Cuff The Duke

Playing parking lots with dad

These lads from Oshawa got a great sound down. With a love for old school country soul and the exploratory elements of spacey guitar epics they are at once adventurous and rooted, a favourite rock recipe of mine.

ONLY: I saw you once, opening for the Sadies. Touring with the Sadies must be a good apprenticeship of the road.

Wayne Petti: You’ll be in the middle of nowhere and go by a parking lot and Travis will say “Aw, I played that parking lot with my dad’. And you’re like what? You’re driving and you look back at it and ‘What? How did you play there?!’ And he’s like ‘I dunno it was one of those things’. And then an hour later you’ll drive by a field and he’ll say ‘We played this festival in that field’. And I’m like ‘Where are we? We’re not even in a town!’ It’s unreal. They’re incredible. You can’t go see the Sadies and say ‘Nnh, didn’t like it’. You just have to appreciate their talent. They’re fantastic.

ONLY: Cuff The Duke would do well in the U.K., they love the country sound, always have.

WP: We wanna get over there. We’ve got emails from there and places like Belgium, Japan and we don’t even have a record out anywhere. It’s really encouraging. The Sadies are heading over for the third time. Every time they show up there’s a hundred more people.

ONLY: Your band fits in to one of my fave eras, ’68 psychedelic country.

WP: You’re right. Byrds’ Sweeheart Of The Rodeo era, even though that’s a little more traditional. Even Neil Young’s early country sound.

ONLY: The Byrds’ Notorious Byrd Bros. and Everly Brothers’ album Roots where the traditional country soul mixes with the phasing and swirling of rock ’68. I would have never imagined that sound would be so popular as it is. Always nice to hear pedal steel.

WP: It’s so amazing. There was gonna be a lot of pedal steel on the new record but we kinda took it out of the obviously country-sounding songs and left it in the more epic spacey songs so that it adds a country feel in a more washing, strings-like way. It’s far more beautiful, more atmospheric instead of being hokey.

ONLY: Which way is the new record heading?

WP: More in the epic direction, I suppose. But there’s some short ones. It’s still got that country vibe. There’s strings on the record, and horns on a couple of songs, just nice and sublte. Owen and Mike who play cello and violin for Jim Guthrie and Hidden Cameras as well as Julie from the Fembots, they play strings for us. I think there’ll be some nice changes that make the epic stuff just that extra epic.

ONLY: Performing this stuff live, do you find that with some instrumental passages you want to take them right out there and see where they go?

WP: Oh, totally. Sometimes it just feels like we could go for 10 minutes. You can just tell when it’s clicking and everyone almost wants to keep going.

ONLY: How did you come to love the country sound?

WP: I was one of those kids where it was Nirvana got me into music. Then I fell for Sonic Youth. From there it was Television, NY Dolls, then U.K. punk. Then I got into space rock, Spiritualized, Spacemen 3. It was a long time before I got into anything country. But I was in a van with this guy and he played Hank Williams and I was blown away by his voice. Then he says ‘Well if you like that then listen to this’; and he puts on Johnny Horton and I was ‘holy…!’ I was floored! I’d never heard anything so pure and honest, so lo-fi and amazing. Then it was anything I could get my hands on, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow. Then we formed Cuff The Duke and wanted to incorporate old school country with our love of space rock, combine the two. We thought that was a new thing [Laughs]. We thought we were totally on to something [Laughs].

Cuff The Duke open for, and play with Hayden October 26 at the Vogue, and play the Pic Pub October 30.

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