Duke of Wolves
PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Barber
Teddy Boy is available at:
18th August, 2017
Recorded and Mixed by Ben Phillips at Lightship95 London
Assistant Engineer: Dan Guerrieri
THE reason I am violating one of my golden rules for reviewing….
PHOTO CREDIT: Violet Verigo
is to investigate one of the best bands playing in London right now. I am reviewing fewer people I have already done so – because I want to discover new talent and not repeat myself to an extent. I have featured Duke of Wolves before but, as I am spending the coming weeks assessing unfamiliar artists; it is nice to return to an act I know can bring the goods. Before I come to look at the guys, there are a few different things I wanted to address. One, oddly, relates to professional outlay and some suggestions for the guys – music videos and making them part of the aesthetic. I wanted to look at the consistency of bands and that classic need for success and fandom. I will look at Rock and why now it is essential to foster the most varied and impressive acts; songs that go deeper and intrigue; gigs and bands who are growing into the live arena – and a bit about London and consistency. I shall start by addressing a band that, since their formation, have a very professional approach to their music. They do not get a huge amount of help when it comes to their promoting and recording – there is a D.I.Y. approach that many artists are taking these days. It is becoming popular because of music’s expense. If you are recording a lot of singles; the costs can mount and it is not often feasible at the best of times. Duke of Wolves employs a D.I.Y. sound because it is one that best articulates their gritty and raw brand of Rock. I will come to that later but it is the way they share and promote their brand that interests me. The guys do, not yet, have an official website yet but I can see that being the next step.
They have recorded a series of singles and it seems like they are starting to rise through the ranks. A one-stop portal for all your Duke of Wolves needs would be a great move from the band. As it is; their social media presentation is full and impressive. I know it is a point I keep harking back to but those acts who expend effort updating and volumising their pages are always going to go a lot further. I can see the band is keen for their fans to be kept abreast of everything going on with them. Their fan numbers are climbing but one imagines it is only going to be a matter of time before they are huge news. What keeps bringing people in is because they have a real professional attitude to every aspect of their career. Their sounds might be rough and tussling in places: that does not extend to the way they market themselves. This is a perfect balance to have in the music industry. It might not sound like the be-all-and-end-all in music but is can make an enormous difference. Duke of Wolves have a big following that is going to grow with every song they release. One of the reasons behind that is because they are proactive and give the fans pictures, updates and videos. Another aspect I love about Duke of Wolves is their music videos and how much attention they pay to them. I have heard from a lot of artists who do not like recording videos and think it is a bit of a hindrance. I cannot understand this because, in this age, there is no excuse to ignore it. If you really apply yourself and think beyond the ordinary; music videos can be great fun and lead to something wonderful. I understand how the cost can really put off a lot of artists. Even a simple video – skeleton crew and basic concept – can still run you to three figures. Many are choosing to shoot videos on iPhones and have that D.I.Y. approach. Duke of Wolves do not expend bucket-loads of money but still ensure their shoots are captivating, humorous and interesting.
Videos like Terry (The Serial Killer) and Hollow Eyes have different concepts but are really amusing and memorable. If a video sticks in the mind; you are more likely to come back to an artist and follow them. That is one of the reasons I am keen to see where the London band go. They produce a top-notch single and then, from there, create a video that adequately visualising their incredible lyrics and performances. The visual aspect of music is really crucial so it is vital artists realise how integral music videos are. Given the fact I am reviewing Teddy Boy: I wonder what the video will contain and how it will shape up. I can see 1950s' elements and greasers in leather jackets; bike gangs and something that spoof Grease, perhaps. I shall come onto the song inspiration but it seems, with this song, the band has the greatest chance to create something huge and career-defining. That might sound insane for a music video but, even with a relatively modest budget, given the subject matter at hand; they have the chance to go big. I shall not put ideas in their mind – and they might already have the video all locked-down – but the guys are one of those acts who take care of every aspect of their career. Such is the detail and passion that goes into each aspect; I know they will go far and continue to grow. I cannot express how important putting effort into social media/images is and what effect they have on a career. I see so many artists ignore photos and not really put effort into music videos. If their music is great – often, it is not – then they have only really addressed half of their career. Those who find the effort and time to put their everything into each corner of music – the rewards, given time, will be huge.
PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Barber
Duke of Wolves, since I heard the first draft of Hollow Eyes, have really impressed. I knew, from that outing, they would continue to crack out fantastic tunes. It is always hard knowing whether an artist is going to ensure and evolve after the first single or two. In a heavy and busy market; getting people’s attentions is the biggest worry. There are so many options out there so, making an impact right from the off, is really something everyone wants to happen. How one does that is down to them but ensuring the music is original and big is, I guess, one way of doing that. In the case of Duke of Wolves; they go for the gut but are not one of the less-sophisticated and basic acts. What they do is combine classic riffs of Rock with something that marries Indie and Alternative. There are shades of black but they do bring colour into the palette. One of the biggest worries, in the early days for the London outfit, would have been crafting music that varied from their early stuff – that which pushed them on but kept the quality barometer high. The band managed to forge an identity early and, in doing so, knew exactly how their songs should come across. By that, I mean they were not endlessly toiling for that ‘perfect sound’. If you misfire with the debut single – or sound generic and predictable – there is a period where you are searching and formulating. This haphazard experimentation can put off a listener who wants something to bond with. If you hear an act that (un-deliberately) is scattershot and crosses too many genres – maybe that is a sign they are not quite ‘there’ yet. It is really hard concocting a sound that is instant and assured right from the off. The band did not form and then, a couple of days later, put out their debut. They spent time jamming and testing theories. From the days of Hollow Eyes and It’s Real; they have looked outwards and to characters, comedy and deeper subjects. Hollow Eyes was a fantastic song but, in terms of lyrics, the desire to have a relatable and classic-sounding template was evident.
PHOTO CREDIT: Bill Thomas
I bonded with the lyrics but find, in subsequent songs, they have broadened their pen and are looking at lesser-heard people, themes and ideas. Terry (The Serial Killer), as the name implies, had a very specific idea but, with the video too, brought some humour into the agenda – whilst keeping the music pretty real and stomping. Their latest track, Teddy Boy, in the way it alludes to looks, fashions and vanity – it seems to nod to past decades. Materialism and shallowness is something more evident and widespread in an age, now, where technology makes people’s lives open and exposed. The title puts the mind back to the 1950s, perhaps, and that is reflected in the song’s cover art – perhaps an angle they explore in the video? I can see how the band has matured in terms of their compositions and lyrics. They hit upon a fantastic sensation early but, rather than repeat themselves, have added new dynamics into the blend. There is a hunger to the band that reflects their name. They are carnivore and lusting; there is a lupine desire that means they push themselves with every new release. Making sure you are consistent and evolving is a balance that is really challenging. It takes time but, before you put a song out, making sure it is like nothing on the market is a key consideration. Duke of Wolves takes from Classic-Rock but never replicate it. They have their own sound and ideas – sprinkling this with beefy riffs and big choruses that have defined some of music’s finest moments. I am not sure whether the band is working up to an E.P. or are thinking of an album later in the year. I can see an improvement and strengthening with each new single. I cannot wait to see how their career blossoms and where they go from here. The London band have conquered one of the potential pitfalls: struggling to change and strengthen between tracks. If you are world-class from the start – which most is not – then that is fine but every act begins with a few rough edges. Smoothing those out is important and ensuring you can add something new to your music.
