just a college band name picked out of nowhere, we kind of settled on it but everyone thought we were called The Headliners […] then we took a year out after college to re-brand and after about half a year of not finding any name I just said to our manager at the time ‘what about Dutch Uncles?’ and he said “yep. Do it.”
LF: I had a bit of difficulty in describing your genre, seeing as ‘alternative’ is too largely spread I used the term indie-electro math-pop. How would you classify yourselves?
DW: I remember calling it ADD Indie at one point because it never really settled on one thing. That’s more reflective of the last album and the album before that particularly because […] we would have 3 very different movements- the verse, the chorus, the bridges would all sound completely different from each other. Nowadays it’s a little bit different but I don’t know what we’d call it- we kind of need to have a group decision on that!
LF: I think ADD indie is pretty brilliant!
DW: [Laughs] we’ll just stick to that for now.
LF: Where do you get the inspiration for your songs from, what’s the process behind the creation of a song?
DW: I only write the lyrics and the vocal melodies, Robin (the base player) writes the original music, and as a whole band we arrange the song. The thing is me and Robin come from very different areas on where we’re going with it, Robin’s got a lot of knowledge in composition- he went to University to do music- and so he usually makes a concept for himself and then I listen to what he’s done and it reminds me of certain things and I kind of rip off 5 songs at once.
LF: So it’s a very joint effort.
DW: It is a joint effort but at the same time I’m quite slow with the lyrics […] so it’s kinda like the other four don’t know what I’m gonna do until the very last minute, especially with the last album there were about 3 or 4 songs that they’d never heard my side of the story of, so to speak, until I was actually recording it. Which I guess is quite exciting for them in a way.
LF: So who are your musical influences?
DW: At the very beginning we all liked the Strokes and just the typical NME indie of 2004 […] and then Talking Heads came along, we saw the Stop Making Sense DVD and that changed things. Everyone’s kind of gone their own way now- Robin’s a big fan of his minimalism like Steve Reich, and we all like our Kraftwerk. Some of us are more contemporary than others, I’m kind of stuck in the 80s with […] Todd Rundgren or Ian Dury. When we started out as Dutch Uncles we literally picked 5 bands so as not to spread ourselves out too thinly, I think it was Talking Heads, King Crimson, XTC, Field Music and I can never remember the fifth one!
LF: Going back to the Talking Heads image, do you think style is an important aspect for bands today, especially considering how fame is achieved in our digital age?
DW: I think Brian Ferry said something about how bands nowadays don’t dare go anywhere near what bands in the 70s and 80s were actually looking like, and I think that’s true. It’s kind of hard because there is a look these days and I don’t really like that look- we’re too old for it! We’re somewhere in the middle [..] between Peace and Field Music. It’s a shame though that bands don’t go all out really, there’s one indie look and then maybe a goth look- there’s not a lot of variety. I think at the same time a lot of bands don’t care about it or don’t want to offend people or put people off their music. Our culture’s so much more image-based as opposed to back in the day when you didn’t have MTV or YouTube, so the first time you heard a band you heard a band, you didn’t look at a band. Maybe that’s changed it, it’s kind of a shame really!
LF: You guys finished touring last month and will be starting again in the following one- has there been a best or worst thing to happen to you during a show? Are your shows more an anything-goes-sweat-fest or a chilled stick-to-the-plan set?
DW: We have a very nice audience, no hecklers- except for one! But we just let the audience do what they want-they’ve paid for the ticket after all. The best/worst thing to happen can be combined: our first show of the year was at the Schacklewell Arms and it was our first gig using our new toy- this electric marimba xylophone thing, and it was free entry so it was packed to double capacity. Because of all the sweat that had been soaking the marimba it stopped working […] so we kept the drums going, a bit of madness was going on on stage and it kind of messed up but the crowd loved it […] it was one of those mess-ups that almost looks planned! But the next song we had to play with the marimba it started going out of tune and that must of sounded horrible! I can’t imagine how bad because I wear earplugs [laughs].
LF: Well, after all that is the beauty of live shows.
DW: Yeah the worst thing a band can do if something goes wrong is panic about it […] that goes for the sound too- people that try to recreate everything you hear on the CD don’t have much of an imagination.
LF: Do you prefer the tour bus or the recording studio?
DW: In terms of performing it’s always going to be on stage, you can really let yourself go and you’re a lot less critical of yourself […] at the same time the studio is a more comfortable environment with the big sofas [laughs] so I’ll just pick neither!
LF: [Laughs] so not only are you coining a new genre but also a new performance environment!
DW: Another thing about going on tour is that I get obsessed with not getting sick or drinking too much the night before to be prepared for next night’s performance and it can get a bit tiring.
LF: So not too much Rock and Roll going on in the Dutch Uncles tour bus.
DW: We’ve had messy times, and it’s not like we won’t have them again, but for now we want to focus on giving better shows. Even having encores is a new thing for us.
LF: So what does the future hold for you guys?
DW: After May there’s the usual festival circuit. We’re still figuring out where we want to go after that, it’d be nice to get out to Europe.
LF: Do you enjoy the festival scene?
DW: We’ve had some hairy experiences in the past and some bizarrely uncomfortable moments but we enjoy it. You always get to play in the afternoon, your job’s done and then you get to listen to some music. The one thing I would say if you’re gonna play a festival like Reading or Leeds- do not camp over the night before you play!
LF: I’ll bear that in mind! Final question: If you weren’t a musician where would life have taken you?
DW: Spud would be a guitar teacher I reckon. Pete would be a landscape geographer of some sort, looking at hills. Andy would be a lawyer, Robin would be a composer and I would probably be sat in a room until I’m a little bit older in the face and then become an actor because I like experience in an expression! I suppose I would be some sort of film critic but I wouldn’t be a very good one ‘cos I only like 5 films.
LF: [Laughs] what are these five films?
DW: Boogie Nights and any film with Peter Andersson.
There you have it. One of the coolest new bands are pretty old-school. You can catch all their tour dates and latest singles here: http://dutchuncles.co.uk
Interview by Talisa Zampieri