Duncan Fellows discuss their new EP, new music video, growing their sound and what’s next

Indie rock band Duncan Fellows, comprised of Colin Harman (guitar/vocals), Cullen Trevino (guitar/vocals), Jack Malonis (keys/back up vocals/guitar), Tim Hagen (drums) and David Stimson (bass), have been garnering a growing fanbase over the past several years.  Based in Austin, TX, Trevino and Harman met while attending the University of Texas, sharing a house together with several other people and started jamming together in the garage with a rotating cast of friends.  After they started writing music of their own, the jam sessions became rehearsals and Duncan Fellows was born.   The group released 2 EPs in college, 2013’s Twelve Months Older and 2015’s Marrow, with an early folk sound slowly evolving into their current indie rock sound.  In 2017, they released their debut full-length album Both Sides Of The Ceiling.  Featuring the good-time earworm of a single “Fresh Squeezed” and an entire album’s worth of upbeat rhythms, head-nodding riffs, and playful, pleasant harmonies, the record was championed by local radio, leading to a bevy of Spotify spins. While in college, the band viewed music as more of a hobby but as they started playing more shows and receiving more positive feedback, they started taking their music more seriously.  They have since performed with bands such as Houndmouth, Joseph, Middle Kids, The Drums, Whitney, and Wilderado and performed at festivals such as SXSW, Austin City Limits, Shakey Knees, as well as a performance at this year’s Voodoo Festival.    In July the band released their latest EP Eyelids Shut.  The four songs here are doused in maturity, both thematically and sonically. “Loss” and “reflection” are the words the band points to when discussing what the songs are about, and how aging lends fresh perspective to such topics. “As you get older, your perspective on things like loss changes but you still live with everything that’s happened to you,” Trevino says.  “Be it the loss of a person, or even the loss of a version of a person,” Harman adds.  “Death is definitely a part of it, but change and a part of someone being lost is something we are singing about as well.”   The band recently released the video for the single “Deathwish Fish” from the album, which you can watch below.  With plans for a new album and more tour dates next Spring, the band is definitely moving forward with plenty of momentum and exciting plans for their future.  You can follow Duncan Fellows and stay up-to-date with all upcoming band, music and tour news via the following links.  Check out their tour dates HERE.

 

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You released your latest EP Eyelids Shut in July.  You’ve mentioned the words “lost in reflection” when discussing the songs and how aging lends a fresh perspective to those topics.  What can you tell me about the EP and the writing of the songs and how do you feel that your perspectives have evolved over the years?

 

Cullen– Dang!  Alright…you did your research (laughs).

Colin– That’s usually the answer to the question!  It’s like “This is about loss”.  I think in writing a lot of the songs…I’m not sure why it came at a time when we were more reflecting on those large things.  I think we all have some crazy family and stuff going on and just a lot going on in our daily lives that worked it’s way into the songs.  It was more of a, I don’t wanna say a reflective time, but it felt that way.

Cullen– It also came down to a little bit of a matter of going into the studio knowing we were going to do 4-5 songs and we had like 10 that we were working on that we liked a lot.  Those 4 kind-of went together both musically and thematically so we just put a stamp on it and said “Alright.  This is nice.  It has a theme and a certain sound”.  It was a little bit different then we did before, but we were all happy about it.

Colin– With 4 songs, it’s not going to be so in depth.  We wanted it to have a general direction.

 

When you first started out, you had more members and had more of a folk sound.  You then reduced the band to 5 members and took more of an indie rock direction with your sound.  What can you tell me about the early days of the band and how your sonic vision changed?  Was that the sonic direction in which you had always wanted to go?

 

Colin– I would say yes.  I think that us starting as a folk band is more the result of the instruments we owned at that time.

Cullen– And the people that we knew.

Colin– Yeah.  There was one house that a bunch of people lived in.  It very much was like, “Oh.  We have a 30 minute slot at this venue.  Let’s go play” (laughs).  It was like, if you have an instrument you could play with us, basically.  We just reached out to everyone we knew.

Cullen– We had multiple acoustic guitars, a cello, mandolin, trumpet…

Colin– I feel like as it kept up, more and more people were like “This is fun, but I don’t like this as much”.

Cullen– We also like, as far as just switching over instruments, a lot of it was directed by the live shows we played.  We wanted to make it a little bit more fun and rowdy and electric instruments lend themselves more to that pretty easily (laughs).  And a couple of new members came into the band and everyone else had dropped out by that time, so it all worked out.  We were happy with the new set-up and decided to run with it for a while.  It’s changed a lot.

 

With your previous album Both Sides Of The Ceiling, it kind of reflected the concept of yin and yang.  You’ve talked about trying surpass the imbalances in your own lives and the album being a reflection of that.  Having all graduated from UT and having day jobs, how have you gone about trying to balance the band with work and life and relationships?  Do you feel like your making progress with that?

