Dukes Of Windsor - An Offer You Can't Refuse
3D’s Carlisle Rogers talks with Dukes of Windsor frontman Jack Weaving about their second record, working with punk legends and dismissing the ‘now’ tag.
With their sophomore album, Minus, Melbourne outfit Dukes of Windsor have compiled an album of gleaming, glittering pop songs that swing and sway, recalling sweaty Robert Palmer videos, replete with ’80s glam-pop production values.
Singer Jack Weaving, himself a kind of poor man’s Palmer, has a brutal, driving falsetto he injects over a mélange of guitars, bass lines, live drums and just enough synthesizer parts to keep MGMT fans interested.
“I don’t want to be thought of as a ‘now’ dance band,” Jack says, sitting in a dressing room as models clunk past occasionally, primping themselves to kiss each other in the band’s latest video shoot, Get It. “I think the album will paint that picture better, or implant that idea into people’s minds. We love our guitars, we love our bass. A lot of the synth is to give body and warmth to the sound. It’s a great tool and we’re lucky to have the option to use them. It’s too easy to compare bands. It’s too easy to say we’re not that dissimilar to The Presets or Cut Copy, but it’s a different fucking world. It’s just an easy excuse for not really knowing the music. I think it all stems from us coming from such different musical backgrounds. We couldn’t sit down as a band and pick one show to go to tonight. There isn’t a band we all love. Everyone brings so much variety to the table – you don’t know what’s going to come out. I think that’s a luxury, to have that opportunity not to be tied down to anything.
“We harmonise a bit, but we don’t double track very often. We certainly don’t put any effects on the vocals. What you’re hearing live is pretty much what we’re doing in the studio. It’s great because everyone gets to sing. Whether or not it sounds good is secondary to the fact that everyone is having a good time having a shout on stage. There is a real unity to things now.”
With the lead single from the album, It’s a War, a perfectly cut gem of a radio song, impossible to sing along to unless you’re a 9-year-old choir boy, but one of the reasons CD players have a repeat button, the band has earned a lot of instant friends. But the rest of the album has definitely matured from the band’s earlier work. Minus is much more cohesive than debut LP, The Others, which wandered in the desert of ‘finding a sound’; the new album seems to draw much more on the organic software warmth of the moment, without the vacuousness of many producers out there who can’t own a stage like this live outfit can.
“They are just more honest songs,” Jack confesses. “I think each song is treated with a greater understanding for who we are. In the previous album I think we were just spraying sound anywhere. A lot of it makes me cringe. A lot of it makes everyone in the band cringe; it’s not just me that feels this way. I think these songs can stand up individually and as an album. They don’t need songs on either side for them to be worthy.”
Produced by Pelle Henricsson and Eskil Lövström (The Shape of Punk to Come), the band credits the second album’s swing to the influence of the Swedes who redefined Refused’s last album and, ultimately, punk itself.
“The guys at Island Records, and everyone we’ve been involved with, have been nurturing more than anything,” Jack says. “They haven’t been demanding. We have had completely free reign over everything that we’ve done, which has been fantastic. They gave us a list of producers that we might want to work with and asked us who we’d like to work with. These guys, Pelle and Eskil, were on the top of our list. The one thing that the band is unified in is that we’re all big fans of The Shape of Punk to Come by Refused. That was a seminal album that these guys produced. Any opportunity to work with those guys was going to be jumped on. They came over here to hang out to see if we could actually get along, and we did like family. I think what they had that we wanted to be a part of was a real groove. They gave a hardcore act a real swing, I don’t want to say funk, but you want to move to it, and that’s something that genre had never had before.
“Their advice to me when I was singing was to ‘Give it more Marvin Gaye and more Al Green.’ They would make me go away and listen to some of their stuff. Everything was fractionally behind the beat and comfortable. Even though the drums were pounding, the guitars were slightly behind the beat throughout the album. It just gives it that cruise. You get ahead of yourself by being too energetic and you’re almost in front of the beat. Now there are some frantic songs that still sound really chilled. You’re just coasting along. It worked, it translated really well I thought.”
According to Jack, the Swedes helped save the new single, Get It, from obscurity. “There is something about that song: it had been around since we started the band. It had never hit the mark. We tried to mess around with it, twist it, slow it down, speed it up, different time codes, whatever we could to try to salvage it. We knew there was a hook there to cling onto. Somehow, down the line, after throwing the song aside, it happened one day. The Swedes who produced it gave it a real kick in the pants. It is just a tight little single now.”
Electronic music with soul, or rock music with a dude playing synthesisers loud, it doesn’t matter: Minus kicks out the jams with a thin black tie.
WHO: Dukes of Windsor
WHAT: Minus through Island/Universal / Play Oxford Art Factory
WHEN: Out now / 10 October