Dutch Uncles, like Egyptian Hip Hop, are another exciting new Manchester-based band that has chosen a name which guarantees career-long facile questions: whether any band member is Dutch, or is an uncle, or indeed has an uncle from the Netherlands. Maybe it’s why Wu Lyf keep such a low profile.
Either way, these universally strange monikers do highlight the skewed thinking and deliberately obtuse nature of Manchester’s newest crop of bands. Hiding complex musical arrangements behind breathless pop songs and charity shop shirts, Dutch Uncles are more obtuse than most, and all the better for it.
I grappled manfully with lead singer Duncan Wallis on a day off from the Duncles’ support slot on the Futureheads tour. Their new single, The Ink, is out on Monday. It’s quite clearly brilliant to me – but what have the band’s peers thought?
Duncan, cagily: “We actually gathered all of our friends round the house on Sunday and played them the song on repeat. It was unanimously agreed that people like music.”
So how does a song like this emerge? The balance between melody and yet retaining the winsome off-kilter quality must be akin to spinning musical plates. Or maybe old 12″ records…
“The piano riff came first and pretty much told us what to do. We’re quite separate in our writing, so our influences between music and words are never the same. The words come last so its more about relating it all together at that point, but we never give ourselves much time on it because the idea can lose its popularity very quickly with us… unless its a stonker like The Ink.”
Despite having chosen to take a more singular route through rock, Dutch Uncles‘ pace is quickening. They’re still, Duncan says, taking it one single at a time, but more than a hint of pride and urgency lingers:
“Recording an album within the first 4 months of being Dutch Uncles was quite a feat at the time. However, putting all of our cards on the table so soon without a proper “campaign” has probably delayed our progress longer than we’d like to think.”
Having splurged forth from the unexpectedly potent rock gene pool of Marple along with contemporaries Egyptian Hip Hop, Delphic and Maple State, they’ve managed to retain a unique sound. These bands are notably very different to one another, and yet an element of cohesion remains.
Do they influence each other in any way? The idea of the bands meeting up once a week for tea, cakes and a chat about time signatures appeals.
“I don’t think we influence each other much, but we certainly inspire one another. Its all just a contest to be the best band at ‘Winter Wonderland’ [a possibly imaginary gig] at the Royal Scot [their local pub]. That said, the ‘Myspace plays’ competition has been a depressing game of late…”
If the confidence and clamour around the band keeps building, how ‘big’ would they like to become? Does this even cross a young band’s mind? Is the band’s size and status even an ambition at all, or a happy side-product?
“If it wasn’t a career prospect then we wouldn’t do it is the truth. But we don’t plan on getting elevators in our house from it…do we? Apart from ‘Winter Wonderland’ we can only work towards getting more of our music released.”
And like that – poof – he was gone. I didn’t even get time to ask the questions about Holland and the band members’ familial roles.
The brilliant single The Ink is out on 31st May.
Clash Gig London photo by Jessie Hutchings, other photo by Katie Greswell