Dukes Of Windsor have been best known in the past for their ARIA- and APRA-nominated chart smash The Others, the infuriatingly catchy single of 2005. Well, it's time to move on - the Dukes certainly have. On Minus, the band's sophomore album, they don't so much find their feet as take a new attitude towards their music – discovering that (by Weaving's own admission) the last album lacked focus. Minus was released by Island Records 6 September 2008.
Dukes Of Windsor formed only three years ago in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor. Singer Jack Weaving met guitarist Oscar Dawson at a local swimming pool where both were working for spare cash, whilst Dawson was studying music with bassist Joe Franklin. Their paths crossed with Cory Blight (drums) and Scott Targett (keyboards), two schoolmates from Tasmania who had moved to Windsor, and the five bonded over a shared sense of humour and outlook on life, rather than a passion for a particular type of music.
Dukes Of Windsor's rushed debut album, 2005's independently released The Others, by Weaving's own admission lacked focus. “Last time I think we were searching for a sound that we hadn't found yet – which is a process that I guess everyone has to go through before you really discover what you're about”. But now they've finally discovered this, how would they describe that sound? Electro pop? Synth rock? “I wouldn't give it any of those, to be honest. I wouldn't even put it anywhere near the electro world. At the heart of it we're a rock band that uses electronic elements for atmosphere, pretty much.”
On the Dukes' latest offering, Minus, the Victorian five-piece's second album, they have chosen a more fitting direction via their choices in production. Pelle Henriccson and Eskil Lövström produced one of the band's favourite albums, the seminal The Shape Of Punk To Come by '90s hardcore-punk giants Refused, so the Dukes endured the sub-zero temperatures of the Swedish winter (hence the album title) to work with them.
“They'd given The Shape Of Punk To Come a real sort of groove I don't think hardcore had really had before that,” Weaving says. “That's what they brought to our album. I kept getting yelled at, down the headphones, to give it more Al Green and more Marvin Gaye … [Pelle and Eskil] really wanted us to give it more soul, which I hope came out in a strange sort of … clinical Swedish way!”
With its cool, crisp beats and dark basslines, Minus often reflects the environment in which it was made - but not always. “Although there wasn't much light and there wasn't much warmth, it was a really warm and giving place; there was a real happiness in the air,” Weaving says. “It was still a bit of a wonderland.” And that's the point that Dukes Of Windsor have made this time around: that each song is just one flavour on an album fresh with ideas, energy and, most importantly, tunes. Weaving thinks of the finished product as “a collection of tastes” rather than an album with a particular theme running through it – “I think the best way to tell a story is to paint an unfinished picture for someone that they can complete themselves – then it becomes their own,” he says.
You'll already know the ubiquitous single It's A War – the mere mention of it may have put its infectious chorus in your head. “There's nothing better than a good pop song,” says Weaving. “When you're hit with the good stuff you forget [the bad]. There are so many different acts that are well respected that have pop sensibilities.”
Weaving understands much of what makes Dukes Of Windsor special. “It works for and against us, not being able to put us in a box. Everyone just reaches for that electro tag but I think the magic of what we've got is five people that are from such different backgrounds, musically, and that are such good musicians that you never know what's gonna come out next. There are certainly no rules that we have to work within – which is a wonderful place to be. It's that whole Madonna syndrome of being able to reinvent what you do and progress. If you can't do that you're just gonna be dead in the water.”