 

Cullen– We’re trying (laughs)!  We’re out here, aren’t we (laughs)?

Colin– I don’t know if it’s even possible to make progress in that.  I feel like it’s more like at times one half of the yin or yang will just take over the other.  It feels like it comes in bursts, like lots of music and not much work and then you have to go back to work and then there’s not as much music for a little while.  I guess it finds it’s balance eventually.

 

Is your goal to get to the point where you are just doing music full-time or do you like your other jobs and want to keep doing both?

 

Cullen– I think it depends on who you ask in the band!  Colin is fine woking on the side but I would prefer to just play music.  It’s a lot more fun.

Colin– I like my job but yeah, the dream has always been to play full-time.

Cullen– If we could just record and play shows, that would be a nice little set-up.  And to be able to live in a home, somewhere.  We don’t even have to own the home.  Renting’s fine….just any place that we could stay in Austin (laughs).

 

You have said that when you started out, you were just playing music for fun and viewed it as a hobby but then started to take it more seriously.  What was that “a ha moment” for you.  What made you decide you wanted to take it more seriously?

 

Colin– The feeling of a song or an album, I guess in some cases coming together with…in our case I feel like we’re a little unique in that we started as friends before we were bandmates.

Cullen– Well, kind-of. I hardly knew you.

Colin– I guess I’m saying that I don’t play in like 6 bands.  I play in Duncan Fellows and that’s really it.  It’s been our whole musical trajectory.  I got hooked on it whenever we all were just coming up with songs and when something finally catches on with everybody, kind-of like in a room setting, that was when I was like “Oh, this is freakin’ awesome.  We should just do this as much as we possibly can”.

Cullen– I know it was a hobby, but I was writing songs and Colin was writing songs before we met each other.  Once you meet someone who likes doing that and you’re compatible in that way, and you can bring more people into it and like orchestrate it, it’s just like a, I don’t want to say a bigger feeling of accomplishment, but it’s a different cool feeling for something we all got addicted to in a sense.

 

Did you guys grow up in musical households?  Did you always want to be in a band and play music or is that just something that came about once you started college and got the band together?

 

Colin– For me, my house was actually not very musical.  My parents are not even that into music I would say.  I mean, they like going to see live music but I didn’t grow up around a lot of music.  A few generations up was completely full of music, so it like skipped a couple of beats.  My great-grandma apparently died on her porch playing the banjo.  So that’s how it was for me.  I kind-of stumbled into it when I was a kid because I really liked playing the guitar.  Then I joined a band in high school that was super fun.  I stumbled upon it and then found out later that a few generations up there was a lot of music.

Cullen– My dad played drums in a band.  My mom’s not musical at all.  My grandpa came to Texas from Mexico and played in a Tejano band to help support him going through college and then my grandmas play music, as well.  I played music with my sister a lot growing up and my brothers both play guitar, but I always played piano.  Growing up that was my role.

 

What would you say is the best advice you’ve received as a band?  Having grown up in Austin, with such a thriving music scene, were there artists or bands that you especially looked up to, were heavily influenced by or who gave you some pearls of wisdom when you started out?

 

Cullen– I think the best advice is that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Colin– Yeah.

Cullen– For probably 99% of the people who play music, you just keep doing it.  A lot of people think “Oh I made an album.  Here comes some instant gratification.  People will all hear this and love this”.  But that’s just not how the world works (laughs)!  I thought that was a great piece of advice.  There are so many bands in Austin that inspire us that we just love watching because one, they’re good people and two, they’re great musicians.  It’s constant.  You can go out to a gig almost any night and see someone who is incredible at what they’re doing and probably not a lot of people know who they are.

Colin– Also, there was a period of time when we played A LOT in Austin, which is where we met a bunch of people that still influence us nowadays…just like local bands.  I feel like another piece of good advice we got was to not overplay in your hometown.  It’s fun to do that and we did have phases where we played every week and stuff.  I think you should still do that but you should also have times where you try to get people to pay for a ticket to your show.  Don’t wear them out on it, you know?  At the end of the day, when you’re traveling around, that’s what will keep you going.  Touring and getting people to buy tickets.

 

I’ve noticed on your socials that there are photos of you guys skateboarding.  Do you all skate?

 

Cullen– Some better than others (laughs).

 

Do you try to skate in every city of have favorite skateparks you like to visit on tour?

 

Colin– It’s pretty recent.  I think most of us skated when we were kids and the stopped and then for whatever reason, in the past year and a half, we just decided that now is the time to back into it and start completely over, which is pretty painful (laughs)!  Yeah, but I love it.  I go and skate a lot in Austin and think it’s super fun.  It’s a good way to be outside.

