INTERVIEW: Duchess | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s only in the last few years that Gateshead alternative rock trio Duchess have begun to receive the recognition they deserve, although they’ve actually been together since December 2013. Consisting of Callum Chambers on guitar and vocals, Michael Smith on bass and Adam Robinson on drums, the band all grew up together, though they only formed Duchess by chance when Chambers replied to an online call out for musicians which turned out to be Smith’s advert. Since then they have recorded and released two accomplished EPs, 04:10 in October 2014 and Honeyhead in September 2015, although both could be considered mini-albums, comprising of seven and eight songs respectively.

“When we first got together we did a pretty naff cover of Girls by The 1975 (which didn’t see the light of day of course) just to put the feelers out on each other and see how we gelled,” explains Chambers. “We then went on to write a song in our first practice together and we knew then that we could do so much more. We’ve always been rapid song writers and at the time we wanted people to hear everything we had to offer with no serious plan of release (mostly due to inexperience) hence the mini-albums, although we’re adamant they’re EPs!”

Musically, Duchess skilfully span several genres, from pop and indie to emo and alt. rock, bringing to mind the aforementioned The 1975, Biffy Clyro and Jimmy Eat World. “We never liked the idea of tying ourselves to a specific genre because we would hate to limit ourselves to a certain style, like saying ‘this isn’t poppy enough’ or ‘this isn’t heavy enough’. Because we’re not very genre-specific that gives us quite a diverse set list to play with, meaning that we can go in most directions and fit on a lot more line-ups. Some people don’t know how to take us because they came to a show expecting us to sit in a specific lane, but we don’t lose sleep over it. We want people to be guessing what comes next. We’re more than a one trick pony.”  

We never liked the idea of tying ourselves to a specific genre because we would hate to limit ourselves to a certain style

Given that their name came from Chambers’ love of history, inspired by Anne Boleyn’s wish that she had settled for being a Duchess rather than a Queen, it’s no surprise that Duchess’ lyrics are intelligent and thoughtful. Often they’ll draw from Chambers’ own experiences: vivid emotions, memories of conversations and things left unsaid, other times written from another person’s perspective, such as Dear Boleyn, which is about Henry VIII’s letter to his Queen. “I like to stay on my toes and jump from different subjects. Sometimes I think of a subject and I feel I have to try and capture it, like an itch that needs to be scratched.”

Duchess are now about to release their new single, Rachael, their first recorded output since 2015’s Honeyhead EP, though they’ve kept themselves busy in the meantime. A beautiful, soaring track led by Chambers’ swooning vocal, it’s a majestic reintroduction to their songcraft. “Rachael is a stand-alone single to break the silence after we took a step back from releasing music. The reason for the break was because we had the EPs but the problem was that people didn’t know who we were, so we focused on gigging and getting to know people. We never stopped writing and we have a lot of new material to show for it. Now people know we exist it feels right to be putting more music out there.”

Duchess release Rachael on 27th April. 

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