Monkeys Can Actually Be Mafia Bosses – Francis Duffy and The Kingpins interview

FD and The Kingpins

Francis Duffy and The Kingpins are pretty new to my ears (writes Andy Wood) although they have been gigging locally for a couple of years now around Dundee.

They first came to my attention via an online demo, ‘The Scratch Tapes’. Despite a title that suggests something roughly recorded in a rehearsal room the songs sound pretty accomplished to my ears. They are quite an old-fashioned band in that they write and perform energetic, strong songs built around a dual guitar sound.

The stand-out song for me on the demo is the opener ‘Show Me That You Love Me’. It starts off with a riff that certainly bares a loose resemblance to the Rolling Stones ‘Satisfaction’ but has a loose, raw charm of its own with a Garage-Punk feel and a good groove. ‘Paradise’ is quite pretty with a more nuanced vocal and some pretty moments but occasionally slips into slightly predictable ‘ballad’ territory and, in my humble opinion, is the weakest song of the four here. ‘All The Zombies (Are Out Tonight) is a pretty cool song a solid rhythm allowing the guitars space to soar with a punchy chorus. ‘How To-Do Manual’ has a gentle, atmospheric opening and some delicate interplay between the acoustic and electric guitar before developing into a noisier creature. The vocals on the songs veer from defiant and snotty, to confused and lost and there’s a nice variety between the four songs.

The demos show a lot of potential and I have to say I’m looking forward to hearing Francis Duffy and The Kingpins live and seeing how they progress in the coming months.

Since I knew nothing about them I thought an introduction was in order. Michael Buchanan (Francis Duffy) kindly agreed to answer some questions ahead of their show at The Cool Cat Club in support of Withered Hand on Saturday 27th June.

Hi, could you please introduce yourselves.

“We are Francis Duffy and The Kingpins consisting of Francis Duffy AKA Michael Buchanan – Lead Vocals, Sam Flint – Drums, Ken Wiggins – Guitar, David Gallagher – Guitar, Cavan Short – Bass.”

Could you tell us a bit about how you came to be Francis Duffy and The Kingpins? How long have you been playing together and how did you form?

“Oh dear, that’s some amount of time to think back to. I think me, Cavan and Sam were around 14/15 when we formed our first band together. We recruited another couple of our mates as guitarists. Called ourselves The Phase, played a few gigs in a place known as The Shore, thought we were the next big thing as teenagers do (we were awful). I think you can still find The Phase on MySpace and hear how awful we were but please, please don’t look it up haha.

“After that we went through a few guitarist changes (thanks to my lead singer syndrome, haha) until now where we are in our early 20s, very settled and having a fantastic time playing together and making music.”

What was the thinking behind the name?

“In terms of the name, that’s complicated. “Francis Duffy” was my grandad, whose name I decided to adopt as some sort of stage name due to his massive influence on me. It seemed like a good idea at the time, a nice heartfelt tribute to him but it probably just confuses people or makes people think I’m incredibly pretentious because I gave myself a stage name!!

“The Kingpins” is something that comes from a couple of things. I wrote lyrics to this blues song that we had going a couple of years ago, and it was an atrocious piece of music, totally offensive to actual blues musicians. However, my lyrics were really good and I didn’t want to waste them. Called the Kingpin of Crime it was about a monkey who was a Kingpin in a 1950’s alternate universe where monkeys can actually be mafia bosses, talk, wear suits and smoke cigars.

“That in itself was influenced by the fact I’d just been reading a Spiderman comic and I had The Kingpin stuck in my head.”

What are your influences, musical or otherwise?

“Our influences are so varied. Just to give you an idea, the reason we don’t do a cover song in our set is because not one of us has the same taste in music. It’s ridiculous; we cannot find one song we agree on.

“I think our biggest influence is probably each other. We write songs all together as a 5 piece. Our writing process is basically to bounce music back and forth until something sticks and it somehow evolves into a song. We tend to let things come to us quite naturally, anything that feels forced or isn’t fitting together after a certain length of time, we just scrap because we know it isn’t for us.”

What have been the highlights of being in a band so far?

“We played Dundee’s Oktober Fest last year… in October. There were so many people there, and we got a fantastic reception. After we came off stage when we were having many, many drinks people kept coming up to us and complimenting our music. To have people compliment music that you have created is a massive buzz. It’s a really good feeling.”

And the low points?

“We found a One Direction CD in Sam’s car once; I think that was a real moment of devastation for all of us.”

You’ve recorded a few demo songs to date. Any plans for recording a single or E.P.?

“Absolutely. However we want to do it right, and get it right. A 5-student budget can make that difficult but I am hoping we can get some sort of EP out soon.”

How would you describe yourselves to someone who had yet to hear or see you live yet?

“I’d say to them ‘We are the best band in Dundee, that’s all you need to know.’”

What plans do you have for the coming months?

“Beg people to give us gigs, haha. Seriously, hopefully we will get plenty of gigs and we are constantly writing. We are hitting such a creative vein right now in terms of writing, songs of varying styles and genres keep coming out and surprising us all.”

Anything else that you would like to add?

“Anyone who has taken time to listen to our demos, been to see us live I think we would all like to say a huge, huge thank you.

“There are a few people, friends, who I think have actually been to every single gig we have ever played in every evolutionary stage of the band in the last 10 years. To them a very huge thank you because there have been times where it would have just been us and the bar staff if it was not for your continued support.”

Francis Duffy and the Kingpins make their Cool Cat Club debut on Saturdauy 27th June supporting Withered Hand. More info here.

Unfortunately Saturday’s planned show with Withered Hand  at the Cool Cat Club has been postponed until the autumn.

You can hear ‘The Scratch Tapes’ in full here.  Here’s a track from the demos: