Tom O’Reilly, James Raymond and Luke Strange are the woozy Leeds trio that is Edgar Duke. Coming together from their previous different musical projects to form the band, this time it seems like things have clicked. Despite the fact that they are relatively newly formed, they are more ingrained in the music scene of Leeds than you know, having played at many, if not most, of the best and most important venues in Leeds. As is often the case with bands of their size, little is really known about them, and so I spoke to Tom O’Reilly, lead singer and songwriter, to find out more. Some of what I discovered was more of a statement of intent…
What is the best gig you have ever played?
I’d say the best gig we’ve played so far was when we supported Hidden Charms at Belgrave Music Hall. It was one of those gigs where the stars aligned and everything went smoothly. It was also great to have a chance to redeem ourselves after headlining Belgrave a few days before and having a gig from hell. My guitar fell off its strap and then the mic fell of the stand, all mid song, but hopefully that won’t happen again!
How difficult is it to be in a band at a young age?
It all depends on the work you put in, and how dedicated you are to your craft. It doesn’t matter about age as long as you have decent songs and you play as hard as you can when playing live. At first when I was 17/18, walking round Leeds in the rain giving my demos out and emailing venues and promoters and not quite getting anywhere, it did seem quite out of reach. But you just need one thing to click and it has a domino effect; one gig leads to two, two to three, and so on.
What is your favourite thing about the music scene in Leeds?
My favourite thing about Leeds’ music scene is probably the sense of community it has. You start seeing a lot of familiar faces and knowing other bands. Everyone’s in it together, helping one another. There’s also so much going on. New venues opening (such as Headrow House which is relatively new) and new festivals (Kazoopa festival), there’s always a gig on and there’s such a high standard of music in Leeds at the moment.
Are there any other bands of a similar size to your own that you hope can ‘make it’?
Yeah definitely; Headfeed, Neon Dolls, Kath and the Kicks, The Velveteens, Fighting Caravans, Kashmere, Black Sonic Revolver, and many many more…Hidden Charms as well but they’re a lot bigger than us at the moment, I think they’ll go very far; great sound, great songwriting, and great stage presence.
What is playing live music like for you personally?
It’s why I get up in the morning, I could string together several cliches about what music means to me but…other musicians will understand, if you’re willing to drag your guitars and amps on buses, pay to rehearse for a few hours, drag everything home, spend hours writing and recording at home in solitude, not seeing anyone for days because you can’t get the bass part right in one segment of the song, soundcheck before the gig then wait for hours before you’re on, just to get half an hour playing in front of 50 people, if you’re willing to do all that and so much more just for that half an hour, you must absolutely love what you do, and I do, I love every part of that…apart from the buses.
Do you think going to other bands’ gigs is as important for your band as playing your own?
Yeah definitely, because if everyone had that attitude toward live music, all the bands in the music scene would see each other and there’d always be a crowd. Leeds is very good for that actually. Plus we’ve gotten gigs from going to other people’s gigs and networking; you’ve got to have the balls to go up to a band you’ve never met and start asking how they got the gig and who to talk to about other gigs etc. Emails only go so far, we got the majority of our early gigs by going out and chatting to people.
While ‘Railroad Tracks’ reminds me of a style similar to Kasabian, many of your other tracks present a more psychedelic funk feel. What do you attribute to such a diversity between your songs?
Probably the desire to create something original. I don’t understand bands that only write songs that could be oasis B-sides, the whole point of being a songwriter is to bring something new to the table; make people feel differently about music. I think the decline in good bands recently has been down to the complacency of new songwriters; sticking to a formula that worked for Arctic Monkeys or Oasis isn’t enough to put guitar music back to the forefront of music. It might still sound good live and get people moving, but it won’t be ground-breaking in any way; you’ll just become another cover band of sorts, adding to the indie-landfill.
Festival season is upon us, what festivals will you be playing or visiting?
We’re playing Leeds LGBT Pride next week (Marc Almond is also playing which is pretty cool). I’m off to Leeds Fest again, I live really near so I get weekend tickets for 40 pounds which is sweet. We’ll also be playing the first ever Kazoopa festival; the organisers are hardworking, affable people and I reckon it’ll rival Live at Leeds a few years down the line.
What’s happening next with Edgar Duke?
Well everything has snowballed quite fast for us, I hope that snowball continues to grow in size and stature. Management is probably the next step for us, and we have something on the cards with regards to that but we’ll have to see how it all goes. We’ve lots of gigs lined up including a date at Headrow House supporting The Barmines for their single launch of ‘Reliance’ on September 10th, and we’re supporting Neon Dolls for their album launch in November. Taking everything one step at a time and staying groovy.
As is obvious in the way Tom speaks, music is everything to him, and so I’ll be surprised if anything can stop that snowball’s rapidly accelerating journey. Reputation growing as we speak, I expect we’ll see Edgar Duke’s name more often, on a Leeds Festival poster perhaps?
A very special, and very large thank you needs to go out to Tom O’Reilly for taking the time to speak with me. His answers were insightful and inspired, and I couldn’t have put some of the issues he highlighted in the music industry better myself. You’re wasted in the band Tom.
Listen to some of the band’s tracks here on Soundcloud, they’ve even got a new song out.