I sat down with lead singer and lyricist Alex Reed of Manchester alt-pop quartet, Duke and the Darlings. We meet the band at a pivotal moment, later this month they will release their new single ‘Middle, Man’ a politically charged indie gem. To co-inside with it’s release is a single launch party in Manchester, with support from local singer-songwriters Jess Kemp and Russ Erwin, and up and coming band, Glass Tides. Personally, I can’t wait for this. Tickets for their last single launch night sold out, so be quick and buy your ticket now, while you still can. Tickets are available here.
Bitter Sweet Symphonies: Who was the first person to inspire you to pick up an instrument and play?
Alex Reed: “I was actually taught to play the drums before I taught myself the guitar, so my early inspirations were drummers such as Abe Cunningham, Dave Grohl, and jazz drummers such as Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa: I was predominantly playing in swing bands and small jazz ensembles back then. But a friend lent me Californication and John Frusciante blew me away with his style; he sang without words. In terms of DATD, Frusciante is that first person.”
When did you realise that music was your passion and you had to pursue it?
“When I was tapping on tables and (my) thighs, I realised that music was a true focus, that it made best use of my energy. Musicians I would spend time with had that similar concentrative glint, whatever they played. I took a lot from being around musicians as well as being around music; I felt settled.”
Where did you play your first gig?
“I was playing in an array of groups from fourteen, with the chronology a bit skew-if to me now. The earliest gig during which I had a sense of acceptance (people wanting to listen, I suppose) was in a pop-punk band I formed with Grant [Tildsley] when we were fifteen. I played bass in that band. Not very well, mind.”
What has been the definitive record that has made the most impact on your life?
“Californication has the whole gamut, both musically and emotionally. It listens like a well-textured novel, exuding balance and thrust simultaneously. Before that, Americana by The Offspring gave me gumption, but it lacked the same degree of craft.”
What’s your earliest musical memory?
“Does playing a recorder count? My dad used to dig his LPs out and ‘educate’ me; this lead to him digging his acoustic out and then dusting off the Telecaster. I suppose this made music more immediate, more accessible.”
Who is your favourite songwriter?
“What a question! There are many bands who collaboratively create true songs with narratives and thought, but let us discount them for now; it is a difficult enough request! Bowie is so varied, but I would say Lennon pips him to the post simply because there is a sense of growth to his music. Bowie was King Chameleon, ever-changing, which deserves kudos, but every time he changed that umbilical familiarity was cut: I feel like I know and understand Lennon as a person, that he expressed himself more in a song. This is exactly why I cannot take to McCartney as a songwriter: talented but too dishonest, the unctuous social chameleon; Madonna without the bra.”
A song lyric that means a lot to me is…
“It would be arrogant to suggest one of own lyrics, but these are the ones that mean so much to me as they are directly based on my perceptions! Possibly my favourite song of all time is ‘Ex-Factor’ by Lauryn Hill, mainly due to the lyrics, but I have never had an on-off relationship with an American man. Lennon’s ‘love is the answer’ aphorism is something which I consider most days, especially when too many people are caught up, doing cartwheels for corporations and living for somebody else.”
A song that describes my current mood/frame of mind at this time is…
“Our new single, ‘Middle, Man’. Getting everything together, polishing up our act (in every sense) and shaking with excitement has me thinking about it round the clock.”