Say Hello To… The Dunwells – interview with the British band creating a buzz in America

February 29, 2012

Ladies and gentleman, please say hello to The Dunwells.

This five-piece band from Leeds, England are currently on tour across the United States. They are quickly making a name for themselves stateside: Bob Lefsetz and Cameron Crowe are already fans: You could be next.

The Dunwells - photo by Ami BarwellThe Dunwells: L-R,  Joe Dunwell, Jonny Lamb, Rob Clayton, David Hanson, Dave Dunwell – photo Ami Barwell

The Dunwells’ debut album Blind Sighted Faith was just released in America and the buzz about the band is growing quickly. In the past week influential American music industry figure Bob Lefsetz and director & screenwriter Cameron Crowe have both spoken with enthusiasm about their excitement for the band.

Things are happening fast for The Dunwells. It already seems like they are set to be one of the next big British musical exports – the talent from back home just won’t let up! Earlier today I spoke with the band’s lead singer Joe Dunwell, while he was in the van with the band driving across Arizona to play at the Fox Theatre, Tuscon tonight.

Below is the full Music Vice interview, transcribed in full from my conversation with Joe six hours ago. (Like I said, things happen fast for The Dunwells.)

Brian: Hey Joe, how’s America treating you?

Joseph Dunwell: Very well thanks. We’ve never seen the desert before… right now we’re on the road driving across Arizona. It’s quite cold right now!

Your first shows of your current US tour have already generated a fair bit of buzz: tell me about Cameron Crowe!

Cameron Crowe came in before the show at the Hotel Cafe in LA and said hello. He said hello and told us he was into our music. Then he stayed for the show and aftewards when he went home he tweeted about us. We couldn’t believe it!

Cameron Crowe's tweet about The Dunwells

Cameron Crowe's tweet about The Dunwells

So how did you go from your hometown in Leeds, England to touring across America and impressing Cameron Crowe?

The band started 2.5 years ago, starting out with my brother David and I. We met Jonny Lamb, Dave Hanson and Rob Clayton along the way. Our big break happened when we went down to London one time and met Tony Moore…

[Ex-Iron Maiden member, now a promoter and musical director at The Bedford – read our recent Music Vice ‘Insider’ interview with Tony here].

Ah, Tony Moore – how did you meet him?

We met Tony at The Bedford in Belham, London. We’d heard about The Bedford from other musicians – the place has such a great reputation!

The day we got spotted, it was actually our second time playing there. Our van broke down on the way down to London. We were going to be the first band on for one of the monthly Shuga Bhudda showcases. So our van’s broke down, we’re due to be the first band on, and it was a £80 taxi to Bedford… but we got in and arrived at the venue just 10 minutes before our set time.  It was early and there there were only five people in the crowd – one of those people turned out to be Tony Moore!

Wow, what a story! Incredible. So how did you go from meeting Tony to touring in the US?

We were nervous musicians at the time we first met Tony at that gig but he saw something special in us. We wanted it to happen there and then but Tony knew we needed to knuckle-down and work on our songs and performance. He gave us guidance. From meeting Tony in May 2010, we went on to tour across Britain more. [Including appearances at Hop Farm Festival and opening for Mumford & Sons to a crowd of 10,000.]

We recorded the album in July 2011 at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studios in Texas. Then it took a while to get mixed and mastered. Pedernales Studios are incredible – you should have seen that place inside!

We meet with Tony as friends, over pizza and stuff. Tony invited us to Folk Alliance Internaional in Memphis, Texas last year – it cost us six grand but it proved to be a big step for us. After lots of meetings in general [with Tony, with their US label Playing In Traffic, and others] , the plans for the 2012 US tour came together and here we are now. And it all started again when we returned to Folk Alliance International in Texas last week, it was great!

And after Folk Alliance International, Bob Lefsetz wrote about you…  (in his newsletter Lefsetz Letter last Saturday, 25 Feb)

I didn’t know much about who he was to be honest! But I’ve quickly learnt how influential he is in America. Bob was at Folk Alliance International and then wrote that blog about us… I realised just how big of a deal this was when Tony Moore showed us the review from his mobile phone after the Hotel Cafe show in LA. Tony was practically crying, he was so happy!.

Amazing, congratulations. Bob Lefsetz is definitely a voice who people pay attention to, and he has broad influence across the US and Canada.

Your album Blind Sighted Faith just came out in the US on 14 February…

Yes! I held the record in my hands for the first time at Folk Alliance International, it was such an amazing feeling!

