North Texas was covered in snow. It was late February, in the thick of the blizzard. Forrest Barton dragged himself from the cozy confines of his Haltom City retreat to the nearest liquor store to buy some beer and a bottle of Revel Stoke Whisky, a Canadian spiced whiskey that’s nowhere near top-shelf. Barton said to himself, “I’m gonna sit at home and do nothing until the storm blows over.” But before he could get started on doing nothing, he got a call. Apparently, he and his bandmates in Duell were going to record an album. In Dallas. That day.
Back to Drunk, the band’s debut, is 10 loud, heavy, syrupy tracks recorded in a three-day session at Kessler Sound Studio in Oak Cliff with producer Jim King (The House Harkonnen, Honchie, The Orange). Though Duell has played only a handful of shows since coming together last fall, the band is tight and creative. Think: “The Toadies but heavier” or “Queens of the Stone Age but punkier.” And they’re seasoned.
The guys know one another from the North Texas scene. Bassist Barton also is in The Phuss. Lead guitarist Mike Doty also plays in the huge Dallas metal outfit The House Harkonnen, to which drummer James Van Damme once belonged, and frontman/lyricist Belvedere is the former frontman for the short-lived Denton outfit Timeline Post.
And though the musicians may beg to differ, they can’t be summed up by the album title, a reference to recording during a snowstorm and having a predilection for booze. (“Of course Doty brought his entire liquor cabinet with him” to the studio, Barton recalled.) They also can’t be reduced to Barton’s description of their sound: “cheeseburger rock ’n’ roll.” Least informative is the new video, their one and only, for the title track. Along with “swimming” in an in-ground residential pool — the guys merely cannonball into it repeatedly — they’re shown performing and drinking. A lot. Filmed entirely with a GoPro camera, the video features the guys shotgunning beers and Belvedere and Barton taking turns guzzling a handle of TX Whiskey from the perspective of the bottom of the bottle.
Duell is way more complex and dynamic than all of that. Those propulsive rhythms thunder beneath a whole lot of melody, and while all of the songs involve some changes in tempo and structure, they never veer too far from the fundaments.
Duell starts with Belvedere, who began writing and recording the tunes that would become Back to Drunk in 2011. (A demo of his early work is available at duell.bandcamp.com/releases.) At the time, The Phuss wasn’t busy, Barton said, which made it easy to hook up with Doty, a former co-worker at a Guitar Center, and the other Duell folk.
“I knew it was gonna be fun,” Barton said. “I knew it was gonna be different from those demos, that we were going to be able to add something to them. We just went and jammed, and it worked out.”
Their rehearsal space is also Belvedere’s doing. It’s a shed in a storage facility where he works, an Uncle Bob’s in North Richland Hills.
Duell’s first show was last winter at Three Links in Dallas. Since then, the band has played only once in Denton, at Andy’s Bar, and twice in Fort Worth, both times at Lola’s Saloon, the site of Duell’s album release party on Saturday.
Duell, Barton said, would like to tour but hasn’t even begun to think about shows after Lola’s.
“We all don’t really have a lot of time with fucking around, and you get a lot of that with playing shows from different venues,” he said, “but we’re trying to be selective.”
Duell intends to play Back to Drunk in its entirety at Lola’s. After that, it’s back to Uncle Bob’s to write and record more material.
“We’ve got a few songs already,” Barton said. “It should be easy.”
Duell album release show
Sat w/The House Harkonnen, Pinkish Black, Spacebeach at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW. 817-877-0666.