Duncan Fellows are an up-and-coming indie rock five-piece from Austin, Texas. Their Tuesday show at Brighton Music Hall is their first in Boston and as support for Australian indie band Middle Kids. We had a chance to speak with Colin Harman and Cullen Trevino about Yin and Yang, meeting Middle Kids, and the Austin music scene.

KM: Let’s start off with each of you introducing yourselves. Tell me your name, what you play, and a fun fact.

CH: My name is Colin, I play guitar and sing in Duncan Fellows. What’s a fun fact…I’ve never had surgery. I have broken bones, though.

CT: Oh you don’t have any wisdom teeth.

CH: Yeah I have no wisdom teeth. I’m a product of human adaptation.

CT: I’m Cullen. I play guitar, sing a little bit. I run a pretty good 40-yard dash. I don’t know man. I’m part Mexican but I got blue eyes. I don’t look it.

KM: I read in an interview with the Austinot that your name is a reference to Cullen’s house on Duncan Lane. Why did you choose this as inspiration, and how has the meaning of this name changed?

CT: Originally we chose the name The Union Pacific, and then we quickly realized that was a terrible idea because that was a huge railroad company. We knew, but we thought, “That will be fine. That’s not something that already is ginormous.” We changed it to Duncan Fellows on the fly. It’s significant to us in the sense that it represents where we all met, and that’s the house where everything started. It hasn’t changed. Sometimes I like to think of Duncan Fellows as a character when I’m doing my own personal writing. It can be a nice little artistic projection.

CH: I agree. I feel like it’s held true to me since we changed it to Duncan Fellows. It’s the house where we all started.

KM: In your earlier music, you have more of a folk sound. Then, you shifted to indie rock. Why did you change your sound?

CH: Mostly because we got electric guitars. When we first started at the Duncan House, our first show was with seven or eight people. Whoever played was part of Duncan Fellows, so we just played on acoustic stuff like mandolin and cello. Then we came into electric instruments randomly.

CT: It’s by way of people giving them to us. Some people were like, “Oh, you play music and I don’t use my electric, do you want it?” And we said, “Yes!” We made this choice because we want it to be more fun live. That’s not to say folk isn’t fun when you’re doing it live. It’s just more fun to get rowdy with louder instruments, and it put us into the scene of a lot of the different stuff we like to go to in Austin, musically speaking.

KM: You released your first album Both Sides of the Ceiling in August 2017. The title properly describes the duality of the album, for the album starts on an upbeat note then ends on a sadder one. You have referenced the Yin and Yang while describing the album. Could you speak further to the theme of this album, and why it’s important to you?

CT: Although “Fresh Squeeze” is the only innocuous song, we still wrote that song about the house we were living in, and the vagabonds who live across the street from us by the dumpster. Most of the songs were taken from our lives and things that happened to us at the time, about three years ago. We wrote “Sway” about a moment in my life where I was like, “I’m never going to forget this.” Not for a good reason, but it was nice to write a song about it. That’s kind of what music is about, not to get too general.

CH: To say that duality is important is very vague, but that was something that was very present in our lives and still is. People listen to this record and pick up Yin and Yang but for us it was important for these little moments that we had while writing it.

CT: We wanted to represent a fuller spectrum of emotions. The Beatles is a really easy reference where you have certain songs that are so happy and then some that are insanely dark. But that’s ok because it comes from the same people, and every human has that spectrum of emotions.

KM: Do you feel you were more vulnerable in this album than your were in your previous music?

CH: A little more direct, I think. You can pick up on the feelings more easily. The Marrow EP was a little more impressionistic. This one was about more distinct moments. Because of that, it was a little more vulnerable.

KM: Since you first started out, you’ve had a few shifts in your lineup. Could you speak to some of the original members and some of the newer members?

CH: Our first show in Austin was seven people. We had a cellist, a guy playing banjo, and keyboards. It was people who either lived at Cullen’s house on Duncan Lane or people who were there often that were also musicians. We just threw everyone together for a show. After that first show, we got another show, and asked everyone back. Over time, Duncan Fellows picked up steam and required more time. Some people weren’t as into it, so those people went other ways.

CT: Just life happening. We were in school at the time, so for a lot of people it was a passion of there’s but it wasn’t something they could see themselves doing for a long time. Brody, who played banjo on the first record, is a musician now. His stage name is Brody Price, and he’s killing it. He writes great tunes; it’s just a different vibe. It’s more of that folk/country vibe, but we still go to his shows all the time and he comes to ours.

