EP release date: 20th September 2019
Folk/Americana duo Duffy & Bird are Tricia Duffy on lead vocals and Al Bird on vocals/guitar. The duo’s blend of vocals with Duffy’s warmth and clarity creates a beautiful and emotive harmonic effect that is coupled with Al’s sensitive acoustic guitar. Betraying Al’s roots in rock, their songs combine fluid vocals with cleverly precise guitar arrangements.
Spirit Level is Duffy & Bird’s new five-track EP following the duo’s debut album ‘5 Lines’ released in 2017. The EP is available in both physical and digital formats.
Tricia Duffy: “When we planned the record we challenged ourselves to draw together a collection of songs that are genuinely diverse, while still hanging together as a set with some sense of commonality and feel. Combining Nashville-style story-telling in ‘Faking a Smile’ with a story inspired by WWII in ‘Born to Fly’ and 3 up beat Americana tracks that comment on cultural norms from luck to mental health, we think it’s an eclectic mix!”
Al Bird: “We want to show a breadth of musical styles while staying true to the raw simplicity of just voices and guitars.”
Photo credit: Gemma Redford
Now based in Chiswick, west London (Tricia) and Farnham, Surrey (Al) the pair hail from Portsmouth and Cardiff respectively, their paths first crossing in 2015. Originally starting out as two-fifths of a rock covers band they morphed into an acoustic duo performing covers of classic songs. However, putting a set-list together one day two years ago, Tricia confided to Al that she was getting a little tired of doing covers and wanted them to start writing their own songs. With Tricia’s natural gift for storytelling and Al’s intuitive feel for a strong melody the pair soon evolved into accomplished singer-songwriters.
Tricia’s trip to Nashville for a writing workshop in 2017 with songwriter, Verlon Thompson, and others meant she came back with new inspiration and a clutch of brand new songs. Their material began earning them a reputation on the live circuit, with some of their memorable appearances including 2018’s Weyfest and the Tamesis Dock floating barge venue in London. Duffy & Bird’s well-received debut album ‘5 Lines’ was released in November 2017.
“It’s all about stories with Tricia,” says Al. “She’ll get an idea from something someone has said, or she’s seen on TV, and that will percolate in her head until she can write 4-5 lines of a poem. That’s how most of our songs start.”
“Al is highly logical,” adds Tricia. “His musicianship is incredible but his inspiring skill is the way he listens. He hears how things are developing before we’ve even finished writing them and adds magic touches where you least expect them.”
“When I listened for the first time, my very first thought was I haven’t heard anything like this, since Simon & Garfunkel. An incredible duo.” Al Yardy – KB Radio on Duffy & Bird’s debut album ‘5 Lines’
“Duffy & Bird do it again with trademark sound of Americana goodness.” Music Talks reviews
Spirit Level EP – Track by track
1. Avenue of Luck – A stunning slice of folk/Americana ‘Avenue of Luck’ was also the duo’s recent single. Tricia: “Al and I had been chatting about the number of listeners we had on Spotify and he used the phrase Avenue of Luck – how do we get on to the Avenue of Luck? That sounds like a song, I said to him! I think we both have a shared set of values when it comes to that whole notion of luck. We consider ourselves lucky but we also both strongly believe that there isn’t really any such thing as luck – as the song says only opportunity and [hard] work. That started the theme for the song. We’ve found that Avenue of Luck is a fantastic live song for us and even though it’s still new, it’s been incredibly popular when we’ve taken it out.”
2. Topping Up – Pure Americana, with a comment on today’s cultural zeitgeist relating to mental health. We observe our friends and family struggling with their own judged perception of a perfect life, too much to do, to fit in, to try and achieve, but instead of taking something away, they relentlessly add more and more. And top up the excesses to cope…
3. Faking a Smile – Al: “This was a song we wrote in 2018, Tricia had started writing stories about this character’s life, using her time in Nashville in 2017 as inspiration for some of the imagery. She’d started distilling the story into a simple song around Autumn last year, when her house was burgled. Among the things that were stolen was her song-writing journal that had the original story in it and all her notes for this song. The chord structures and harmonics. Everything. All she had left was what was in her head and some audio recordings she’d made during the development process. When we sat down to plan the record she played me these extracts – with normal 4:4 acoustic strumming. I thought the the theme was very strong but the snippets weren’t hanging together musically so I suggested we re-write the whole thing in 3…”
Tricia adds: “When Al suggested re-writing Faking a Smile in 3:4 or 6:8 I thought he was taking the piss. I’d been really struggling after my break-in and having my journal taken had been one of the most devastating parts of the loss and intrusion (Tricia had intercepted the burglar during the terrifying incident). I struggled for weeks with the lyric re-write – but my friend Oli Deakin (AKA Lowpines) suggested I listen to the Bob Dylan bootleg volumes and in particular the alternate recording of Like a Rolling Stone which was first penned by Dylan in 3:4 and later re-written in 4:4. It was all I needed to inspire me. The heart ache and hard work was 100% worth it as it’s one of the songs I am most proud of. Not just on this record but of everything we’ve made.”
4. Spirit Level – The title track of the album, Spirit Level offers a relentless acoustic beat that drives this indie-rock sounding melodic Americana with the juxtaposition between haunting harmonies, layered acoustic guitar and a complexity that betrays the simplicity of a duo that consist of just two voices and guitars. The lyrics sneak up on you, tricking you into a sense of simple pop, but in fact they ruthlessly play on the idea of ‘spirit’ with multiple metaphors building cleverly throughout the song.
Tricia: “I wrote the majority of this song, while walking around the river in Chiswick with my dog one sunny autumn day. It takes 40 minutes to do a loop and by the time I got home I had the majority of the lyrics in my head and hummed into voice memos on my phone I added some basic chords and sent it Al for development. He added a huge amount of rock influence to what started life as an acoustic self reflective tune.”
5. Born to Fly – Soaring vocals over intricate guitar, this song was inspired by Mary Ellis one of the last surviving women pilots from WWII. She told a story of the preparations for D-Day, the flotilla of ships gathering in Southampton water. The female pilots from the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) were delivering aircraft built in Hamble and as they flew overhead they could sense that something was happening, but as civilians were unaware of exactly what. During these desperate times these exceptional, young, talented women entertained dreams of romance and Mary spoke of writing love notes, which they shoved in bottles and dropped over the water hoping they would reach the man of their dreams. They couldn’t have known what would happen in the days to come – both the horror and finally the end of the war. This song is a humble tribute to the incredible bravery of the women that ferried the aircraft in the most extraordinary circumstances and the service men they endeavoured to support.
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