In the weeks leading up to the annual SXSW festival this year, my inbox got inundated with emails upon emails of showcase recommendations and requests to feature or interview certain bands during the festival. While some emails certainly may have slipped through the cracks, I tried my best to listen to any of the bands that I heard from— and one of those emails just happened to be from a Glasgow band called The Dunts. The Dunts are still a relatively young band with just a couple of EPs under their belt, but they immediately jumped out from the hundreds of emails I got when I took my first listen of “Dimitri,” their most streamed track on Spotify.
The Dunts have a sound that’s familiar in a way you just can’t quite put your finger on; They remind you of so many of your favorite bands without sounding derivative of them. And since forming in 2016, they have garnered buzz with their authentic, rowdy stage presence and guitar-driven, sticky melodies. I got the chance to see The Dunts perform during the afternoon on my second day at SXSW, and when I arrived at the British Embassy venue to see a room packed to the brim, it was clear that I wasn’t the only one eager to experience their raved-about live show.
Following their SXSW debut, the four band members were buzzing from the successful show as they took some time to chat with me afterwards. Guitarist and vocalist Rab Smith tells me that so far, SXSW has been the best experience of his life— and at that point, they were only three or four days into the festival. For most of the band, it’s their first time in Austin (or America in general) and it was impossible not to sense their genuine gratitude for being able to perform over here. David McFarlane says he’d been to The States before, but not since he was about nine years old. “The whole experience so far has been half like a holiday, half like working. So far it’s been amazing. I’m enjoying every single second. Even the hangover,” he says.
The band also admits there’s definitely been some culture shock coming over here, mostly in the form of huge meal portions and free pours of alcohol at the bars, but for the most part the trip has exceeded their expectations in every way. “It’s so refreshing to be here. Like with Glasgow, it’s not that people aren’t friendly, but you don’t really go around the street talking to random people. So it’s refreshing to be here. Feels kind of good for the soul,” Smith says.
Leading up to their first SXSW gig at the British Embassy, Smith says they’d all been able to check out some shows there in the days prior. “We saw how good the sound system was and I think we were all excited,” he says, but he and the band also admit there were some nerves as well. As a spectator of the show, I was impressed by how quickly The Dunts commanded the room in an unfamiliar setting; everyone listened intently, either dancing or nodding their head along to the melodic anthems. The band looked right at home as they thrashed around the stage and drummer Kyle McGhee let loose on the drum kit, and at one point, Smith even hopped off the stage to sing amongst the audience members. Despite being so far from Glasgow, The Dunts fit right in. I ask what bands have stage presence that they admire, or what kind of frontmen inspire them, and they mention another band from Glasgow, called Gallus. “He doesn’t play guitar, it’s just him singing. He’s crazy, running around,” McFarlane says of Gallus’ frontman Barry Dolan, and Smith compares him to the likes of Freddie Mercury. Smith says he also admires the frontman of Ireland’s Fontaines D.C., who played their first SXSW this year as well.
Back on the subject of the Glasgow music scene, I mentioned an article from Noisey with the tagline that Glasgow isn’t all just electronic music, which The Dunts had tweeted about. The article discusses the pub/venue called the Priory, which all of the members of The Dunts say is an absolute staple in their music scene. There’s a PA, but the Priory has no stage and it’s a dive bar frequented by musicians that have bit of grit about them, but that’s what makes it perfect, Smith says. “If it wasn’t for the Priory, we wouldn’t have met all the people that we’ve met that are best friends with us, and we wouldn’t have gotten some of the opportunities we’ve got,” Colin McGachy adds. “The guy that runs The Priory is a good friend of ours as well now. There’s a lot of UK promoters that use pay to play, but John Jokey is anti that. He’s the antithesis of that, he wants to pay bands fairly and he loves the music. It’s because of guys like him and the pubs like The Priory… It’s guys like that that make all the difference,” McFarlane says. While the Priory is a place primarily for new bands to cut their teeth, it’s mainly about the sense of community for Glasgow musicians. “You get a feeling that it’s this big fucking connected thing and everyone looks out for everyone. It’s amazing that new bands want to be a part of that community and it’s amazing to go and see them,” Smith says about their music scene.
Another place in Glasgow that The Dunts rave about is the recording studio 7West, which the band had been working in a few weeks prior to SXSW, recording their next single, slated for release this Spring. “Bands will go to 7West and pay the money that it costs, cause it costs a lot but it’s worth it,” they say about the studio, which is run by Chris Marshall (Marshall and Johnny Madden from Baby Strange also produce The Dunts’ music). While they admit it can be pricey to record in the Glasgow staple, they all agree that any band worth their salt in the UK will go to 7West. “You have to invest. I think that’s what we do well in the industry. You really do get what you pay for,” Smith says. And as a listener, you can definitely tell that the band doesn’t skimp on their presentation when you listen to their first two EPs. There’s a cheeky, punk attitude embedded into The Dunts’ music, but it’s presented in a meticulously polished fashion that tells you about the time and investment that went into the final product.
And ultimately it’s that determination and their willingness to put in the effort and hard work that has gotten The Dunts the opportunities they’d had so far, and will continue to get. The Dunts played Reading and Leeds Fest last year and they’re slated for other UK festivals like TRNSMT and Camden Rocks Fest this summer, but they’ve got their sights set for even more in the future, like playing the famous Barrowland Ballroom venue in Glasgow and the coveted BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury. They’ve got the work cut out for them, but they’re ready to take it on, says Smith. “If there’s any wee children that are listening to this, that have music instruments and are worried about not being able to do it or don’t believe in themselves, just believe in yourself. Work hard. We’ve all come from fucking nothing. We are the proof if you keep going, keep plugging, it doesn’t matter who says no. It doesn’t matter who ignores you, if you believe in yourself, you’ll do it,” he adds.