Rock'n'roll siblings to perform in Christchurch

02:10, Mar 28 2013
kitty landscape
RETRO: Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham will perform at the New Zealand Jazz and Blues Festival in Christchurch next week.

Retro British siblings Kitty Durham, 18, and her sister and brother, Daisy, 23, and Lewis, 21, believe that when it comes to music, new doesn't mean better.

The trio look as if they've time-travelled from the 1950s.

Lewis is a fully pompadoured rocker as under the shiny, slicked- back hair lurks someone obsessed with collecting rare rock'n'roll. He DJs 78 vinyl records and once spent his school holidays fashioning himself a lapsteel guitar.

On their iPods are the likes of Louis Jordan, Louis Prima, Johnny Cash, Wynonie "Mr Blues" Harris, Roy Brown and "a little Elvis".

Early single Mean Son Of A Gun, recorded in their back room, is a cover of a Johnny Horton song. Horton was a honky tonk and rockabilly singer from the late 50s, who died in a car crash in 1960.

Between them, the Durham trio play guitar, piano, banjo, lapsteel guitar, harmonica, double bass, ukulele, trombone and accordion, swapping instruments between songs at their live shows.


"The sound we're referencing might be old but we're making it now," Daisy told me in an interview in 2010, prior to a tour that year.

With two siblings sporting charming gaps in their front teeth, their sound rings clearly through evocative Marconi BBC mics.

The 50s-inspired trio make music with strong rockabilly, rock'n'roll and R&B elements, with a twist of Hawaiian flavour. No mucking around with computers or auto-tune for this trio - they prefer to record in the home studio Lewis built using vintage analogue equipment.

Fans of the trio include David Lynch, Chris Martin, Dustin Hoffman and Ewan McGregor and they have opened for Coldplay, Razorlight, Jools Holland and others.

Although they play a variety of music styles, the trio maintain a love for rhythm and a good melody. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

"We play a lot of different types of music," Daisy said. "But all the music we play has a real rhythm that you can dance to. Even the slow ones have a bit of a swinging rhythm, they've all got nice melodies as well. Mostly stuff that makes you want to dance.

"It's got that energy. The old stuff . . . it sounds like they're all there playing it and having fun. A lot of music these days doesn't sound like real music, it's just too over-produced."

The trio's North London home is shared by two occasional band members - their Mum and Dad. As Daisy explained in 2010, their house had always been littered with instruments and vintage gear, such as a late-40s RCA pre- amp studded with big Bakelite dials, reel-to-reel machines and all manner of post-war vintage equipment.

"Our Dad has a mastering studio. He has always been into old equipment and had a couple of things knocking about. Lewis has taken it to another level."

The band started when they visited the Come Down and Meet The Folks Sunday afternoon country and rockabilly stop-off at the Golden Lion pub as children with their folks. After playing intermittently at the pub, the trio decided they needed two more members. Dad, Graeme Durham, gleefully jumped on the guitar and mum, Ingrid Weiss, former drummer with The Raincoats, was instructed to learn the bass.

Having shot to stardom at a young age, the group appeared in the 2009 film Last Chance Harvey, playing their song Mean Son of a Gun, and also in the German film Dinosaurier, which featured four songs from their debut album. Daisy said they've gradually become more used to being in the public eye, but initially it wasn't easy.

Since releasing their self-titled album of covers in 2008, which contained their youthful renditions of Going Up the Country and (Baby) Hold Me Tight, the trio went on to release an album of original material and their 2011 album, Smoking In Heaven, which was recorded on their vintage equipment.

Growing up in a household where multiple instruments were always on hand, and where they were actively encouraged to bash away at anything they liked, quickly led to them jamming together.

"Because we had all the instruments lying around we were able to pick everything up at whatever time. We have always had records playing at home and musical instruments around. My Dad would be playing guitar and we'd join in and jam along. We weren't told off for playing with things, we were allowed to bash everything.

"We'd always been jamming together since we were little, it worked out that everyone can play a little bit of everything in their own way."

New Zealand Jazz and Blues Festival; Kitty, Daisy and Lewis at The Press Jazz In The Dome, Geo Dome, North Hagley Events Village, Wednesday, 8pm. Some tickets, $40, available from

The Press