Calum Bradbury-Sparvell has a riotous chat with Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly’s Sam Duckworth…
Part way through this interview, it strikes Essex song-smith Sam Duckworth (a.k.a. the fellow behind Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) that he has been making music for a decade. “Every day for ten years… it’s actually quite a long time when I think about it”, he ponders. Positively prehistoric, this writer thinks. But the frontman of England’s best-named band isn’t about to crack out the bubbly: “I don’t know if I’ll be celebrating – probably wondering where the time’s gone!” he jokes.
Such nostalgia seems strange, coming out of his mouth; Duckworth is no fossil. But for a tousled twenty-something, he speaks like an old-hand of the music biz: “You make records when you’re a teenager and then you’re twenty five and you kind of go: ‘I should probably do something a bit more energetic while I’ve still got some energy’”. A tad pessimistic, perhaps, but this outlook has been the driving force behind latest release Maps, which came out earlier this month: “I wanted to make an album that really just concentrated on the energy. It really freed up the song-writing process.”
You can tell too. Maps, Sam’s fourth album under the Get Cape moniker, is a far cry from his “semi-autobiographical” debut: 2006’s The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager, which, with its yearning vocals, skittery beats and acoustic guitars, lived up to its title, “it was a very important time in my life. I was just leaving school and just starting to see things for the first time.” But things moved on: “I wanted to explore different themes and different subjects and think about things a bit differently and the music has led itself on in that direction.”
As a fan of Chronicles but rather lukewarm about Get Cape’s more recent efforts, this writer wanted to know: what does Maps bring to the table? “I wrote 90 percent of this album on a bass guitar” he says. “The drums are quite thrashy, quite distorted. We were trying to get a kind of [prestigious producer] Dave Fridman, early Flaming Lips drum sound. A lot of the things that went down – a lot of the bass parts – are the very first take; it is a bit scrappy and sloppy but that’s its energy.”
There’s that word ‘energy’ again, and it’s maintained by the variety of styles with which Duckworth dabbles; there’s even rap on here, from English MC Jehst, for whom Duckworth has nothing but praise: “I’ve always responded to people like [The Streets frontman] Mike Skinner who told it like it was in a way that was rhythmic and engaging and Jehst does that for me”. Above all, though, after a score of “downbeat” releases, Sam confesses “I needed to make [an album] where I just played power-chords and shouted a bit”.
However, Duckworth is in some senses a veteran to making noise. “I’m a words guy, you know?” he summarizes. A keen collaborator with activist/musician heavyweights like Billy Bragg and Nitin Sawhney, a regular performer at anti-racist and anti-fascist festivals, and, more recently, a supporter of the Occupy movement, he clearly knows how to use his voice. But unfortunately that singles him out: politics in music, whether it be a fleeting reference or a full blown protest tune, just isn’t ‘in’ these days: “Somewhere down the line we lost our way and it suddenly became ‘uncool’ or not the ‘done thing’ to have an opinion that’s intertwined with an art form”, he explains, in his element now. “What’s wrong with using a song for a vehicle of your opinion? That’s exactly what a love song is – it’s somebody saying ‘this is how I feel, and this I why I feel like that, and it compels me enough to write a song’ – so why should it be any different about politics, or about football?”
Duckworth might play the jaded musician, but perhaps he’s entitled to – he’s no Bohemian Teenager any more. With all that he has done musically in the past ten years, there is no doubt that he has got his cape, worn it and flown.