Gig preview: The Dunwells at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Joe Dunwell, singer and guitarist with Leeds band The Dunwells, is considering the route that led his group from the Americana-influenced folk rock sound that dominated their 2012 debut album Blind Sighted Faith to the more anthemic, radio-friendly songs on its newly-released successor Light Up The Sky.
He explains that after touring the previous record for three years the four-piece felt it was time to reapparaise what they were doing.
“Musically me and Dave [his brother, who plays piano and guitar] and the rest of the guys wanted to do something a little bit different.
“We heard an album, called In A Perfect World, by a band called Kodaline that we fell in love with and we hunted down the producer of that album. We decided we wanted to work with Steve Harris and our manager made it happen, which was one of the best things that’s ever happened to us.
“We got to meet Steve Harris and spent the entire October, November and December 2013 recording a big, massive chunk – the majority – of the album with him.”
Rather than having to change, Dunwell feels they simply followed their creative instincts.
“We wanted to change,” he says. “We’d been labelled with this folk label and in ourselves when we were standing in practice rooms writing these new songs and playing them we thought we were not a folk band.
“In fact, what we are doing now feels more natural to us than Album One, really.”
Seven years on from forming The Dunwells with Dave and later recruit Rob Clayton sharing vocal duties, Joe has finally assumed the mantle of the band’s frontman.
“It just happened so organically,” he says. “When we were writing this album I just started singing the songs and Dave was like, ‘This works’.
“Before we had three lead singers and people were a bit confused and we were getting confused as to what we were. I think everything’s just a little bit more streamlined now.
“I put the guitar down on a few songs live and Dave’s playing the electric guitar now and it really just works for us.”
What’s apparent from even a cursory listen to Light Up The Sky is that the choruses leap out of the speakers. Dunwell admits that was influenced by “the kind of music that we listen to, Elbow and The Killers, they hit you hard with the chorus”.
“Everything that we’ve done on this album has been 100 per cent intended,” he elaborates. “It’s not been done by accident. We’ve gone, ‘This is how we want to sound’ and we’ve done it, we’ve made the product. We walked away after it going, ‘Well, if nobody likes it then all I can say is I’ve made an album for myself’.”
As to whether what tends to get played on mainstream radio was a factor, Dunwell says “yes and no”.
“I think the minute you start chasing the radio you’re on to a loser because you’re always on the back foot. We made something that we liked and after we presented it to radio and if they like it then they like it and if they don’t then they don’t, it’s one of those things.
“If Coldplay release a song and we go, ‘Right, we’re going to write a song that’s exactly like the Coldplay Number One’ then it’s already been done and it’s out there in the world. You’re chasing your tail a little bit.”
Dunwell thinks three years of regular touring and “copious writing sessions with some amazing writers” have helped the band hone their craft.
“On this album we got to work with Dan McDougall, he’s written for Tom Odell and the new artist called Aurora, and then James Flanagan, he’s written for Kodaline, and there’s Blair MacKichan, who wrote Strange Feeling with us, he’s worked with the likes of Sia. These people are professional writers and I think I learned a lot from them.
“Then again,” he adds, “when we go into a room we twist the songs a lot or they get a different influence from us because I think our writing style is unique.”
This month the band head out on a UK tour. At the time we speak Dunwell is the midst of pre-production. “It’s not just about playing the song from start to finish, it’s the bits in between,” he says. “The lighting show and making sure that everyone’s in the right place at the right time, playing the right things and moving the right way. We’ve never done that before, we’ve always gone ‘Our music will stand up on its own’ and it’s worked for us so far but I think we want to move to the next step and be the most professional band out there.”
The Dunwells play at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on Friday, April 8. For details visit https://thedunwells.com/