Interview: Dutch Uncles
Published on January 24th, 2013 | Theo Gorst
It seems a somewhat redundant form of praise to talk of’an album of the year contender in January, and yet it would appear likely that Dutch Uncles will figure on many a top ten list come December. With Out of Touch in the Wild, the Stockport outfit have improved upon their first two LPs to produce ten more jittery, funky and danceable tracks, now with extra added sophistication. Rocksucker caught up with front man Duncan Wallis to congratulate him on the new record and let fly with some questions we felt needed answering…
How would you say Out of Touch in the Wild differs from your previous two releases?
I guess its biggest difference would be the instrumentation. On our last record CADENZA we had our producer Brendan Williams joining us after the songs had been established from touring so much, so it was a tricky situation of removing things and only a case of adding things really. This time round Brendan was with us from the first note being played on the demos so we were in a position to only add what was needed. It creates a much more confident sound and I think it shapes the mood of the record much more than we thought it would.
Are there any lyrical themes that you feel run through the record?
The loose theme of addiction throughout the album has been mentioned a lot. It’s sort of there, but I consider it more of an album of bad habits rather than addiction which would just suggest substance abuse (which is sort of there as well, but it ain’t no drugs record). It’s basically ten character-driven songs that piece together an ultimate decline, which may sound a bit depressing, but writing under such a time constraint wasn’t exactly a fun experience so blame that.
Is the title a reference to anything?
It shares a few meanings. Firstly I think it helps to make sense of the cryptic song titles (only two of which aren’t actual words), secondly it relates to how we sometimes feel about our position in the musical spectrum at the moment, but finally I think it’s sort of a friendly warning to the sound of the album, for anyone looking for “something for the lads” so to speak.
Reviews for the record have been rightly positive. Do you read them or tend to avoid them? Also a number of reviews have linked you into a Manchester sound with bands such as Everything Everything: how do you feel about that?
We do read them, but you have to numb yourself to any opinion good or bad really. Usually there will be a criticism (or a compliment) that a few of them share, and you should take that stuff on board sometimes when looking towards your new stuff. We’ve had a lot of very flattering reviews so far for this album and we’re humbled by it, but the thing to remember is if anything breaks your shield and gets you down, just remember the Zappa quote “writing about music is like fishing about golf” and all will be fine with the world again.
In terms of being lumped in to a Manchester sound with Everything Everything, we’re fine with it and happy to be at the forefront of a new sound of such an accomplished musical city. It’s an honour really.
Whereas it’s easy to spot influences on Frankie Rose’s Interstellar (another fantastic record to have come out on Memphis Industries), your sound is more idiosyncratic. Who was it that inspired you in the process of this LP?
Well we’ve always tended to lean more on our classic (and sometimes classical) influences really. Records from Tears For Fears, Kate Bush and Japan made more of an impression on our sound this time round than the vast majority of contemporary music we hear (although Field Music and Wild Beasts make exceptions).
A lot of the time listening to new stuff for us is just gauging the styles of the moment and figuring out how we can stand back from it and not accidentally slip into the middle of it. Vocally on this new record I came up with a process of imaging different ’80s-era singers for each track and just asking the question: how would they approach this proggy-pop mess?
You’ve spoken of how the record was set to be released six months ago: why was it delayed, and what have you been doing in the intervening months?
Well, we still have a lot of ground to break as to our exposure of the band, so to release an album in the summer was risky business really and could’ve slipped through the net unnoticed. Releasing it when we did sets us up nicely for tours and festivals and that really is the lifeline financially for bands so that’s the number one priority really.
We’ve used the six months getting ahead of our schedule really, making videos was something we’ve never done right at all so to have two decent videos on time was a major improvement in our work ethic. We’ve also got some very early demos knocking around but to be honest we want to sit back and see the true effect that this album has on the public before deciding where to go next.
Have you thought about album number four at all, or are you just focused on touring Out of Touch in the Wild?
As above we’re sitting back on any major work yet, but we’ve discussed our guilty pleasures much more openly than before so hopefully it’ll be the alt pop record of the motherfucking century.
What are your expectations for the record? Your fan base has grown over the course of your previous two albums: do you see the same happening with this record?
Having expectations is just building up to disappointment. We learned that on the last record when the campaign suddenly slowed down double quick after the Wild Beasts Europe tour (although to be fair we had planned to go to the studio after that anyway). But other than having particular venues we want to play, we don’t have any expectations, that way everything is a pleasant surprise!
Your dance moves are as distinctive as the music itself. Are they spontaneous with each show? And where did you get the inspiration from?
Very much so. I’ve never rehearsed them, and I don’t know what outside influence could have provoked them. Despite all the Ian Curtis comparisons I got back in the day, he had nothing to do with it (unless I was wearing a grey shirt, then I had no excuse). It’s literally me dancing to the music, and singing at the same time. It’s the music’s fault, and I guess if people can see me dance to it then people know it’s possible, that was probably the point of it back in the day.
Can you recommend us any up and coming/new bands?
We met Stubborn Heart at Eurosonic festival a few weeks back and they’re lovely guys with a great record I heard all over 6 Music last year. Other than that, our friends FICTION should have an album out imminently which everyone should get on to. Also our friends Alex Hewitt from Egyptian Hip Hop and Francis Lung from Wu Lyf have their own respective side projects (Aldous Robinson) & (Francis Lung) that have been the most entertaining local shows we’ve seen in a long while, in fact we’re taking Francis Lung on some of our tour with us so catch him if you’re coming along!
Finally if you could only have the back catalogues of five musical artists, whose would you keep?
Is this just to have for my record collection or as my own songs? In any case: Todd Rundgren, Kate Bush, Talking Heads, Fleetwood Mac, Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Duncan Wallis, thank you.
Out of Touch in the Wild is out now on Memphis Industries. For more information, please visit dutchuncles.co.uk