I will come to look at their latest single soon but, right now, wanted to address a big elephant in a small room. In today’s music, there are few Rock bands that really get under my skin. I have been looking around for future idols and can see very few options. I am not sure whether tastes and tides mean different genres are finding success. There is a big rise of Electro sounds and some fantastic Pop acts. I am pleased to see music changing and embracing new sounds. Actually, given the Mercury Prize nominations and it appears British Hip-Hop and Soul are really taking hold. That is encouraging to see but, take a wider look and one sees a lack of Rock options. I was, yesterday, chatting about The White Stripes and why their absence is so noticeable. I know Jack White is recording a new album but, his former duo, have long-since bitten the dust. I have a playlist of their best songs and, from their debut album to final bow, can see the changes and variegation. One can hear the undercooked and scintillating rawness of their debut and realise how inspiring and forward-thinking it was in 1999 – even if Jack White took a lot from older Blues and music of the 1970s. Go forward a few albums and the duo brought in new instruments and ideas. They continued to push themselves and ensure the music never became stale. It is the addictiveness and classic sounds they managed to craft that stand the test of time. Even on their final album, 2007’s Icky Thump, there were Scottish elements and Heavy Metal; all sorts of genres and sounds. They remained a Rock/Garage band but did not limit themselves to a particular form. I feel there are so many Rock artists who are becoming stale because they are not changing their sound. The simplistic and one-dimensional Rock sound is not going to impress people years down the line. So many acts are going to for the jugular-worrying hardness and epic sound. It gets a bit tiresome over time and suggests a lack of ideas. Bands like The Amazons, who were tipped for big things, showed a lack of differentiation and identity on their eponymous debut album. IDLES, a band overlooked for this year’s Mercury nominations, seem to have a lot more about them.
PHOTO CREDIT: Edyta K
They are an immense live proposition and one of the last bastions of edgy and sweat-inducing Rock. They have enough in their arsenal to suggest they’re going to remain for many years. Whilst I cannot see them employing the same sort of width and musical cross-pollination as The White Stripes; they are a solid and stunning act that has many fans. I see Duke of Wolves and hear a band that have the promise to, between albums, craft a White Stripes-like trajectory. Their debut, when it arrives, seems like it will be all about D.I.Y. Blues/Rock and something effective and uncomplicated. One imagines they will bring new elements into their music into subsequent albums. Maybe there will be White Blood Cells (The White Stripes’ third album) nimblenssness – an album that was more lush and varied but had that core sound – and then, further down the road, new instruments and elements (one need listen to Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump to hear how the duo progressed). Perhaps Duke of Wolves will not be as far-reaching but, in a scene where the monosyllabic Rock acts are dying and less-popular than before, there is the real need to push the envelope and bring in new sounds. It is quite sad seeing the dying-out of Rock and a lack of diversity. Maybe it is harder adding new dimensions to the genre but, with bands like Duke of Wolves, I can see some real promise. As they are now; their music has the same sort of gripping and physical aspect The White Stripes brought to classic records such as Elephant. One sees, in order for Rock bands to stick in the mind and revive the form; they need to learn from the likes of The White Stripes and one of the reasons they lasted for so long – because they switched sounds and do things differently on every album. I will come back to this point later but, hearing Duke of Wolves, I hope they think that far ahead and how future albums will sound. I love their music but fear, if they retain the sound they have in years to come – it might not ensure survival the same way as it would were they to bring new components into their music.
Not long now but, before getting to Teddy Boy, it is apt focusing on themes and ways to bring lyrical fascination into music. The song, as I will explore, tackles the way people focus on looks and what a person projects on the outside. How often does one look inside and bond to a person’s personality? Maybe there are those who will always be shallow and vain. In an age where social media is taking over; it is harder and harder to see people as actual human beings. We get advertising shoved down our throat and one wonders, given the digital nature of life, how easy it is connecting with people – let alone getting to know them on a deeper level, as it were. It is a subject that is being talked about in music and I am delighted Duke of Wolves are focusing on this. They could have gone for the easy and trite – another embittered love song – but has decided to talk about something important to them. Their songbooks have always employed unexpected avenues and it is another reason they are a fantastic act to watch. Whether they are looking at individuals and quirkier sides to life; the inequities and downfalls of a subject or wider themes – Duke of Wolves are a fantastic act that are broad and ever-changing. I can see this in their music which adds new colours and ideas between songs. I am excited seeing what their next track consists and where they go from here. On their fifth outing; it would have been tempting to revert to their debut and maybe looking at something quite anxious and suffocating. Instead, the band has cast their gaze to society and picking apart the shallowness and emptiness of life. That might be a bit of severe and heavy representation of Teddy Boy but it is an attack on the way we look at people on the outside – everything is about looks and images. Backing these lyrics is one of the most confident compositions from the band.
