Written and photographed by Rick Perez
I first heard of DUH when I saw them perform at Silent Barn in Bushwhick, Brooklyn. They were opening for Retail, a band that I was shooting for another publication. I usually don’t concentrate on shooting openers, but DUH was insane. Every member was going crazy, getting lost in their performance, making for some epic shots. I had no idea who these guys were, but I knew I had to remember them.
Three months later, Mauricio Escamilla, DUH‘s drummer, led me inside to the basement of his apartment, where I got to talk with him and the other members of DUH. What really stood out to me was diversity of the band’s members: Stefa and Mauricio are both Latinos, Yaman is from Switzerland, Taylor and Wolf are both Americans but are highly influenced by world music. Since they come from different cultures and backgrounds, everyone brings a unique perspective and contribution to the band. This beautiful blend of voices gives their music a deep complexity that I haven’t seen from many New York City bands.
What is interesting as well is the transitional phase they are in as a band. They have only recently added Stefa and Yaman to their group, in turn adding vocals to their originally instrumental sound. They were expressing how it can be difficult to add new viewpoints to an already tight trio, yet also expressed how excited and inspired they are for these new angles in their music. For me, I’m excited to see how they progress, how their constant need to explore and dive deeper into the intricacies of music will take them. If from what I saw at Silent Barn is any indicator of how these musicians are collaborating. then I can tell that their progress is heading in the right direction.
Check out BoC‘s interview with DUH, where they shared which musicians they would have over for dinner, the director they would want to collaborate with on a score, and the new material they are working on.
Who is DUH and what is your music all about?
Yaman Palak-Guitar, Vocals
Taylor Burton-Guitar, sometimes yelling
Wolf: Taylor and I had been working on these songs since we lived in Richmond, VA. After a few years of traveling we both ended up in NY, and this is where we recruited Mauricio.
Mauricio: As a trio, we started writing as an instrumental band for about a year, and then we decided we wanted to bring someone else into the group.
Wolfgang: I pushed for vocals because I felt like it gave us more room to explore and expand our sound.
Taylor: I wrote too many strange guitar parts so I couldn’t play and sing at the same time.
Yaman: I loved their recordings so I joined about a year ago. We started working really hard, but it took awhile. They were really tight as an instrumental three-piece so it was a little difficult to figure out how to fit in. We added vocals, a second guitar line, and later, Stefa’s vocals.
If each member could invite their favorite musician over for dinner, who would it be and why?
Wolfgang: One of my favorite bass players, Tina Weymouth from the The Talking Heads. I find her inspiring because she is a self taught bass player like me. I’m mainly a lead guitarist and I picked up bass for this project. I’d ask her out on a date and talk with her about Remain in Light. I’d cook her breakfast for dinner: eggs, bacon, potatoes, blueberry pancakes.
Yaman: Bill Frissel, a famous jazz guitarist, ‘cause I like his weird approach to music. I’d cook for him my famous spaghetti Bolognese.
Stefa: I’d invite Ella Fitzgerald over for wine. She’s been a massive inspiration for me since I was young. I would want to hear her incredible stories about being a female black singer performing in front of a mainly white audience during that time.
Mauricio: I would bring Michael Jackson back from the dead. Actually, he’s not even dead, ya’ll don’t even know. Hahaha. Coming from a drummer’s standpoint, there are countless drummers who have inspired me growing up. But as far as a musician who knows groove and feeling, it’s definitely him. I’d love to chat with him, and then have a jam session after. I’ll play the drums while he does a vocal freestyle or something. I would find out what his favorite dish is and do my best to create it.
Taylor: I’d invite Christian Wolff over. He’s an amazing experimental composer and also an all around amazing guy. He’s an inspiration because he’s such a normal guy but his ideas are so huge. He continues to compose and be involved in music even into his 80’s. I don’t know what I would cook him.
During dinner, which album would you put on in the background?
Wolf: Fela Kuti-Zombie
Yaman: I would go deep and put on “For Philip Guston” by Morton Feldman. We would still be able to talk about music and guitar playing, but at the same time marvel at the wonderful composition by Morton Feldman.
Stefa: I’d play Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Then we’d go off on that one track where the singer goes all crazy; Ella would be scatting and I’d be like “Oh my gosh you are amazing!” haha
Mauricio: I think I’d have to play Michael my solo ‘mowri’ album and ask him: “ What do you think about this?” A lot of my solo music is groove based, with a little hip hop influence, kinda funky, but also electronic.
