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Breaking Out: The Duke Spirit

A smoldering blues-rock quintet from London fronted by a tambourine-slapping, microphone-tossing banshee who wails and struts like a blonde Karen O.


WHO: A smoldering blues-rock quintet from London fronted by a tambourine-slapping, microphone-tossing banshee who wails and struts like a blonde Karen O. “When I was 16, I saw the Beastie Boys supported by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and it was amazing,” says singer Liela Moss of one of her early inspirations. “It was kind of tribal, almost frightening, but at the same time, it was ace.” Adds bassist Toby Butler of the band’s name: “We were looking for something like Primal Scream or Sonic Youth that has an attitude and a swagger.”

SOUND LIKE: A sweaty mix of fuzzy riffs, smoky blues, and the band’s own brand of pop-infused soul that draws on the Jesus and Mary Chain and Spiritualized. On their debut, Cuts Across the Land (Loog), produced by ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde, Moss’ lyrics are stocked with pain, love, and redemption — a term that often describes their sometimes spiritual stage show. “The audience want to be fed some kind of energy,” Moss says, “and we want to be really confident, so they’re up there with us.” Literally. “We get a lot of people jumping onstage, which is quite scary,” says Butler. “Generally a roadie will run on and try and push them off.”

THE NUDE SOLUTION: Although Butler and Moss are committed to bettering themselves by learning German on the road, they’re not above occasional rock’n’roll revelry. “Toward the end of a long tour, you’re arguing and people get pissed off, so the solution is to get naked,” Butler says. “You can’t really argue when you’re like that.”

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