NUVO Interview: Leila Moss of Duke Spirit


If you’re talking London roots rockers The Duke Spirit, singer Liela Moss is the first thing that comes to mind. She belts classic raspy soul vocals from behind a head of burning blonde hair made for runway struts. She wiggles and swaggers, tambourine in hand, never missing a beat on stage as the rest of the band — guitarists Luke Ford and Dan Higgins, bassist Toby Butler and drummer Olly Betts — tears through rock ’n’ roll tunes that at once bring to mind The Stones and Spiritualized, Love and Sonic Youth.

Fresh off a batch of dates with similarly rock ’n’ roll minded throwbacks Eagles of Death Metal, The Dukes will headline the Radio Radio stage Dec. 2, just days after playing two of Middle America’s most famous venues, The 40 Watt Club in Athens, Ga., and Nashville’s The Exit/In. (The Eagles of Death Metal will play the Vogue Dec. 15.)

“I was doing harmony vocals for the Eagles’ single, so I got to get up on stage with them each night,” Moss recently told NUVO, still buzzing off excitement from the prior night’s show. “It was one of the best support tours we’ve done. When you’re a support band you usually watch the headlining band for a bit then run off on the road to get a head start. We watched the Eagles every night; they do the rock ’n’ roll thing perfectly.”

While roaming the country throughout 2008, the band found the pieces for the follow-up to the critically lauded Neptune.

“We’re already itching to record again. We’re in a van right now, so we’re all sort of dying to finish our ideas,” Moss explained. “We all have our own ideas right now, so we’re excited to get them together, but right now we’re just sharing in hotel rooms or at sound check.”

But before jumping to future projects, what about Neptune, 2008’s greatest breakthrough rock record since The Whigs’ Mission Control?

“We recorded [Neptune] in a small, loose studio. There was nothing hi-fi about it. Nothing sanitized,” Moss said, her bandmates teasing her in the background about gushing over the Eagles. “[We recorded in] this little spot where there’s lots of inspiring junk around and great views with incredible sunsets at night. It was a very loose and inspiring place to play. Watching huge full moons, stuff like that. Coming from rainy London, it almost kind of freaked us out, you know.”

Moss took a moment to think back on how The Duke Spirit came to be.

“I was in college studying photography and Toby and Luke were around. We’d see each other at the same drinking holes; there was a little scene there of people who were in to rock ’n’ roll. There were only small venues, so we’d see the same people out each week and started hanging out with those people,” Moss explained, her bandmates continuing to tease during slow moments. “Then we all moved to London around the same time and it was like, ‘Where are you going to live?’ So we ended up sharing houses and apartments. It was a big investment in terms of friendship. This was all like 10 years ago. The Duke Spirit only really started four or five years ago, so we were friends for a while before the band.”

In mid-December, Moss and her crew of English rockers will take a couple of weeks off before again hitting the road.

“I want to do nothing and listen to nothing. I want to sit in a silent cocoon that has oxygen, and that’s it,” Moss laughed. “No, really, we have to play some gigs in Germany in January, then we’re going to try to do some demos. They’ll have us back out here in the spring. Our American label likes to have us out on the road.”