Photo by Matthew Rust
You gotta do what you gotta do when it comes to dirty, filthy Rock & Roll. For guitarist/vocalist Lucas Frazier of Cincinnati’s The Dukes, the suffering includes time spent putting earwax on his handlebar mustache.
“I can’t afford that CVS deluxe product,” Frazier says, smiling.
But bassist Randy Proctor splurges for hair gel to use on his ’stache. Not to be outdone, guitarist/singer Luke Darling’s facial hair creation equals what he calls a “Fu Manchu meets chin strap.” I’d mention drummer David Reid’s face-fur preferences, but he’s MIA, proving my deep theory about elusive drummers. Probably just working.
Frazier says none of them finished college, they all work dead-end jobs and they see The Dukes as their future.
“It’s really all we can and want to do,” he says. “It’s just a matter of time.”
All in their early twenties, true to their leather, long hair and wicked clothes, they all like their cigarettes, booze and other choice Rock star treats. And they share a mischievous look, a quick wit and a sharp, dry sense of humor that’s definitely uncensored.
Frazier “works hard” on his long, curly dark hair. He admits, “We’re hard to talk to, I’m not gonna lie to you. We get spaced out and just go all over the place.”
True, random. I’m soon informed that Frazier had a Hot Pocket/choco milk combo for dinner, then suddenly they’re jokingly agreeing that they like a woman with hair on the chest, one who enjoys eating meat.
I announce that I have symbolic hair on my chest.
“Whoa, you just got real deep,” Darling jokes, big-eyed.
Darling’s glasses are decorated with tape and man, his curls are thick. He and Frazier met during a short college stint. Darling explains, “We hated each other. I was dating one of his ex-girlfriends.” But then Darling noted the “particularly cool” band posters in Frazier’s room. They jammed that day, and that was that. As kids, both of their families called them “Luke Duke.” Hello band name.
The two dropped out of school, making a “classified love connection” in a CityBeat ad with drummer Reid. Soon, they met Proctor at a coffee shop we won’t mention (because all four of us have done time at this private elite club).
Proctor has long, “metal-ish” strawberry blonde hair, and he says he’s soon going for a “tusk-stache,” a handlebar that grows forward.
“I really wanted to do some roots Rock & Roll music, and that’s what’s so fucking awesome about this,” Proctor says. “It was just what I was looking for my whole musical career.”
“That’s how it was with all of us,” Frazier says. “The first time we jammed together, it just clicked. We looked at each other and we were like, ‘Whoa, we got a band here.’ ”
Officially forming in October 2009, The Dukes held their first underground show a month later at a sketchy, unmarked, former slaughterhouse in Camp Washington. Since then, they’ve been a fixture in the local clubs.
A mix between Led Zeppelin, Dead Confederate and The White Stripes, The Dukes’ work is supremely energetic, passionate Rock with a garagey sound, mixed with the catchy Blues groove of The Black Keys. Like Black Sabbath, there’s a touch of bad, sweaty, loud, sexy, thick, intense, drunken Classic Rock. And the band has a kickin’ live show that’s far from careful.
Gritty realism. All from the heart and the gut.
“When I get up there, when I’m singing, really laying it all on the line, we’re letting loose,” Frazier says. “It’s insane, awesome, it’s fucking crazy Rock & Roll. The heart and soul of music lies within when an artist can honestly connect to the audience with something real, and one of the real issues that people connect with is pain, suffering, the trials of everyday life.”
Darling adds, “It’s the same show whether it’s one person or a hundred people. It has to be. It’s about us.”
Frazier nods, agreeing. “The passion of the performance gets people going,” he says.
In 2010, The Dukes recorded The Rebirth of Rock and Roll, releasing it as two separate EPs. The band’s new album, The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, includes 11 powerhouse tracks recorded on a reel-to-reel.
Frazier says the album is the first time the band has been “able to get down and get dirty and really present ourselves in a really good light” on a recording. That’s clear on “My Baby Said,” where the lyrics and vocals scream out dark intensity. But this song, as well as the whole CD, brings about an explosion of welcome badass emotion that tramples over radio fluff. With heavy drums, loud guitars and piercing vocals, it’s as unapologetic as Jim Morrison’s songwriting.
“I think the sound of the album is raw, kinda straightforward, no special effects — it has that old-school, rough, saturated sound,” Frazier says. Nobody’s sitting around playing like a wussy. It just works — it’s got strength, it’s meaty and there’s the innate sense of a gelling band. Solidarity.
They’ve played Cincinnati hard, but they’re hungry for the region to get an earful and will start touring soon.
As for Friday’s release party for Rebirth, Frazier says, “It’s gonna be filthy, disgusting; it’s gonna be good.”
The Dukes are streaming the new album on its MySpace page this week leading up to the show.
“So you can listen to it and learn all the lyrics and just freak on out,” Darling says, smiling. “We want you to freak out.”
THE DUKES (www.myspace.com/thedukesthedukes) host a release party Friday at Northside Tavern with Pop Empire and 20th Century Tokyo Princess.