Duvet: Freedom From Expectation

Duvet. Toothbrush. Document. Dry Cleaning. Shame. Duvet. What do these things all have in common? The answer isn’t that “they in sequence reflect an average day in my life; one where I have to collect my dry cleaning and it’s made me feel particularly ashamed”, but IS “further evidence of a grand post-ironic tradition of new and new-ish post-punk bands named after elements of mundane existence”. In that vein, let us introduce unruly post-punk five-piece Duvet, five singles in and fresh off a run of summer dates descending upon this isle from their native Manchester.

Latest single ‘Sweaty Dog’ is a half-coiled spring, perpetually on the brink of some devastating anarchic eruption. It simmers with tension, all barely constrained distorted single-note guitar lines, taut production and extremely anxious hi-hat. Thickly overhanging all are wails of frustration and rage that must be incredibly satisfying to perform. It’s classic punk in its no-nonsense run-time and classic post-punk in the desolate landscape it presents and demands we (sweatily) dance within.

As remarkable as these two and a bit minutes of skillfully managed chaos are on their own, they are doubly so when we consider where this band has come from in its three years to date. Debut single ‘Running Around in Circles’, released in 2020, is pretty squarely resident in the new wave/dream-pop postcode. It cuts a lower sonic profile, consistent with genre expectations, but the energy that bursts out of the band’s newer singles is nonetheless detectable – in the same quantities but with differing application, as anything less would be in direct violation of the first law of thermodynamics. There is nonetheless a very stark distinction between Duvet now and Duvet then, a product of the band’s gradual formation (or “gathering”, to borrow lead vocalist Grace Walkden’s parlance). 

Such a profound stylistic evolution in such a short time has enabled the band to draw their latent energy from the denser production norms of dream pop and put it on full, riotous display. It’s also clear from talking to them that this journey isn’t really all that concerned with genre. No doubt the scenes the band have found their home in up and down our tiny island have assisted in the emergence of the driving post-punk at the core of their more recent offerings – the band have graced the tiny sparkle-backed stage of Genre Holy Site the Windmill and have found a champion in the form of Genre High Priest Steve Lamacq, after all. But this direction of travel is far less a conscious expedition and far more the expression of a collective joy, reclaimed and thus magnified.  What we have now is a band, still at the start of their career, but already unshackled by their own internal expectations and ready and eager to take apart everyone else’s. 

How’s your day been?

Grace: Awesome!

Seth: We’ve all been at work and education, and now we’re practicing.

Can you give me a brief history of the band?

Seth: Go on. Brief one, Grace.

It doesn’t have to be that brief.

Grace: It started as a solo thing in lockdown, just making songs. We released one song which was like a dream pop song, and then I gathered all of the members. 

Seth: We made riot grrl for a bit and then started making what we’re making now, which people say is post-punk so we’ll go with that.

Why the name Duvet?

Grace: It’s stupid. I was looking at different objects in my room when I needed a band name and thought Duvet sounds good. There isn’t anything behind it. 

What led you away from dream-pop to the slightly more jagged side of things?

Grace: When I got a full band it was kind of like me and Tasmin at the start. We got into a practice room, tried to do dreampop and found it really boring to perform. Don’t get me wrong, I like that music and it sounds nice but to perform it –  was just so bored. We messed around with a load of different styles and…

Seth: …went to the other extreme.

Tasmin: Plus, I think – if I may add – the first single was all Grace, so when we went into the practice room and tried to recreate it exactly it ended up being a bit heavier anyway. We then went through some band changes, and then Covid happened, and we realised we needed to focus on what we actually like. We came to a bit of a settlement that we wanted to do something a bit more crazy with energy, because it’d just be more fun.

What would you say it is about these more recent songs that really establishes this change?

Seth: I’d say the fact that we’re actually happy with the band now, that’s probably what it is. We’re all very confident and happy, that we like what we’re playing and we’re happy with every single member. We can see a future with the band. Y’know, we’re all very settled. That’s what I think it is.

