Duncan Lee: Your New Pooky

Photos by  Julien Carr

Photos by Julien Carr

Genre is frequently used as a signifier of how a musician wants to be seen. Informing their audience and the image they want to portray,  the assumptions made are a tightrope walk on occasion, and a wide road in others, but are ultimately limiting. All forms of expression are consumed by fans and listeners, processed and saved as their archetypes of a style of content maker.

Duncan Lee seems to have moved past that. At 22 years old, he has been at the helm of multiple bands that have caught the ears of critics and fans alike. He picked up his first instrument at 13, the bass guitar. He confesses without embarrassment that he wasn't very good, but wasn't disheartened. When Duncan saw another musician playing guitar, he saw potential, so he switched instruments.

Magic Child was the first project he worked on. Partnering with high school friend Milena Erke, he felt out his creative processes writing 7 minute progressive epics, sharing sleepy-soft harmonies with Milena. The Boxers were next, an era Duncan notes as the beginning of his solo writing career. In the absence of his band mates, he would sit in his room and tune the world out, spending hours working on more songs. The fruits of this labor would eventually become full-lengths (Mannerisms [2013], and The Blue Pool [2015]) which the Boxers toured to support up until mid 2016. Duncan laughs when discussing their beginnings;

...it wasn’t a given that I would sing.... I just happened to be the least bad.

In the total opposite of a slump, Duncan borrowed a couple members from the Boxers and formed Lovejoy, his latest groupthink band, where everyone got a piece of the songwriting action. Zach Bridgeman and Sam Lubliner, both high school friends of Duncan, brought their respective stringed instruments with. Kris Hansen, trumpet prodigy, was added, and sings backup with Duncan. The band is rounded out with Cal Froikin on keys and former Magic Child himself, the inimitable David Matthews on drums...No, not that one.

Though Duncan sets the bones for each song, the rest of the band fleshes their sections out on their own. In doing so, each member can leave their fingerprint on a song, writing their own licks in ways Duncan doesn't.

I had started writing the majority of the songs. Well, not the parts but the chord progressions and melodies and shit like that. Everyone had their input, like a 25% share in the process.

Duncan isn’t ashamed of his, let’s say, unconventional preferences, and wants the freedom to implement them as he pleases. He hears moments on Lovejoy tracks that would benefit, in his opinion, from the sound of, say, a power drill going off. Laughing babies. A goat bleating in the background, even. There are some truly ethereal moments on Lovejoy’s 2017 self-titled release, specifically on its unofficial title track “Girl from the Crystal Cave” that feel like 100% Duncan Lee. He admits that he realizes a lot of his suggestions are outlandish and probably wouldn't be appreciated by everybody. This, however, is the reason Pooky came into existence and why Mr. Lee not only calls the shots but also records every instrument.

I pressed him for more details on this issue, asking what kind of things he likes to make sure he has in a Pooky song. “Whatever I feel like putting in there!” Rapid-fire, his eyes shining as they lingered on his computer, “That's the whole point.”

In the realm of now, Duncan is focused on Pooky. Pooky is him. He is Pooky. So are the other guys in the band, but as before, he wrote the riffs and hymns, and maintains final say on any changes. Pooky is busy, and has a release schedule for the next year, at least. This team has no slouch. They're all involved in different local acts, some on different instruments. Bassist Tory Lopez is contributing to a Chicago music dynasty, playing bass for Pooky and Spencer Tweedy’s The Blisters. Pooky are playing a multitude of shows, booked all the way into the fall already, which is not small potatoes for a band that didn't exist until early this year.

Pooky has decided to drop their silky jams on us like mana from heaven. Keep it locked on our releases page March 22nd, and please enjoy “Peppermint Candy”, off their first non-single release ever, The Yum-Yum Tree EP Part I. Stay tuned for the music video, set to come out in a couple weeks.