Cullen– It’s a fun way to explore a city, especially one you don’t know.

Colin– On tour it’s great because you can do it.

 

I’d say every city has at least one skate park!

 

Cullen– There’s spots everywhere.  You don’t even need a park.  You can skate on the streets.

Colin– There’s really no alone time on tour, so sometimes it’s nice to like go push around.  That’s nice.

 

You recently released your video for “Deathwish Fish”.  What can you tell me about the making of and inspiration for the video?

 

Cullen– During the making of the video, it was freezing cold.  I had messed up my ankle skateboarding so I was in a boot except in the video.  It looks like I’m limping around because my ankle was so jacked up (laughs).  I think the vision was pretty simple for it.  We didn’t really want it to be much of a storyline.  Essentially, we kind-of wanted that lost feeling…I don’t know if trippy is the right word…but the more affected video sequences that go on as the song progresses, we wanted that to reflect what’s happening in the song.  Other than that, we shot it in the day.  My house is like one minute away from this ginormous cemetery in Austin that’s huge.  We shot it there and then drove outside of Austin for the driving scenes.  And we have a bunch of friends who are filmmakers, so we were just like “Edit this.  Make it cool!  See what you can do with it!”  (laughs).

Colin– I dunno…I feel like the song itself is so trippy.

 

Yeah, it definitely has a trip and gritty vibe to it!

 

Colin– Yeah, like that same melody over different chords.  There is a part of the video that actually makes you kind-of dizzy when you watch it.  We wanted to have that same feeling visually, as well.

 

 

 

 

You guys have played some big festivals such as SXSW, Austin City Limits and Shaky Knees.  Compared to a venue show, What do you love about playing festivals and do you have a festival “wish list” of ones you are hoping to play in the future?

 

Cullen– That’s a good question.

Colin– Let’s see.  We haven’t played to many big festival shows.

Cullen– We have played a few.

Colin– Yeah, ACL.

Cullen– And Shakey Knees.

Colin– Yeah.  It just feels like this fast-paced environment.  You’re getting whisked around in golf carts and stuff and then get tossed on to a stage and it’s like “GO!”.  It’s all very fast and fun and sort-of feels like one big, great blur.  With venue shows, I feel like there’s just a lot more waiting and stuff.  We’ve been really lucky though.  Our festival shows had some great turnouts and were super high energy.

 

I saw that you are playing Voodoo Festival in New Orleans this month.

 

Colin/Cullen– Yeah!

 

Have you been to New Orleans before?

 

Colin– Oh yeah.  We have!

 

I haven’t ever been!

 

Cullen– It’s wild!  You should get there (laughs).  It’s a wild, wild city.

Colin– Apparently, around Halloween time it’s crazy too.

 

There’s kind-of a spooky history to the city too, so I’m sure it’s fun at Halloween!

 

Cullen– Lots of Voodoo!

Colin– Yeah.  I think they really take Halloween seriously!

Cullen–  I was just going to say, also, that I’ve liked our festivals so far.  I think it’s great because, like, anyone who’s in the park can just stop by and if they like what they hear, they wait, which is awesome.  It’s been a huge draw for us.  At Shakey Knees, we thought there was going to be like 20 people but then there turned out to be hundreds of people watching.  We were like “Alright.  I guess they’re enjoying what we’re doing so we’re going to keep at it”.

 

Aside from Voodoo Festival, what’s next for you guys?

 

Colin– Well, we’re on tour for a while.

Cullen– I think 7 weeks!

Colin– Yeah, seriously!  And then we’ll be recording pretty soon after we get home.  For the EP, we picked 4 songs out of many more.  We want to record the next album soon.

 

Are you planning to do another full album?

 

Colin/Cullen– Yeah.  For sure!

Colin– I think I’m partial to full length albums.  I still believe in the full-length album.  So we’re going to do that and then try to go back out on tour in the Springtime, but probably not for as long as this tour.  It will hopefully be after our new album is, if not out, at least recorded.  So yeah, lots of good stuff coming.  I’m excited about making another album.

 

Do you think you will experiment with new sounds for the next album?

 

Cullen– Probably, yeah.  We plan to do it with our buddy who recorded Both Sides Of The Ceiling.  He’s got a lot of weird stuff in his home (laughs).  There’s always a lot of weird experimentation that goes on with him.  He’s a great musician too so he has some good insights into what we’re doing.  It’s fun recording with someone who not only a producer, but also your friend.  Sometimes it can be, not like weird, but a little bit more businessy when you’re working with people you’ve never met before and just know they’re a good producer and it’s like “Ok.  Let’s get down to work”.  I think when you’re having a good time when making an album that can come through as well.

 

Thanks for  taking the time to talk with me today!

 

Colin/Cullen– Thanks!  Those were good questions!

 

 

 

 

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