The Duke of Surl

Greg Hanson, the big cheese of King Pizza Records and drummer of The Mad Doctors, recently brought The Duke of Surl to my attention, raving about their upcoming release. This is a group that sits well with the King Pizza family, consisting of bands like The Unders, Garbage Brain, and The Jeanies.

They’ve just released their first full length album “Ham Radio” on March 13 with King Pizza Records. These tunes are straight out of Will Brown’s brain, with live accompaniment from Sam Trioli on drums, Paul Traviano on bass, and Mike Fiorentino shredding alongside Brown on guitar. Concise and catchy melodies with psychedelic guitar tones are paired with some sweet fuzz. The tape’s release show was March 16 at The Gutter in Brooklyn with The Mad Doctors and The Unders. “Phones Dead” is a standout track on the album, replete with a different flavor than the other tunes, beholding a more stark dynamic and a darker vibe than the otherwise straight-up, lo-fi East Coast rock.

Brown is living in Milan, Italy but currently chillin’ in Massachusetts. BTRtoday conducted an interview with him over the phone seeing as he is all over the map!

BTRtoday (BTR): Where are you based out of?

Will Brown (WB): I’m originally from Marion, Massachusetts. The project was recorded in Passaic, NJ… there is a rehearsal space there where I have all my recording shit. I live in Milan, Italy now; my fiance is going to school out there. The bass player is in Jersey City, the other guitarist is in Rhode Island, and the drummer is in New Hampshire.

BTR: Wow. So when you want to play a show you really have to plan ahead.

WB: Yeah, basically the way it’s been working is we’ve been booking little tours, doing a week or eight days. We get together for a practice and then play the shows!

BTR: How do you know your bandmates?

WB: The other guitarist, he and I were in a band way back in school. The drummer and I have been in a band, and are still in a duo together called The World War Ones. We haven’t released anything recently but we have a new EP that’s gonna come out maybe in the fall or winter. The bass player, he and I worked together in the past.

BTR: When did this recording project begin? What was the inspiration behind The Duke of Surl?

WB: I play all the instruments on the album, except Sam plays drums on two songs. Basically, Sam and I were in the other band and he was unavailable for a few months, so I just sort of had the space, had the gear, had songs that were more for a full band than just a duo. I started recording and I liked how it was sounding so I just continued.

The Duke as a boy.

BTR: Where does the name come from?

WB: That is sort of a punny reference to that old song, “The Duke of Earl.” It’s something my brother and I call each other if we are having a few drinks and someone gets a little surly. I would have called it just Will Brown, but that’s a super common name.

BTR: How long did it take you to record all of those parts and get the album together?

WB: I was probably working on the thing for a little over a year but I was stopping to work on the WW Ones’ EP. So it was off and on for about a year.

BTR: How did you get hooked up with King Pizza?

WB: I shot Greg an email with a couple of songs after I had read an interview he did in Brooklyn Magazine, I believe. He was talking about the label, how it formed, and what their [criteria] was and it seemed to fit. We met for a couple of beers to get to know each other and hit it off.

BTR: I wanted to ask you what some of your favorite local bands are to see, but you’re kind of all over the place…

WB: Yeah, all the King Pizza bands I’ve played with have been great. I love Greg’s band, The Mad Doctors. They’re playing the release show with us along with The Unders, who we played our first show with. I’m trying to think of some bands I’ve seen in Milan. I went to this hardcore basement show out there but I can’t remember the bands names ’cause I couldn’t pronounce them. There is a band that I’ve seen out there called Mary and the Quants. They’re just sort of like a ’60s cover band, but they’re a lot of fun.

BTR: Do you like Milan so far? Are you looking to play out there?

WB: So far I love it, it is quite different. Yes, I absolutely am, the reason I haven’t looked yet is because I was focusing on booking this tour. But as soon as I get back I’m gonna look to book some sort of one man shows.

BTR: So you’re about to go on tour?

WB: Yeah, we are gonna do a little run of the North East. We are doing Brooklyn, Jersey, Philly, Connecticut, Boston, and Portland, Maine.

Brown’s studio.

BTR: What is your favorite instrument?

WB: I play guitar. The other stuff I just sort of fake my way around, especially drums. I’m not a good drummer so some days when I would record the drums it would basically take me all day to get one useable take. But then I can wash my hands of it and never have to play it again. Same thing with keys. I can imagine what the part should sound like in my head and I’ll just figure it out, then once I get it down it’s out of my head again. So, definitely guitar is what I’ve spent most of my time playing.

BTR: What motivates you to keep writing, playing music, and traveling?

WB: I find that when I’m not making music I get sort of depressed. I’m a lesser version of myself. Like, Sam could tell ya. The times when our schedules have conflicted, I’m not so happy ’cause I just want to be making music. That is why I started this, to fill that void.

You can find their full-length album “Ham Radio” on their Bandcamp and follow them on Facebook to stay up to date with their upcoming shows and future releases!