It seems Rock could really come back with a swing this year. I was left a bit disappointed by Royal Blood’s latest album, How Did We Get So Dark? It did not vary from their debut and, unlike that record, has not remained in my mind. It is clear, if they want to endure for years to come, they need to have a think about album number three. Putting new elements into their music; broadening it and shifting tone is the only way to get critics properly on broad. Maybe Rock is a genre that, if you go heavy and hard, it is impossible to be truly unique and original with every album. There are a lot of acts doing the same sort of thing and there is not as much room for manoeuvre as you get in other genres. There is always going to be a place for huge riffs and epic choruses so, with Duke of Wolves, there are ample opportunities. If Rock is becoming irreligious and weakening; the boys (and girl) of one of London’s biggest upcoming bands have plenty more to come. I know their music will take in new sounds and genres and that, in turn, will see their demand-stock increase. I hear there are whispers the band will be spending some time at one of London’s biggest music venues. There are great gigs for Duke of Wolves approaching and I know how determined the band is. I feel, in time, Duke of Wolves will be one of those festival mainstays and the London quartet is properly suited for all range of venues. They have a sound big enough to fill venues and get the summer crowds rocking. There is something sweaty and primal about the music that means it easily transitions into smaller spaces. Few acts are as adaptable as Duke of Wolves – so, it will be interesting seeing the type of spaces they play in the coming months.
I know the guys are ambitious but I wonder how long it will be until they start playing abroad. Maybe other U.K. cities are in their mind but, with a slew of singles under their belts, they will be looking further afield. I wonder if they have played cities like Manchester and Glasgow: areas that would herald their music and ensure they go down really well. I am not sure their U.K. ambitions but, being based in London, they have a wonderful city at their feet. The band has played some great venues around the city and they will want to capitalise on that. As they prepare new material and look ahead; they’ll want to keep busy and ensure their music gets to as many people as possible. I hope, when they can get the funds together, they consider Europe and North America. I see similar bands perform over there and getting a really good reaction. Europe, especially, seems like it would be very hospitable and welcoming. There are obvious nations that would bond to their solid Rock but, more than that, the people know a great band when they hear them. It is important, before then, to get that local training and reputation built. The guys have a great fanbase but there are areas and venues unconquered. Teddy Boy is a great chance for the band to tackle new spaces in London and built their reputation. It is the way they come across live that means people are hooked to their latest sounds. The band has been known to jump off things and really get the crowds moving. There is that physicality and epic swagger that means the people go away buzzing and satisfied. Few live bands leave such an impression so I urge the quartet to keep striving and take advantage of London’s wide and diverse live scene.
