Tag Archives: Union Duke

Lightning Interview: Union Duke

Having experienced the electrifying musical stylings of the Toronto-based folk quintet Union Duke during their visit to Edmonton’s Northern Lights Folk Club last year, we thought we’d better catch up with the band for a lightning interview before their stop at the New Moon Folk Club this Friday. Of the five member group—Ethan Smith, Jim McDonald, Matt Warry-Smith, Will Staunton, and Rob McLaren—we spoke with Matt who plays ukulele and sings.
dsc_0522
How did you get started in music? Are you self-taught or otherwise?

We all sort of came at music from different angles. Rob is the only one with an actual music degree I think. I took private trumpet lessons as a kid and then performed in lots of musicals growing up. We’ve all been playing in bands in one way or another since we were young teens so while we all had at least a little bit of musical education we’ve also done plenty of learning with each other.

How did Union Duke form?

Ethan, Jim and I met in high school. We played in a bunch of rock bands together and pulled a reverse Bob Dylan by going acoustic. Met Will and Rob through mutual musical friends a few years in and things just clicked.

You spend a lot of time on tour—do you have a favourite part of touring? A favourite place to tour to?dsc_0455

I mean, it’s all pretty good, except the crazy long hours in the car. I would say the top things are meeting interesting people and hearing their stories, staying in cool places we otherwise wouldn’t have found ourselves in, and obviously playing shows. We like to have fun wherever we can find it so we always keep an eye out.

Most places we’ve been have been great for different reasons. It’s tough to settle on just one. We like to say “different landscapes for different band mates”. A few great spots off the top of my head: hidden cliff jumping spot near Moncton, NB, mountain hot springs in BC, BEEF in Alberta and back home for bed.

In previous interviews you have said that your writing process involves workshopping ideas from individual band members—what happens to the songs that don’t make the cut for Union Duke?dsc_0542

Sometimes they hang around and become part of the live show. Sometimes they even end up becoming a recorded song on a later album or on a digital release. A few of them end up going to other projects we might be working on but most never see the light of day. We write A LOT of songs so we don’t really end up missing the ones we don’t love.

You have said that you have eclectic musical influences—what was the last concert you attended as a fan?dsc_0411

I just saw Future Islands at Massey Hall, talk about a far cry from folk. But we’ve seen plenty in the last little bit: Micah Erenberg at Burdock, Matt Mays at the Hayloft, Jayhawks at The Opera House.

Anything else you would like to mention?

We have a couple videos we just released that can be found on our website and our Facebook page. And we’re out on tour through late October and all of November so check us out on the road!

Union Duke plays the New Moon Folk Club in Edmonton on Friday the 27th of October 2017.

Advertisements

Metaphors & Motors: Review of West My Friend & Union Duke at Northern Lights Folk Club

Literary allusions and mechanical metaphors were the order of the evening at the second concert on the Northern Lights Folk Club 2016–17 series with West My Friend and Union Duke. Having been caught on the west (appropriately enough) side of Jasper by a rockslide, West My Friend arrived 45 minutes before the show was begin and proceeded to rip through a quick soundcheck. Even in a rush West My Friend was so spot on that audience members were wondering whether or not it was appropriate to applaud for a soundcheck.

West My Friend kicked their set off with ‘No Good Monster‘ off Quiet Hum their latest release. The song, as Eden Oliver told us, is about the little voice in our head that tries to stop us from doing great things — no one will like it anyway right? Luckily West My Friend has decided to face that no good monster head on and create a little bit of magic with their music. Oliver then led us through some of the literary references that punctuated their set including Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Christina Rossetti’s “A Birthday”. West My Friend’s sound is highly melodic and although at times it is gentle it is incredibly intense. When the end of the set was reached the audience just wasn’t ready for our time with West My Friend to be over. An encore called them back to the stage and they had the crowd sing ‘All Day Long‘ a song by Zachary Gough that ends rather abruptly, and caught a few of us crowd-singers out.

Following the break Union Duke  took to the stage. A high-octane folk/country quintet based out of Toronto, Union Duke had the audience clapping their hands, stomping their feet and even sharing their best vampire dance moves (on cue in ‘The Heartbreak Kid‘).

Union Duke is unrelentingly rhythmic with a touch of twang, and their lyrics have the occasional car reference, like carburetors in ‘Chasing Headlights’ from their most recent album Golden Days. Matt Warry-Smith kept the forward momentum of the show with his tambourine/cymbal combination beating out the rhythm of many of the songs. As Union Duke splits the responsibility of lead vocals Rob McLaren (electric guitar, fiddle) shared his Alberta roots with ‘Quit This Town‘ and then Ethan Smith his frugal tendencies with ‘Dime-Store Shirt‘ both off the Cash & Carry album from 2014. Northern Lights Folk Club usually doesn’t book a band without having experienced a live show by them, so Union Duke was a wild card for them having been booked based on YouTube and recordings. In this case the gamble paid huge dividends and Union Duke was called back to the stage for an encore which caused continued hand-clapping and feet stomping in the audience.

If you missed last night’s concert, both Union Duke & West My Friend be heard in the greater Edmonton area over the next few months:

West My Friend
Monday Oct 10 in Sherwood Park (House Concert)
and throughout the prairies in Alberta: Lloydminster, Cochrane, Canmore; Saskatchewan: Maple Creek, Regina & Saskatoon; Manitoba: Flin Flon & Winnipeg.

Union Duke
Thursday Oct 13 in Athabasca (Nancy Appleby Theatre)
Friday April 28, 2017 in Spruce Grove (Horizon Stage)
and further afield in Saskatoon, Drayton Valley & Forestburg this coming year.

The Northern Lights Folk Club continues their season on October 22nd with Chloe Albert opening for Jez Lowe.