The Duke Spirit are an English rock band based in London. Their sound has been seen as a melding of influences ranging from alternative rock bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and Spiritualized, the tremulous rock'n'roll of bands such as The Gun Club and The Patti Smith Group, to distinctive rhythmic 'Atlantic soul' and Motown influences.
The band was formed in London in 2003 by Luke Ford (guitar), Liela Moss (vocals) Toby Butler (bass) and Dan Higgins (guitar).
Ford and Moss met at art college in Cheltenham where he was studying photography and Moss was taking a Fine Arts course. After moving to London and a short period writing and performing as Solomon (in which they were later joined by Butler) they formed The Duke Spirit. Along with guitarist Dan Higgins they set about writing, recording and self-producing a group of songs that formed the basis of their first single and EP. Higgins also creating the woodcuts that served as the band's early artwork.
The band released their first single "Darling You're Mean/Bottom of the Sea" in May on the City Rockers label, without having performed live. The line-up was completed by drummer Olly "The Kid" Betts, and the band played their first show at the Brixton Windmill later that year. They released the Roll, Spirit, Roll EP toward the end of 2003, which won the band critical acclaim from publications such as NME.
The band's debut album was due to be released in September 2004 until their record label, City Rockers, ran out of financial steam. They moved over to Loog Records/Polydor and released the album in the UK on 16 May 2005. The album's producers were Simon Raymonde (formerly the bass player in The Cocteau Twins, and now Bella Union Label boss) and Flood, best known for his work with Nick Cave, NIN and U2. After headlining tours of the UK, the album was released in the U.S. and the band found themselves traveling through America for much of 2006, including a highly praised performance at the Coachella 2006 festival, California.
The only release of 2006 was a downloadable EP and limited 7" single entitled Covered In Love, released through the band's own Velo Recordings. This was a collection of songs, recorded to 8-track by the band, written by the recently deceased (Arthur Lee, Desmond Dekker and Jessie Mae Hemphill). In early 2007 the band signed to You Are Here a new independent Anglo-Canadian label. The track "Mayday", a collaboration between UNKLE and The Duke Spirit was released on the latest UNKLE album, War Stories, in the UK on 9 July 2007. The track was recorded with Chris Goss at the Rancho De La Luna studio in Joshua Tree, California where they returned in April 2007 to record their own second album, also with Goss. Neptune was released in February 2008. Shortly afterward, Higgins left the band to concentrate on his family, which prompted a personnel shuffle: Toby Butler switched to guitar, with longtime friend Marc Sallis replacing him on bass.
In February 2009, the band released a 10-track compilation CD featuring three songs never released in the US ("Masca", "Souvenir", "Do What You Love") as well as a cover of Alex Chilton's "Baby Doll". The CD was sold alongside an Alexander McQueen collection, one of the shirts of which featured the face of singer Liela Moss.
The band's third album, Bruiser (produced by Andrew Scheps and UNKLE's Rich File), was released in September 2011 through Fiction in the UK, Shangrila music in the U.S. and Co-Operative Music throughout the rest of the world. The album was preceded by the Kusama EP in early 2011, named in tribute to the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama whose work had become an inspiration to the band during the writing of the 3rd album. Yayoi Kusama was also the main inspiration and lyrical focus for the song "Sweet Bitter Sweet" on the Bruiser album.