Tasmin: I’d agree with that. When the early songs were coming out, Grace struggled to sing about stuff that was more on the depressing side of things. When Seth joined the band he realized that none of us were that happy about what we were doing. We all sat down and spoke about the bands we like and thought were good, and he said “well why aren’t we doing that?”. Once we were really happy with the setup of the band we could actually do what we wanted to do, and make music that was fun to play.

I’ve seen you’re getting a bit of love from the godfather of post-punk, Steve Lamacq. Has that helped you build a sense of momentum?

Grace: Yeah. I’ve always got a lot of self-doubt, and I think whatever he plays on his show is really good, so to have him play us…

Seth: …we must be doing something right.

Grace: Something good. 

Seth: The momentum thing is that it’s all quite big for us anyway. I think it’s the first time any of us have been in a band where we’ve sold a vinyl, people are wearing our t-shirts, we’re going to tour – have never done a tour before – so it’s all just new and fun for us anyway. We’re just happy. 

What was the energy like at the shows on your summer tour?

Seth: Hit and miss as any first tour would be but down south, the latter half, seemed to be a lot better I thought. 

Grace: I don’t know what it is. We’re from Manchster and every time we play any show down south it’s always like, people going mad. Bristol was one of the best shows we’ve ever done, and same with every time we play in London.

Seth: Maybe it’s because people know who we are up north so they stay away. Nobody knows us down south.

Victoria: The London scene is always really cool. The first show we did at the Windmill was really fun. It’s nice having different people watching – you’re not as stressed as to how it’s going to go.

Grace: I always panic a bit when I do a gig in Manchester because there’s always someone I know. It puts me on edge. Whenever we play outside of Manchester I feel like nobody knows who we are. 

Seth: Maybe the gigs haven’t been that amazing, it’s just there’s no pressure.

Tasmin: Every time we go to London, there’s not that many people watching so we just make friends with everyone in the crowd. We’re going to ruin it over there.

So there’s more of a sense of freedom from expectation when playing shows outside of your hometown?

Seth: I think so, maybe.

Grace: It’s always fun going to a new place.

Seth: That’s what it is. It’s like going on holiday, but to Nottingham.

What’s coming up for you that you can talk about? Is there anything top secret that you can’t talk about?

Grace: We’re doing a show at a new festival in Manchester called Beyond the Music.

Jimmi: It’s kind of like Manchester’s version of South by Southwest. 

Tasmin: Rita Ora’s going to be there.

Grace: Rita Ora’s doing a talk there. I will be gate crashing.

Seth: We’ve got a lot of local gigs coming up. We haven’t recorded anything at the moment.

Grace: Yeah, we want to record. 

Seth: We’re trying out sounds and producers. We’re testing the waters at the minute.

Grace: I want to go on tour again.

Would you want to go back to the same places or would you try and go further afield?

Seth: We’ve never been to Scotland and we’ve never been abroad. I’m not saying Scotland is abroad, I do know it’s in the UK. Anywhere in Europe would be quite nice, gigs or a festival or something. That’ll be good fun, that’s probably the next step. 

They’d probably have you at Left of the Dial in Rotterdam.

Seth: Oh aye, yeah, we know a few bands that have played there already.

Grace: I’m jealous. I want to go. Get me there now.

Finally – this is a silly one – if you could play a show with any act, living or dead, who would it be? And why?

Grace: Elvis Presley.

Elvis Presley.

Grace: Yeah.

Tasmin: Is that a collective answer?

Grace: No, that’s just my answer.

Seth: We got asked this last time and I chose someone who wasn’t a musician because I thought it would be funny.

Gracee: Peter Kay. 

Seth: Yeah, Peter Kay,

Grace: Who would you choose Vicky?

Victoria: I don’t know. I actually hate this question. Um. Lady Gaga? I wanna dance with Lady Gaga.

What era of Elvis is it? Is it early Elvis or…

Grace: (with no hesitation) Vegas residency Elvis. 

Barely coherent barbiturates Elvis?

Grace: We’re wearing matching jumpsuits and we’re eating burgers after the gig.

Seth: Sweating buckets.

Words: Ed Hambly // Photos: Charlie Barclay Harris

Duvet’s double release of ‘Girlcow / Sweaty Dog’ is out now via Fear of Missing Out Records. Purchase or stream the tracks via Bandcamp.

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