The album is more eclectically styled than the folk-pop that people may expect. From the opener “I Could Be King”, which is like a modern folk tune ready for mainstream radio, to the blues rock Santana-esque ending of “Oh Lord”, there’s a lot going on… Tell me a bit about the record.

It wasn’t intentional. We’re all musicians and we all have different likes and different ways of doing things. You put all those different influences in a pot, get creative, and this is what happens. You’re right, there is that bluesy touch, then there is that folk influence, and there is a bit of a rock ingredient too which gives it a bit of an edge. And it’s melodic too, all the melodies and harmonies add an extra ingredient. It all fits.

What are you favourite tracks on the album?

Live, I love playing “Oh Lord”. On the record, I love “In the Moment”; if you listen good, with those reggae beats on the keyboard and the guitar. It’s a good example of that eclecticism and creativity of the band coming together.

Your American tour includes SXSW in March – how excited are you for SXSW?

We’ve never been to SXSW. With the stories that we’ve heard, it’s going to be great – so many artists and shows happening in one town. I’m looking forward having some barbeque again in Texas! I love it.

You’re supporting Los Lonely Boys right now, how is that going?

They are such lovely people. They took us under the wing straight away. The very first night they sat by the side of the stage and gave us support. They are amazing, amazing musicians.

We’ve jammed a bit with them. They are all brothers. Johnny was playing drums with them the other day. And then their drummer Ringo played with Rob on bass. Henry Garza their guitarist is so good!

What’s it like being in a band with your brother?

He’s my best mate. It’s dead easy. It’s easy with all five of us actually. We’re all close in the band.

So a Liam and Noel thing won’t happen?

I hope not. I don’t think so at all actually. Maybe we fight a bit if we’ve had a few drinks but it’s all forgotten by the next day! We’ve been doing it too long, for over 2 and half years. We’ve done this before. The American tour has enhanced everything, and we’re spending much more time together on the road now, but we like each other. We’ll all like brothers really, all five of us.

Do you have any plans to make it to Canada?

Yes, definitely. We were speaking to Kevin [the Dunwells manager, with Playing In Traffic] the other day. It will happen next year, or maybe even this year.

Being a musician is the best! You get to see the entire world for free. It’s amazing!

© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice

Internet links:
The Dunwells homepage

The Dunwells on Facebook

The Dunwells – “I Could Be A King”:

The Dunwells upcoming tour dates:

29          Fox Theatre, Tucson, AZ
2           Chandler Center, Chandler, AZ
3           SOL @ Sante Fe Brewing Co., Sante Fe, NM
6           The Saint, Asbury Park, NJ
7           Mercury Lounge, New York, NY (headline)
9           Ram’s Head Tavern, Annapolis, MD (with Paula Cole)
10         Ram’s Head Tavern, Annapolis, MD (matinee headline)
14         Belford @ SXSW, Hilton Garden Inn, Austin, TX
15         SXSW – Playing in Traffic Records Party, Whole Foods, Austin, TX
16         SXSW – Maggie Mae’s, Austin, TX (10PM)
17         SXSW – Folk Alliance British Embassy (2PM)
21         Belly Up, Aspen, CO
23         Swallow Hill, Denver, CO
24         Warren Station, Keystone, CO
25         Kilby Court, Salt Lake City, CO
30         Firehouse Arts Center, Pleasanton, CA

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Brian Banks

Editor and Founder, Music Vice Magazine. Writer. Photographer. Poet. From Scotland. Not Ireland. Proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Rock N' Roll Don't Pay The Rent... 

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4 Responses to Say Hello To… The Dunwells – interview with the British band creating a buzz in America

  1. Glen mb on March 1, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Mr Brian Banks!!
    Please take a bow sir!!! Glen from Keith, Moray here. I had to comment cos i hope maybe mr Cameron Crowe will see this and come to know your name….i wonder if he realises you are Scotlands answer to William Miller, our very own guy from Almost Famous??! Almost Famous 2 anyone? this is your man Mr Crowe!

    Musicvice is looking brilliant my man! Foudn it again recent and been reading all theses reviews. Good to see ur still doing all this stuff and writing about all these great young bands!! didnt even know you were across the pond! I still remember your writeup on Speyside Festival wayyy back then!
    Dunwells sound great! checkin em out now. Keep it up Brian, hope life is treating you well, if youre ever back in Moray give us a shout.
    all the best man, Glen

  2. Diane on March 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

    WOW! No words would ever be sufficient to describe how great these guys are!

  3. PJB on March 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Very lucky to see ANY of the world for free. Who’s paying!!

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