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The Dualers interview: Ska's in their eyes

Henry Lewis spoke to Tyber Cranstoun about the band's orgins, English acts being too safe and plenty more ahead of a huge run of shows.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 2nd Nov 2017

Image: The Dualers (credit)

The Dualers are a musical force that have seemingly come out of nowhere. In the last 12 months, the 9 piece reggae and ska outfit have become a live phenomenon, selling out shows up and down the UK on account of their high energy, all embracing performances that dip into original numbers and lovingly selected covers. 

It's not always been like that though, there is a much deeper backstory to this unrelenting, roots heavy musical force, with their first forays into music coming back in the early 2000's when brothers Tyber and Si Cranstoun busked their way into the national conscious. 

In 2004 the group entered the charts at number 21 with their track 'Kiss On The Lips', free from any sort of label backing or national airplay, with just their busking performances making up any sort of promotion for the track, however since then the brothers have split down to genuine musical differences, however the Dualers have continued to live on.


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Nowadays they're more in demand than ever before, and when we caught up with lead singer and player manager Tyber Cranstoun, this was proven instantaneously;

"The phone doesn't stop ringing. I've taken a gig just now. It's a private one, someone's party. Just to give you an idea of how manic it is, I've booked it for the 11th April 2020. I'm serious. It's just ridiculous. They haven't even got the venue sorted yet, they just wanted to book the band..."

That is unbelievable... For those who don't know, tell us more about the origins of the Dualers

This band has probably been together for about five years, there are a couple of members who stuck from the band previous but obviously doing stuff with my brother was where it all started out. He was the muso, I went to drama school. He came up with a song called 'Kiss On The Lips' and said 'the support and love we've got, we can get it in the charts' and lo and behold we did.

I did the admin side of stuff, he was the music one and we performed the hell out of it and got it into the chart. We built up a big fanbase and what people loved about it was the brotherly camaraderie that you don't see a lot of. I think there's something to be said about siblings performing.

It's funny you should say that, there's a video of the two of you playing Dean Martin and the Gallagher vibes are very strong....

We're similar to them in the fact that we squabbled, and similar to them in the fact that Noel was the the older, wiser songwriter that played the instrument and I was definitely the Liam, slightly wilder, a bit more of a party animal, couldn't play an instrument and couldn't write a song. 

Eventually as I grew older and I found I myself, I said I don't want to do this sort of music, I want to do THIS and then the divide started. It wasn't anything horrible, it was more that I started to get a clearer cut idea of my direction. 

So legitimate musical differences then..?

Totally. It just goes to show as well, my brother is in Australia at the moment and he does all the rock'n'roll conventions, which has got a really huge following, young and old, but it's very much the teddy boy, lindy hop type of thing. It's not visible to most members of the general public but there's a real thing that's underground about it.

He's used to playing conventions infront of 8 or 9 thousand people but everyone turns up in their Cadillacs and their polka-dot shirts and their beehives and their zoot suits. Everyone basically goes back to the 1950s for that whole night and it's fantastic. I've been to a couple of the shows myself.

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So do you follow your brother's musical pursuits then?

I've not been for a while, we broke up about six years ago and I've been probably to five or six of them. The problem is, I work Friday, Saturday, Sunday and so does he. When we do see each other, I've got a daughter and he's got a son and a daughter, we don't tend to talk music, because it engulfs our lives. We say to each other "how's it all going?" "great" and that's about it 

Did you see him on the BBC Breakfast sofa?

I don't follow too much, its more of a case of what gets shared on my Facebook feed. We share a lot of fans so I see it from there. I've seen bits and pieces - he got signed and it was a case of he was in the newspapers and people jumped to my defence and said 'what about the other brother?' but from my point of view its like 'no, we split' he's doing what he got signed through, the rock'n'roll thing which isn't my vibe at all. 

If anything it inspired me when he was in the papers and on TV, I was still standing on the high street playing local club s and stuff and so it's almost like the world has balanced itself out as far as success is concerned. We both work as hard as each other, and we both believe in what we're doing, it's just he came by the way of a record company, and we just carried on and all of a sudden all the hard work has paid off in the last few months and we have got to that level now.

You released new music this year, much to the relief of your fans....

Yeah they basically tend to be covers to keep things bubbling over because our fanbase get anxious to hear new music, but I'm currently working on the new album for next year's tour now.

We could never coordinate a full tour with 9/10 people, it was too much but what we want is to get the album done, get the cover sorted out, get the title sorted out and then have the tour coincide with that. At this rate it's going to have sold out anyway though. [laughs]

There was a song on there called 'Don't Stay Out Late', which is one of your earlier numbers isn't it?

We were doing the Reggae Street 2 album and people had been emailing in because the clip of us playing it was on Facebook and had something like 12 million views. Because of that we just jumped into the studio before the album went to print and added it on as a bonus track.

It's an old classic ska song. My Dad was one of the pioneer promoters of ska and reggae back in the early 70s and that's why we're into it. He used to run a club in the South East of London which is where we lived. They were quite underground clubs, he was in his twenties and he met my Mum who's black and we were brought up with it. It was all music that I'd heard as a child, and that particular song is one of my Dad's favourites. Because of that we took it to the street, played it and people loved it and that's kind of the story behind it.

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Why are you so popular live?

It's a mixture of the fact that we are a very embracing band, which I think in this country is quite rare. I'd imagine that if you went to see a lot of English bands, they're not all embracing and I mean that our eyes are upfront and we're looking out at the audience, we're smiling and we've got attitude but not a 'fuck off' attitude.

It's cool but we're not being aggressive in it. It appeals to so many different types of people and for me, I went to drama school and one of my biggest assets is that I was constantly reminded of the fact that if you're doing anything with words, you're telling a story and you'd be surprised how few performers go up and tell a story.

I do embrace people and when I'm singing certain lines, that comes through in my body language and how I say it. In between the tracks we're talking to people, and people feel they know us and that's our massive appeal. There is a connection there. I stood on a high street, I'm one of you. We are here, we are smiling, we are playing upbeat music and people leave our gigs laughing, smiling, talking - I've been told our gigs are like church, it's quite medicinal and helps people through stuff. We haven't done that on purpose, we've just been ourselves. 

It's a human want, especially in this country, I think America really is top of the list when it comes to performing they really do put in an effort all the way round, and we English I don't know, we're a little bit "oh no that's far too over the top". We just create a vibe. People walk out of our gigs sweating and happy.

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