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The Duke of Norfolk: On seizing the day (and rowboats)

January 29, 2013

Le Monde Tourne Toujours album art

When I’m not covering music at Independent Clauses, I’m helping make other music: I’ve been booking/managing Oklahoma alt-folk singer/songwriter The Duke of Norfolk (aka Adam Howard) for the past two years. Because a review of his EP would be rather self-serving, here’s an interview in celebration of his new EP Le Monde Tourne Toujours, which releases today through Mint 400 Records on all digital retailers, including iTunes and Amazon.

Download the single “Thanatophobia” for free.

IC: Le Monde Tourne Toujours is your first release since a series of 5 EPs all named after birds. How did you decide to end that series and release this standalone EP?

AH: When I started planning that series I had a body of songs I had written specifically for the series. All of them fit loosely around the idea of birds naturally reacting to the changes in weather by migration. I grouped the songs by sub-themes and plotted out the series. So, in a sense, the series’ end was planned from its beginning. The second part of the question is a little more complicated.

The bird EPs were intended to lead up to my debut album, which is to be comprised of select songs from those EPs re-recorded for a unified feel. Before my tour last summer I started those recordings and then I toured those songs for the whole summer. So when I returned from the summer and took a look at my half finished recordings, I realised that I was rather burnt out on those songs. So I decided to take a break from them. And that’s essentially what this EP is, a break.

You’ve experimented with a variety of different sounds, from electronic to stark acoustic to piano-based. How did you choose the sound palette for Le Monde?

My reasoning for the experimentation that you’re talking about is twofold. I wanted to experiment for my own sake, to practice recording and composing with different sounds and to figure out what I can make work and what I can’t. More than that, though, I wanted to establish early on that my releases won’t all have the same sound palette and I don’t want people to expect them too.

The sound palette for Le Monde Tourne Toujours is by far less intentional. I sort of just let it happen. The first song that I recorded on the EP was ‘A Dream Waltz’, the fourth track, and I arranged and composed it on the fly. After I had mostly finished that recording, I used that as the sound palette for recording the rest of the EP.

Your output can certainly be considered prolific. How often do you write? How many songs do you have unrecorded at one time? How do you decide which songs go on what releases?

I feel like I don’t write often enough, but at the same time, I would never have time to record all the songs that I write. On a good week I might write three or four songs that I am happy with. But on a bad week I usually at least start writing a song or two that I may or may not give up on.

I don’t know how many songs I have unrecorded… at any point it could range from ten to fifty, depending on how much I remember. When I started recording the bird EPs, I had close to fifty songs. Right now I have probably fifteen that I plan on recording at some point.

As far as what goes on what release, it’s mostly just what fits thematically with the rest of that release. A lot of the songs I write with a specific theme in mind, but there are still a lot that I just write.

What are the songs you are writing now sounding like?

The songs that I am writing now involve a fair bit of fingerpicking, so the guitar is not as forceful as it is on some of my other songs and mostly they deal with ideas of home and travel and the uncertain future.

Le Monde is about seizing the day. How did you decide to write on this topic?

Like I’ve mentioned before, Le Monde is something that I kind of just let happen. So it was mostly songs that I had already written that I liked enough but, for the most part, hadn’t yet recorded. Because seizing the day is a concept that I think about quite often, a lot of my straggling songs dealt with it and when I grouped up this collection it was sort of at the heart of all of the songs.

Related question: How do you write lyrics? Do you write them all at once, or do you do it spurts, or does it vary?
It varies for sure. I think that my favourite songs have all been ones that I’ve written in like fifteen minutes… but there are definitely songs that I spend weeks on.

You toured the nation this past summer; what was one great story or performance from those 73 days?

A lot of things happen when you travel the country in a van for 73 days. So the summer was full of stories and, naturally, also full of performances. But one of the many memorable stories took place when we were driving through the Catskills. It was one of the members of our little company’s birthday and we were on the lookout for something out of the ordinary to do to commemorate that when we spotted a slew of rowboats banked by a quite picturesque lake. We found one that wasn’t tied up and risked the possibility of getting shot for thieves to borrow it for a cruise around the lake.

It’s not that exciting of a story and there were plenty more adventurous things that happened, but that one felt sort of like I was in a Mark Twain story for a few minutes.

What are your plans for the rest of 2013?
2013 is going to be busy for me, though not as busy as 2012 appeared. I am planning to record my debut album, at long last, start recording my sophomore, and play a few shows but I’m also working on some other projects. I am helping several friends by recording and producing some of their songs, and I’m also planning on writing an album that I’m going to release under some other name detailing a friend’s experience living in Moscow.

Le Monde Tourne Toujours is available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers, as well as for streaming on Spotify and Bandcamp.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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