Wednesday 17 January 2018

Duckworth Lewis's second innings

Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

It's a divine sun-soaked day in Dublin's fair city, so Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh of The Duckworth Lewis Method briefly consider relocating our appointment to the cricket pitch in Trinity College.

Unfortunately, pesky scheduling issues won't permit such a leisurely interview, but this idea is more than just a whim to quaff Pimm's in the sun, but a fitting locale to conduct a conversation on their second full-length cricket-themed studio album.

Initially, the duo functioned as a fun side project in 2009 to neatly plug the gaps between releases from their well known and highly regarded bands and aliases, The Divine Comedy and Pugwash.

"To our surprise, the first album went Top 40 in the UK," Walsh says. "If it wasn't for Michael Jackson dying, it definitely would've gone into the Top 30."

"It would have done even better if we had an opportunity to tour it properly," Walsh continues. "But on the back of a single album, we could only really squeeze two gigs out of it, so we performed the entire album live in the Olympia. We were also invited to play it at an edition of the Meltdown Festival in London that was curated by the English folk legend Richard Thompson.

"Most bands take 40 years to get invited to do their classic album live. Well, we got there six weeks after releasing our debut!"

The Duckworth Lewis Method appear to have become much more than just a band, but a quirky way of life and a source of endless japes between Walsh (Duckworth) and Hannon (Lewis).

"We even refer to each other as Duckworth and Lewis in all our text messages," Hannon chuckles. "For some reason or other, we're not allowed to send texts to each other without making some ridiculous pun on each other's name.

"When you're just saying you'll be somewhere in 10 minutes time, you have to come up with something stupid to sign it off with like 'Duckstore Cowboy'."

Hannon and Walsh also brought some very illustrious friends and collaborators to the party. Their debut featured the voices of actor Matt Berry and comedian Phill Jupitus. Its follow-up boasts cameo roles from Tim Wheeler from Ash, the famous Divine Comedy fan Daniel Radcliffe and none other than everyone's favorite celebrity brainiac, Stephen Fry.

"When we were making the songs it became apparent that some spoken voices had to be on it," Hannon says, "When Stephen Fry got back to us, he mentioned that he had been on the last Kate Bush album (the gorgeously wintry 50 Words for Snow), but he'd found the experience awfully difficult. Kate supposedly had to conduct him, but that must have been false modesty on his behalf, because he completely nailed it in just two takes."

Walsh and Hannon can certainly hold their own in such exalted company. They're both highly popular and prolific artists in their own fields, authoring some of the finest pop music this country has ever produced. "Personally, The Duckworth Lewis grants me an great opportunity to get away from The Divine Comedy for a while and let it all hang out," Hannon states.

"First and foremost, this is all about having a total blast with Neil," Walsh adds. "I put a lot of myself into the Pugwash albums. Sometimes, they don't give a lot back."

The modus operandi for The Duckworth duo differs dramatically from a lot of their previous output. "Relatively speaking, this is a no budget album," Hannon reveals. "However, the way we make albums for very little money actually improves the record."

A rudimentary knowledge of cricket probably helps an appreciation of their music, but truth be told, it really doesn't matter a jot.

"People get a little hung up on the cricket thing, but we make these records because we love making pop music," Hannon concludes.

Seeing as the duo now have two albums in their arsenal, will The Duckworth Lewis Method become an ongoing concern? "We don't know," Hannon answers. "We didn't know after the first one. We don't know after the second. We certainly won't know after the third. As for the 20th anniversary, we don't have a clue."

Sticky Wickets will be released next Friday. The Duckworth Lewis Method play Tower Records, Wicklow St, Dublin on July 3 at 1pm. Admission is free.

Irish Independent

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