Made in Mancunia

In 2009 The Guardian said Manchester was ‘finally producing innovative, intelligent music again’.

By Martin Guttridge Hewitt | 18 April 2011

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The Dutch Uncles

In 2009 The Guardian said Manchester was ‘finally producing innovative, intelligent music again’. The claim was made while introducing New Band of the Day No 691.

Leap forward two years and the act in question, Dutch Uncles, have taken huge strides. People are now talking about math and prog pop, while their second album, Cadenza, has turned heads by the freight-train load, doing plenty of good for this city’s burgeoning new music scene in the process.

Naturally then, we were eager to pose a few questions. Not least to see if they matched their urban dictionary definition; frank, harsh, and severe. We’re not sure, but refreshingly straight talking would be one way to describe lead singer Duncan Wallis’ answers. Read on and see what you think…

MCR’s Finest: You’ve been touring pretty incessantly of late. How’s the exhaustion?

Dutch Uncles: Fine actually. Our latest UK tour was 8 dates in a row, but we managed not to get too bladdered at any point and spoil the fun of professionalism. We’ve also learned how to have a laugh, which helps under the pressures of consistency on a headline tour.

Any standout gigs to date?
Our show at Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds was wunderbar. It had an encore and everything.

There’s a significant amount of talk surrounding Cadenza. Why do you think so many bands struggle to get a successful second album out?
All depends on how good the first album is I reckon. We think nobody knows that we have a first album, so it takes the pressure off.

If The Times compares you to Talking Heads and XTC, who do you liken the Dutch Uncles sound to?
Talking Heads and XTC, naturally. The bands we take inspiration from are of another time and have so much under their belts that you rule out comparing yourselves to them. We just do our best not to sound too close to anything that’s out there at the moment. That’s all you can do really.

People rightly reference the structure of your records, do you think enough music challenges, or at least wrong foots people?
You mean wrong foots as in dancing? Maybe so… it is hard to jig in 11/8. But if you’re asking does enough music challenge people; it obviously doesn’t, but the majority of music is bought in supermarkets these days and there’s enough challenge in feeding a family on a fiver, so why should the top 10 start telling you to wise up on the asymmetric rhythms??

As sons of Greater Mancunia, do you think the city’s music scene is as healthy as people seem to claim it is right now?
It’s certainly got a high standard, yes. The rise of bands such as Everything Everything, Egyptian Hip Hop, and Wu Lyf is well known on a world scale now. It’s great to know the biggest competition actually comes from your friends.

And you can see, with the hunger in new bands such as Young British Artists and Money, that the Manchester scene isn’t going to take a break anytime soon. Then you’ve got more genre breaking outfits such as D/R/U/G/S and Star Slinger. In a city this size it’s getting sweaty with talent.

Were there any key differences in the process of creating Cadenza, in comparison with the debut, Dutch Uncles?
Many. Cadenza was recorded in Salford. Dutch Uncles was recorded in Hamburg. Cadenza officially took 8 months to complete. Dutch Uncles took 2 weeks to complete. The writing of Cadenza spans over 2 years. The writing of Dutch Uncles spans over a year, maybe. There’s a lot to be said about the production manifestos as well, mainly in the synth work.

What’s the cross-dressing penchant about?
You mean the “Face In” video? It was conceptualised behind my back, which is why I agreed to it (I don’t think I would’ve allowed that conversation to continue had I been there). When we re-recorded the song we were about to remake a new video involving famous cross-dressers but as the blogs rolled showing people preferred the old recording, we quickly realised the same would happen about the video.

I personally think the idea has taken the trend of abstract/surrealist music videos to a more clarifying Freudian level. So many bands fill their video space by getting pretty girls to do weird shit, or people dressed like animals, or some sort of mask wearing, but ours is more poor man’s League of Gentlemen. I like that.

Finally, after the April release, what comes next (other than gigging)?
More music videos? We’ve had one video in the last 3 years so we could do with getting the average up. We might even slip an EP out when no one’s looking. We probably won’t though.

Dutch Uncles will be in store at HMV Arndale from 5pm on April 26th