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Interview: Kyle Duke and the Brown Bag Boys

Photos and words by Stasia de Tilly

Kyle Duke and the Brown Bag Boys exists on a continuum between aquatic metaphors set to 60s inspired rock love songs and a cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs.

I caught Duke and the boys at Mercury Lounge over the last few days of summer. They cracked jokes that we half understood and made various strange noises. The perceived mellow sound heard in Duke’s recordings is unlike their bright presence at their live shows. Duke’s band is known for its ever-evolving form. There are no permanent band members (Besides Duke) and because of that chances are at any given show audience members have been one of the brown bag boys. That night, Jack Schneider played bass and Alexander Bean was on drums.

kyle pinky

A couple months prior I sat down to hear about Duke’s May 2017 release, Aquatic Pop. Duke has become known around the NYU circuit for his water-themed pop songs. “I write a lot about fish in my music, water animals, and water. I have a lot of association with fun times in bodies of water.” Growing up around the likes of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Duke has taken time on this past record to focus on lyricism while still maintaining his shredding chops. Aquatic Pop showcases Duke’s songwriting ability and is a step toward him finding a unique sound.

The real charm in Duke’s music is how he approaches often dull realities with a happy-go-lucky demeanor. On “Monday Mundane” Duke frames a bad day with dainty lyrics, “I spent a lot of time focusing on lyrics over the past year because a lot of what I listen to is lyric driven.” He pokes fun at the sucky situation with his upbeat arrangement, “My life isn’t that terrible. I just wasn’t getting a lot of sleep so I wrote a sad song. On an actual level it’s not that shitty so what else can you do, just make a boppy tune.”

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What’s next for Kyle Duke ?

We’re playing more shows and trying to promote the record. We went to Lafayette College and they promoted the single off the track and it was a great experience. We’re trying to play shows in state and out of state each month. The stuff I’m working on now is not lyrically deep at all but it’s kinda fun. It’s the stuff that people respond to more live. I spent a lot of time focusing on lyrics over the past year because a lot of what I listen to is lyric driven. I kind of drained myself of writing lyrics doing Aquatic Pop. But this new stuff is really fun. It’s rock and roll, It’s what I know better.

What was the most fun track to record? Or a good story?

So for Christmas, I bought my brother this little tiny drum set. He really didn’t like it because he is a very serious drummer. He was like, “I can’t play with that,” and he wouldn’t touch it. All the other tracks were recorded and for Aquatic Pop I started bringing in core musicians to record. Sarah played the cello, my bassist Jack Schneider played pedal steel. I had already recorded all the drums. But I wanted to put tiny drums on “Monday Mundane,” so I made Brian record a tiny drum solo.

Catch Kyle Duke in on October 9th 2017 at Gold Sounds, November 4th and December 17th at the Bowery Electric. Find Kyle Duke & the Brown Bag Boys on Instagram and Facebook.



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