CH: Until a year ago, people left and we didn’t pick up any new members. The lineup was going down from seven to five. Then toward the end of college, we asked one of our roommates to join. His name is Jack Malonis, and he plays some keys and does some vocals for us.

CT: The set line up is just the five of us. Cullen, myself, and Tim Hagen (drums) have been doing it since the beginning. David Stimson, who plays bass, has been doing it with us for a couple years, three years maybe. Jack has been with us about a year and a half. He plays the keys.

KM: The Boston show will be your first date opening for Middle Kids. How did you get in touch with them and how do you feel about going on the road with them?

CT: It’s funny—it’s a small world kind of deal. One of my best friends throughout college and I actually met her before. She lived in Australia for a year and Hannah Joy, the lead singer from Middle Kids, happened to be her neighbor who lived across the street. They became tight, and Hannah came to the states. This is before Middle Kids took off. She came to Duncan when I was there with 13 or 14 dudes and chilled with us for a night. Then we watched them at ACL this last year then they played another show after that, so I went to that show with Grace and hung out with Middle Kids for a while after the set and got to know them a little more. They’re awesome people so we’re super excited about it. Through happenstance, she was at the house where we named our band. Now we’re on tour together. It’s all connected baby. But it’s cool. Coincidental.

KM: How do you feel about going on such a long tour and being away from home for such a long time?

CH: We’ll see how we do. We can be at each other’s throats every now and then…

CT: No we’re not! We’ll be fine. We’re so ready. We bought a van two weeks ago. We figured we gotta bite the bullet at some point to do this. I’m ready. I haven’t been to Boston. I haven’t been to Chicago. We’ve done a west coast tour and a southeast tour and obviously around Texas. But I haven’t been to the east coast besides New York 15 years ago, so I’m stoked for all of it. I’m really excited to see all the cities, especially since there is so much history. And to play music there, which will be the cherry on top.

KM: Could you describe the Austin music scene?

CT: It’s badass. It’s incredible I think. There are so many bands in Austin. It meets the cliche of “there’s stuff happening every night.” Every week, bands we love are playing. A lot of them are local bands because that’s who we see the most, but there are a lot of people who come from out of town as well. We spend most of our time at local shows because all of our peers are there.

CH: Very inspiring, in a general artistic sense. We live next to people who play music, and there are a bunch of venues that local bands are always playing at. We go to them all the time. It’s cool to see. There’s a lot of different types of stuff that people are making, which is cool.

CT: Most people aren’t assholes. At least to us people are kind, and we’re kind back. Less cut-throat, more supportive.

CH: Pretty chilled out.

KM: Who are other Austin bands we should be paying attention to?

CH: Magic Rockers of Texas.

CT: A Giant Dog is a lot of fun to see.

CH: And Sweet Spirit, Being Dead.

CT: We can probably go on for a good while. Hovvdy….h-o-v-v-d-y. It’s kind of sad, emo-ish, but it’s really good. Beautiful melodies.

KM: Are you working on new music and what is your writing process?

CH: Definitely working on new stuff. Since before SXSW has been pretty busy for us show-wise. We’ve been playing a lot of gigs. We haven’t had as much time to write, but we’ve slowly been coming up with new stuff over the past few months. After tour we’ll sit down for a while and try to form new music.

CT: We have a lot of songs we’ve already written. As far as the writing process goes, it’s usually Colin or myself either writing together or by ourselves and bringing it to the others.

KM: You already have a fan base. If you could say one thing to your fans, what would it be.

CH: Thank you. Thanks for listening!

CT: I feel like we already get to say that to them. We played last week, and we hadn’t played for a few weeks. It was on a Tuesday night, but it was packed. Everyone was singing, which is always a surreal thing because it’s a lonely process when you’re by yourself writing songs.  Sometimes it’s dark thoughts, sometimes it’s not. Then this dude from New Zealand came up to me afterwards and was like, “Hey mate! I commence you!” I can’t do a New Zealand accent. He was there for work for the week and he was like, “I’m seeing Duncan Fellows, I saw y’all were playing.” I was like, “How the hell do you know who we are?” I was really stoked. That kind of shit is out of our hands. People like it, and hopefully they’re good people. Then we’re cool with it.

CH: We want people to come hang out with us. That’s one thing I really like about traveling around and playing shows. We just want to meet people.

KM: If you had to describe your music without using any sort of genre labels, how would you do it?

CT: It’s sometimes described as Cheesy Gordita Crunch Pop, but I don’t know what that means really. But I like it, so we can use that. Maybe it’s a guilty pleasure?

Duncan Fellows play Brighton Music Hall as support for Middle Kids on Tuesday, June 5th. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.