There is something modern-and-classic in the opening to Teddy Boy. The opening riff has binary gravel that means it switches to and fro – like a rapid see-saw that is gritty, grumbling and arpeggiated. It is a fast-moving and promising introduction that gets the listener engrossed. The song’s subject – the poser and mirror-hogging figure – is a teddy bear and softy under it all. Maybe, under the surface, there is a kind and honest heart but it seems like the boy is a bit vain and fake. Faison and false pretences are guiding the song and irking the frontman. The Queens of the Stone Age strands come through large in the initial moments. Frontman Jim Lawton has that Josh Homme-esque smoothness and falsetto croon that means the song has a familiarity right from the off. The percussion rumbles whilst the bass and guitar whip up a mixture of sounds and decades. There is the sway and cool of 1950s’ Rock but it has direct and urgent modern tones. The boy is flexing and quaffing his hair by the mirror. He likes a teddy girl and she, in turn, likes someone a bit rude and fake. One gets images of a man who sees himself as a James Dean-like figure who is the coolest human around. In a time where many are accused of shallowness and being image-focused; here is an exploration of someone who is creating a persona that is egregious, unseemly and a bit tragic. This sense of judgement and critique is perfectly represented by the band who keep the song fresh and bouncing. The percussion is hollow and punchy whilst the strings have a tautness and funky edge. Lawton ensures the vocal is engaging and emotive throughout. He does not keep his voice and dynamic singular and unyielding. When the story builds and changes: new tones come into the sound and he brings true personality to proceedings. One instantly bonds with the song because it has such a sense of fun and energy. The composition is not as snarling as earlier cuts from the band and shows their newfound sense of melody and contrition. There are sweeter female backing (from band member Sara, one would assume) and, I think, Orlando chips in with some vocal backing. It is his lead guitar – with Jim’s and Sara’s bass – that add the grit and cool that the sound represents. Tom’s percussion keeps things punchy and tight: together, it is an electric song that gets straight into the head and gets you singing along.
The body cannot help move as the hero continues in a questionable vein. He is “way past lying” and, when the chorus reaches, I notice some, dare I say, Pop elements. It is a lighter chorus than I am used to with the band and has a real sense of harmony and unexpectedness. They could have made it a huge and snarling chorus – full of accusation and bile – but they subvert expectation and provide something catchy and passionate. It seems things are past the point of denial and common sense. The boy is so engrossed in fantasy and delusion he is immune to any outside voices. I like the idea of a teddy boy and that older style. Maybe that title and idea seem to embody a general feeling of the fake and shallow. Not to suggest teddy boys past were deluded and bonding with something hollow. It appears, in this case, the soul of the hero is as empty as a pair of boots. I am not sure why he is like this but, maybe, it is a reaction to the image pressures of the modern day. Perhaps he is someone who needs to make a change and feels this new persona is a lot more confident and popular than his regular sense. I feel, conversely, he is a bit of a plank and someone who has been listening to the wrong people. The band are onto him and not keen to indulge any support and understanding. It is hard to concentrate on the lyrics given the composition is so body-moving and intoxicating. You drink in the swivel and allure of the composition. The band has a fondness for Queens of the Stone Age but, rather than rehash their brand, they bring in British elements. I hear a bit of Muse’s Knights of Cydonia in the riff (the ending seems to have that sensibility) but there is that mantra – the boy is lying; no denying – and some incredible combined vocals. It is a rich combination of sounds but manages to retain simplicity. The band does not throw too many sounds into the song but keep things varied and nimble. The song has that twiddling and hectic riff; the lighter and open chorus and those accusatory lyrics.
PHOTO CREDIT: Hugo Lloyd-Winder
Put all this together and it leads to the fullest and most compelling song from the band so far. I can see they are pushing further away from acts like Queens of the Stone Age – in so much as their music walks too close to theirs – but retain enough to intrigue. Teddy Boy is a song that remains in the head and has a real kick in the tail. The lyrics get into the mind and you can appreciate where the band are coming from. Many of us know people like that (the song’s hero) and struggle to reconcile why they do this. The band is never too harsh but, at the same time, are aghast at the gall of the man. I am not sure whether it is a particular person who inspired the song – or whether a general commentary on certain types – but has interested me. I know the song will be really well-received and gain new fans. Teddy Boy has that distinct Duke of Wolves sound but pushes things forward. It is another confident and authoritative cut from a band who are growing stronger and more assured by the release. I cannot wait to see all their tracks combined into an album some day. Teddy Boy would be a great mid-L.P. inclusion and shows they are never willing to sit still and be content. A fantastic song from one of the strongest and most interesting bands coming out of London right now.
