There’s nothing like conducting an interview next to a set of dumpsters on 6th Street. But that’s where I found myself, chatting with the members of Duncan Fellows before their Feb. 23 show at The Parish. Their demeanor was quiet and unassuming, much like their blend of emotional, harmony-driven gaze rock.
But don’t mistake these indie upstarts for boring. With a repertoire of well-crafted tunes about love, loss and longing, Duncan Fellows impresses with their range and simple power. And with a new record being released this summer, buoyed by a standout single, these Austin originals are on the verge of making a serious splash in the local music scene.
Born and Bred ATX
Born from a friendship between Texas natives Colin Harman and Cullen Trevino, Duncan Fellows started while the two were studying at The University of Texas. Over the subsequent years, the band grew into a musical grab bag of folk-playing local artists.
But when the group trimmed down to five members in 2012, they named the band after Trevino’s house on Duncan Lane and started in a new direction. With the name change, they focused their sound into the expressive indie rock they play today.
Simple Songs With Complex Emotions
Duncan Fellows’ first two EPs track their growth from folky troubadours to indie rockers. “Twelve Months Older” (2013) is five songs of folk rock goodness. Standout tracks like “Arrow” showcase Harman and multi-instrumentalist Margot Stevenson’s natural harmony, while “Stolen Black Cars” speaks like a Springsteen ballad about growing up and getting out. Filled with the energy and fear of young love, blurred highway lines and unknown destinations, this acoustic guitar tune is beautiful in its simplicity.
Deeper and more rock than their previous effort, “Marrow” (2015) expands Duncan Fellows’ sound with early Smashing Pumpkins fuzz and Kings of Leon leads. “Saints” tells a story of growth and discovery, while “New Skins’” upbeat drum brush rhythms, sparse electric guitars and group harmonies float and sparkle. Even with only six songs, “Marrow” is full of variety and range.
Coffins and the New Record
Tentatively due for release this summer, Duncan Fellows’ first LP is the next evolution in the band’s sound. Thanks to fan feedback and personal taste, Harman promises the album will be more upbeat and driving than previous records.
“I feel like a lot of the stuff that has influenced us has been the live show setting,” Harman shared. “The more we played, the more we figured out what people liked and what we liked. We also bought electronic instruments, which helps.”
Judging from their live show, they’ve used those fancy electronics well. The newer songs in the set were peppered with electric drum beats, trumpets and huge, room-filling codas. Even the quieter, more contemplative tunes commanded the chatty crowd’s attention.
NOTE: The below video has some borderline NSFW images.
Duncan Fellows’ Ever-Changing Voice
As Duncan Fellows played their final song of their 8 p.m. set at The Parish, Harman abandoned his guitar and took to the mic with fury. Disco ball sparkles and stardust painted the crowd as Stevenson’s backing vocals lifted the song above a killer Southern rock lead. Even if the crowd was there for the headliner, at that moment, they were fully engaged with the openers.
There’s nothing better than watching a group of musical artists evolve. Despite being only three years old with their current lineup, Duncan Fellows has walked the line from folk rock to indie power, with increasingly awesome results. Worth catching both live and on record, Duncan Fellows continues the great Austin tradition of interesting, thoughtful and explosive indie rock. Dumpsters outside The Parish not required.
For show, music and merch information, visit duncanfellows.com.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Who’s your favorite Austin indie rock act?