The last time the Duke Spirit came to Portland, in April 2006, all their gear was stolen out of their tour van in the Jupiter Hotel parking lot. It was at the tail end of the English band's first US tour, at a time when the band was exhausted and out of funds.
"It was a kick in the teeth," says singer Liela Moss. "But after the shock of losing your stuff and feeling really fucking angry and sorry for yourself, people crept out of the woodwork offering help. Some fuckers stole something off of us, but then about tenfold people came out and helped. It was quite a beautiful moment in a way."
The band scraped together enough equipment, including borrowed gear from opener Kleveland, to play a pissed-off, fierce, tired, breathtaking set that night at the Doug Fir. They took the stage with long, weary faces, but as they launched into their tribal shoegazer blues, the fatigue and frustration faded. Guitars clattered like the Jesus and Mary Chain streetfighting with the Rolling Stones, with Moss howling over it like a lioness. It was cathartic and redemptive—a band rediscovering its purpose right in front of the audience.
Moss says, "I remember there weren't very many people there, but some people were really passionate about what we'd just done, raving that we were their new favorite band. I was thinking, 'Fuck, you caught us on a really bad day!' Those things inspire you to keep going."
The Duke Spirit's latest, Neptune, is a slicker, more assertive record than their earlier work, with the band's ambition clearly audible. Their low-fi garage rock has been spit-polished, and if rough edges are made radio friendly, it's earned the band greater exposure and another grueling schedule.
"We have to step up to the plate," says Moss. "It's just a moment in time, and it's what you've always wanted to do. Adrenaline is this ever-replenishing wellspring, and every time you're too tired to do something, you just think: 'Okay, well, there's no choice. Everybody else is about to step onstage. Just fucking do it.'"