Interview – Union Duke

By: Jenna Melanson

Toronto folk quintet, Union Duke is about to embark on tour dates across Eastern Canada, and are also currently working hard on new material for their next album. The band took some time out of their hectic schedules to answer a few questions for us. Be sure to read below to find out more about this talented Canadian band, and also check out the tour dates to see if you can make it to any of their shows:

JUN 12 – Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
JUN 13 – Guelph, ON – Fionn McCool’s
JUN 17 – Sudbury, ON – Grace Hartman Amphitheatre
JUL 19 – Montreal, QC – Divan Orange
JUL 22 – Truro, NS – Nook & Cranny
JUL 23 – Lunenberg, NS – Smuggler’s Cove Inn
JUL 24 – Halifax, NS – Seahorse Tavern w/ SoHo Ghetto
JUL 26 – Charlottetown, PE – Baba’s Lounge
JUL 28 – Moncton, NB – Plan B
JUL 29 – Saint Andrew’s, NB – The Red Herring
JUL 30 – Quebec City, QC – Salle Pantoum
JUL 31 – Wakefield, QC – The Black Sheep Inn
SEPT 18 – Toronto, ON – Fort York, Garrison Common (TURF)

When did you meet and form the band?

Ethan, Matt, and Jim met in the tenth grade. We used to skip school to play music in Ethan’s dad’s basement. Our bands went through a number of different genres and reincarnations until we landed on Union Duke. We found Will through a former band member, but we felt we needed a lead guitarist to fill out our sound. Rob came highly recommended through a number of different friends.

How did you choose the name, Union Duke?

We get this question all the time and we don’t really have an answer. We had a long list of words that we felt reflected the music we wanted to play and somehow we wound up on Union Duke. It’s not taken by any other bands and it’s easy to Google, so we stuck with it.

Who have been your biggest musical influences throughout your life?

We have pretty eclectic taste, so that would be a hell of a long list. I think we all got into the music our parents listened to at a pretty young age and then branched out from there. We all got into John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aereo Plane” when recording our first album.

You released your album, “Cash & Carry” last June, how was the response from your fans?

It was great! Our album release was our biggest show to date at that time. The response has incredible.

You are currently hard at work on your next album, and have released two singles, “Set Me Off” and “Country Road” at the end of last year, are these to be on your upcoming album?

Between every album we release a little two song EP. We all write for the band, so we have a pretty big backlog of material. They won’t be on the upcoming album.

Do these two songs reflect what we can expect form the forthcoming album?

I think the upcoming album will be a continuation of the themes reflected in those songs. We’re in the very preliminary stages of working on the album. We’re looking to expand our sound a little bit, but a lot of the sound comes out of the recording process.

Can you explain your writing process to us?

We all write songs individually and then take them to the band to workshop. We try to be picky about which songs we play. We’ll workshop every song, but if we feel the song isn’t a fit, we’ll drop it and move on to the next one.

Speaking of the album, when can we expect more information on the release date?

We’re working on a ton of material and we’re touring into late September, but we’re hoping to have the album together by early 2016.

You will be kicking off a string of tour dates on June 5 throughout the summer, including dates in Ontario, Nova Scotia, PEI, NB and Quebec, do you have any plans for touring the rest of Canada?

We’re working on finalizing our West coast tour dates. They’ll be posted to our website in the next few weeks!

How would you explain a live Union Duke show to someone who has yet to see you live?

We try to keep our shows as high energy as possible. Expect a lot of drinking and dancing.

What is your favourite song to play at your shows?

I think it changes depending on the crowd. All of our songs have been a favourite at some point. Generally we get excited about our newer songs or old songs that we’ve added a new part to.

Canadian Beats is all about Canadian music, who are you current favourite Canadian bands/ artists?

There are so many great bands in Canada right now. Blue Rodeo, Matt Mays, Zeus, Bahamas, Sheepdogs, and Mac DeMarco are some big names we’re into, but there are also a ton of up and coming bands we play with that deserve more attention. Stonetrotter, Young Running, Sun K, Jane’s Party, Sad Boys Glee Club, Jackets, Real Ponchos, and Alyson McNamara to name a few.

Here at Canadian Beats, we like to include a portion of questions that may help your fans learn something new about you, so here goes: 

What is your all-time favourite music video?

Matt: Blockhead – Music Scene

Jim: Musicless Music Video/David Bowie and Mick Jagger – Dancing In The Street

Will: Jurrasic Park – Melodica Theme (On Youtube)

Ethan: Blink 182 – All The Small Things

Rob: John Hartford – Take Another Little Piece of My Heart

What was the last concert you attended as a fan?

Matt: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Ethan: Sufjan Stevens

Jim: Teenage Kicks

Will: Alyson McNamara

Rob: Little Dragon (with his girlfriend… he doesn’t like that band)

What is your current go-to song?

Felice Brothers – Lincoln Continental

What is your favourite warm weather activity?

Bocce ball

What is your favourite cool treat on a hot day?


If you were to put together a festival, which other Canadian bands/ artists would you want to take part?

All of our favourites!

Last but not least, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

Thanks for liking us! Come to the show on Friday at Lee’s Palace or check us out in your home town. Bring your family, bring your friends, bring your enemies!

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