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Looking Back: Cuff The Duke

Cuff the Duke got their start straight out of high school – right when Canadian alt/country/indie-rock was starting to take off. Their first record was hailed by critics as being mature beyond their years and they then spent the next ten years touring the world whilst released six records (two that were nominated for Junos) and then took a break in 2014.This summer they decided to ‘get the band back together,’ and start again from where they left off.

You started the band about 20 years ago, what is it like to look back from where you started to where you are now as a musician?

When we started our goals and expectations were very simple. We were in Oshawa and we just wanted to get a van so that we could get it of Oshawa and tour.

So did Cuff the Duke ever officially announced a breakup? I saw that the last show that was announced was in 2014.

No we didn’t. I feel like we just realized we can’t just keep playing shows. We had to put out a new record and around that time I just had my first son and our bass player had just gone back to school. Paul, our bass player and I had started the band right out of high-school, so our entire adult lives revolved around, well what is Cuff the Duke doing; what’s our tour schedule? So I feel that he and I wanted a break from that but we didn’t want to break up the band.

When you started the band it was a completely different musical landscape in terms of being a touring band and a professional musician. It has changed a lot since then. What was that like compared to now?

It was so different in those days. When we were a band starting out there wasn’t even Myspace around, you know, Facebook wasn’t around. The way a band puts their music out now, none of that existed. It was old school. You recorded a record or you make a demo and you would press CDs. I feel like back then, as a band you had to really search out your audience where as now a band can release a record to the whole world. When Cuff the Duke first went to Spain we didn’t have an album out there but people were coming to the shows and listening to the music because they could finally get it online. That was something that didn’t exist when we first started.

Now that you’re starting to play shows again does that mean there will be a new record coming out?

We have been working on a record, slowly. We have been meeting up here and there just writing new tunes. We have around eight loose ideas right now. We’ve just been trying to figure out what we want to do and how we want to do it. For instance we’re releasing our second album and we’re just doing it ourselves. I feel like we still have a strong enough fan-base that if we do a limited run of that album there will be people that want to buy it. None of us are interested in touring 200 plus shows a year but we still want to play live.

Looking back on the band’s history what are some of your favourite moments or accomplishments that you’ve achieved?

I love so many of the bands that we got to tour with. From Blue Rodeo and Sloan to backing Hayden, as well as all the rad bands that opened for us. Definitely, opening for Blue Rodeo at the Oshawa Civic Center when we were all 22 years old. Opening for Nick Cave in Toronto was definitely amazing, it was a huge moment. As well, the first time we ever sold out a show, which was at Sneaky Dee’s. It’s not a huge venue by any means, holding around 250 people, but I remember that there was a lineup of people down the stairs who couldn’t get in.

On the flip side what would be the worst?

I was just joking with Paul about this. There was one time when we were in the UK, which was never very good market for us; we played once in Nottingham England, where Paul’s brother lives and he didn’t even come to the show. Literally no one came to the show. We played the set to the sound guy.

Cuff the Duke perform at Niagara Oast House Brewers as part of their Jitney Jams Series on August 26.

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