The band have a series of gigs before the end of the year but will, surely, look to get as much work as they come. Given the fact they have Teddy Boy out; this is an ample opportunity for the London band to get the song to the masses. I feel their gig at London’s The Borderline (on 2nd December) will be a pivotal date. By then, the song will be well known and, who knows, they might have another one out. It is a great venue and, I am sure, given the fact the weather will be cold and ‘British’’; people will want to come in and get a warm and uplifting blast. Before then, Duke of Wolves will be promoting their latest single and getting a video together. Before I take this down; I want to revisit a few of the ideas I explored in the opening. I will look at music videos and professionalism; the importance of evolving Rock and deeper song – but I will start by talking about where the band go from here. I can see an album arriving from the London four-piece before too long. Already, there are five singles under the belt and great plans afoot; it is a great time for the guys. They will be headlining The Social in celebration of releasing Teddy Boy (officially out 18th August). If you can get to that gig/launch on 31st; it will be a chance to see one of the best live acts in the country perform. They have been compared to Queens of the Stone Age and, considering the U.S. band release their new album, Villains, very soon; it is a great month for swaggering, PROPER Rock. I have been a little underwhelmed by the proliferation of soulless Rock acts that seem to rely on easy riffs and volume. Duke of Wolves are different and add melody and variety to their music.
It is hard deciphering which Rock bands have potential to endure and those who seem resigned to short-term success. I have mentioned The White Stripes with good reason. Too many Rock bands stick to drums-guitar-bass-vocals and make their music simple, meaty and stadium-sized. They continue this throughout every album and keep their lyrics basic and unsophisticated. That leads to a scene that lacks any nuance, sophistication and future-promise. Going back to the U.S. legends and it seems few artists are learning from them. They are a unique duo but that does not mean modern artists cannot learn from them. If you chart their albums and progression: each new record brought new stories and sounds to the plate. That basic and stripped debut was foreign when compared to their fuller and more mature finale. Between then; Jack and Meg created some of the finest music of the past two decades. Maybe it was the fact there was two of them – and it was quite compact and uncomplicated – but know they are so successful and important because of their music and how original it was. Every album has its vibe and covered so much ground. If they had simply repeated their debut album then they would not have lasted as long as they did. Take another act like Queens of the Stone Age and, again, a band that manages to make every album different. I can see a lot of promise in Duke of Wolves and know they will not fall into the same traps as many of their peers – simply rehashing Rock’s rulebook and not adding their own personality to it. There are a lot of promising bands who are making original and bold music – they might not get the same focus as others; many going unnoticed in the underground. Rock is a genre that is flagging and not as healthy as it was years ago. I am not sure why this is but it is a combination of sameness and the popularity of other genres. The only way Rock is going to regain its crown and prosper is for acts to think more clearly and add more to the music. Duke of Wolves are doing this and, in addition to having melodic sensibilities, have a set of lyrics that stray far beyond the cliché and predictable.
This all bodes well for the band and their future aspirations. Teddy Boy looks at shallowness but has a sense of delusion and ego. It digs deep and addresses a common concern but seems to allude to individuals and the way they kid themselves. The band, so far this year, have already played Isle of Wight and Camden Rocks. Their music is resonating and connection with the people. Long may that continue and I think it will. The band is eager to keep fans updated and provides a window into their creative process. They produce sensational videos that vary from self-portrait pieces – the guys playing and caught on film – to more narrative-driven pieces. They do funny and comedic elements shoots but can do serious and intense. This is a side of music that is underrated and under-appreciated: filming good videos that show what a song is all about. So much of an artist’s popularity stems from YouTube they cannot ignore the importance of the form. I will wrap this up but am excited by a band who are rising through the ranks with impressive aplomb. London is a great city for them to carve up an empire and seduce the people. They have already achieved a lot in their careers so far but want to do a lot more. I know there are exciting gigs coming up but, with the arrival of Teddy Boy; the band will have more opportunities before them. Get to the single launch on 31st of this month and witness an exhilarating and exciting new force. With many questioning the stability and validity of Rock in modern music; bands like Duke of Wolves prove that…
IT has the potential to rise and regain its dominance.
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