Taylor: Giorgio Moroder’s E=mc2. Just listening to that with Christian Wolff would be a very funny experience
In your latest EP, Tonight We are All Genies, where have you taken us? Is there a story?
Wolf: That was the first EP we recorded as a three piece, all instrumental. Yaman and Stefa aren’t on there and the group has changed a great deal since then. One of the things I like about this group is that we all bring different influences into the band and I feel that you can hear it even in that EP. I personally like heavy groove based music with a strong rhythm section like Public Image Limited or Can. Taylor studied gamelan and I think it got him playing on the off beat. He plays around the rhythm section Mauricio and I are creating.
Taylor: I don’t know if I try to take from gamelan, I think it just ends up coming out in how I play. I also really like African guitar music, especially Highlife, Moroccan and Berber musics. Oh and definitely a lot of prog rock. I’m big into Yes.
Mauricio: I feel like our strength is our rhythmic structures and timings. For me, it’s a joy to play with people who are solid and percussive. I’m very influenced by dynamic bands like Battles and Hella, as well as a lot of contemporary electronic, so, it’s a big mesh. Tonight We are All Genies has an energetic and adventurous feeling to it; a sound that can be with you during new experiences, like traveling or trying new things.
Is there another single or EP in the works? If so, where will you take us next?
Wolf: We took a lot of material that was on the EP and completely restructured and rewrote 3 of the 4 songs. We only kept one the same.
Yaman: In April we started recording upstate with our friend Ernie Indradat. We recorded 11 songs, so there’s a full length album in the works right now.
Wolf: This is a year’s worth of work. We spent so much time in the rehearsal space just ironing these songs out. We have been getting them ready to present to people.
Yaman: It was fun working on these. Everyone gave their input but at the same time everyone was free to create their own parts so it was really like a band’s collaboration.
Taylor: It’s weird to hear songs that Wolfgang and I started working on 7 or 8 years ago and then to hear them now as a final product with lyrics. It makes me think who I was then versus who I am now… I’m like “uhhhh” haha
Mauricio: During one practice session, we started to write our last song for the album, and when I first heard the guitar riffs I thought “Oh cool, a new song,” but when you said you did it 7 or 8 years ago I was really surprised. It’s still fresh and compliments the album even after all these years.
Taylor: We stand the test of time!
If DUH could play at any venue in the country, where would you want to play? And who would you want to share the bill with?
Wolf: It would be Terraza 7, that club is awesome! We would play upstairs and open for Ali Farka Toure
Yaman: I’ll join him!
Taylor: I’ll join as well! That would be good. I would also play with La Cumbiamba eNeYé, it’s this really good cumbia group in New York.
Mauricio: I would say Madison Square Garden, with … Rage Against the Machine, hahaha, it’s a dream of mine … and… Stevie Wonder as the headliner.
Stefa: Terraza 7
If DUH had the opportunity to make the score for a movie, which director would you most want to work with?
Taylor: Alejandro Jodorowsky. He’s just so ridiculously adventurous and preposterous that he would be amazing to work with.
Wolf: Werner Herzog. He’s worked with one of my favorite groups Popol Vuh. The music from Popol Vuh in combination with the sequence of images in the beginning of Aguirre, the Wrath of God is actually what put me into film school. They have both been a huge influences on me.
Stefa: Alejandro Inarritu. He did this trilogy Amores Perros, 21 grams, and Babel. These films just show how tragic and sad life can be. I consider myself a happy person but my music is pretty melancholic and tragic as well. He has these beautiful interwoven stories that are usually really heart wrenching, it’s so good. He regularly uses the same composer but I want to get in there.
Yaman: I would also like to get on that project! Haha However, Terence Malick is another director I would like to work with. It would be fantastic to work with him! Find me!!
Mauricio: Stanley Kubrick has been so outstanding to me from a young age. The variety of his work is so appealing. I love his meticulous allegories as commentary on human existence, his films are filled with hidden messages. I would want to work on something epic, misanthropic, and dark with him.
What’s next for DUH?
Wolf: Finishing mixing the album, finding the right label, and getting the music out there! We have a song set for a single. For now, getting the mixing finalized and playing shows here and there.
Yaman: We start every rehearsal with jams, and it feels like we are itching to start working on new material!
Taylor: We’ve been talking about adding electronics as well. Looking forward to having more collaborations with different musicians and artists.
Mauricio: We all want to add more to our aesthetic in some manner, whether it’s visually, musically or performance-wise.