Que sera sera, whatever will be will be we; we’ve headlined Wembley.
Independent Reggae Ska masters The Dualers are gearing up for a massive 2022/3. They have a brand new album coming out in August and are embarking on a full band and stripped back tour, which comes off the back of a huge headline show at London’s Wembley Arena. Tyber Cranstoun and his brother Si originally started the band back in 1999-ish. The pair were well known for their busking exploits on the streets of Croydon, Romford, Bexley and Maidstone. Their following grew, and a band was organically formed. A couple of decades later The Dualers are now performing in the type of Arenas usually reserved for bands like Madness, The Offspring or even Rod Stewart. Simple, yes? Er, not quite. Guy Shankland caught up with lead singer and Dualers founder Tyber to chat on pavement performances, new material and the seemingly unstoppable rise of London’s finest Ska/Reggae band, ladies and gentlemen we give you, The Dualers.
Vive Le Rock. Hi Tyber, where are you?
Tyber Cranstoun. “On the way to Birmingham for a couple of gigs, not sure where we are right now. I’ve always got my head down doing bits and pieces. I look up, and it’s like, where are we? We’re playing a couple of smaller gigs as a duo. Which is more of just a PA set-up, the band ones are move involved, and you have to be on the ball.”
VLR. So we’ve got to start with The Dualers headline show at Wembley Arena.
TC. “Absolutely, a great place to start!”
TC. “I'm one of these people that’s always got something going on, so I don’t stress myself out with one big thing that’s happening. I’ve just finished an album, which is the biggest thing I’ve done in my life and then in a couple of months we’re playing Wembley. Now the recording side of the album is completed, it’s time to focus on Wembley. I’ve been saying it for ages, but when you’re doing a new album, and you want to make it the biggest and the best one you’ve ever done, you put all your eggs in that basket. So in truth, I haven't had time to stress or panic about it yet, but don’t worry, it’s coming. I'll be bald or grey by the time we get to Wembley!”
VLR. Is this a solo or a Dualers album?
TC. “Oh, a Dualers album. We’ve kind of worked out the best formula, and the last one, Palm Trees And 80 Degrees, got to number eleven on the charts. I’m always doing everything I can to make sure we build, so every album or gig has got to be better than the last one. It’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself, but I like to keep myself and everyone else on their toes. You don’t want to put a ceiling on yourself in a creative world; you just want to see how far you can go. It’s taken about three years to write, but we’re delighted with it. We recorded the songs a few weeks ago, and this is the longest I’ve been away from them (the songs); it’s like missing your children! You’ve sent them off for the mix, and you don't know what they're going to come back as (laughing)!”
VLR. Is it all originals, or are there some covers in there?
TC. “All originals. I mean, we obviously started off playing the Ska, Blue Beat, Reggae and Rocksteady; you couldn’t beat the best. You don’t become a great Rocksteady or Reggae writer overnight, even though I grew up with it. To get myself noticed and recognised in all departments, I basically did loads of covers initially. I then realised that I didn’t want to be a tribute band. I love this music so much that I’ve started writing in the last ten years. It’s like going to the gym, it gets easier and easier, and you start to notice a difference. It’s been a long time coming, but all the songs on the album are originals.”
VLR. Do you have a title yet?
TC. “Yes, it’s called Voices From The Sun. Hopefully, it’ll be out in August. It’s amazing how far in advance you have to record the stuff. People ask if it’s done and can they hear it, and it’s no; there’s a process we’re not just banging out some little album. August feels like a lifetime away at the moment.”
VLR. Is it being released on a label?
TC. “It’s being released on Sunbeam Records, which is our own label. I read somewhere some said, 'Oh, they're one of those bands who try to do it all themselves…' Social media is full of Chinese whispers and people who think they know stuff, who know nothing. I would have loved to have had some help along the way, but it wasn’t there, so instead of crying about it, I got on and did it. We do literally everything ourselves. We’ve got our sound guy, lighting guy, a whole crew of people, tech, etc. We are pretty much completely independent. The great thing is we’ve all become really close friends, I mean there are a few people that don’t see eye to eye but that happens in all workspaces. We’ve all got one common goal and we love the music and we love the band and the life that goes with it. This is going to sound really cliched, but it is like one big family, happy most of the time.”
VLR. The flipside is that you retain all the rights to your music and control over it.
TC. “Yes. I mean, it’s a challenging thing to do on your own because there’s a lot resting on your shoulders. Along the way, though, there are some pretty mega bonuses. We can do what we want, and there’s no-one telling us anything else.”
VLR. Let's talk busking because there’s some great footage of you (and your brother Si) busking in shopping centres and high streets. I mean, that’s grassroots advertising, going out and saying this is us.
TC. “I made the most out of it. I made every small opportunity a big opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. Yeah, the busking thing, I was on the high street, I wasn’t begging or anything like that, but I didn’t have loads of money, and the coins in the bucket paid my rent and stuff. It became a way of life, and we got a lot of people turning up to watch us. I suddenly thought, could I turn this into a gig? I’ll book somewhere, I’ll get some flyers done. It all started from there, and it just got bigger and bigger. Suddenly it was local bars, wine to then getting a band together and playing the Fairfield Hall in Croydon and established venues. Wembley is another extension of that. It sounds ridiculous, but we play on average to fifteen hundred to two thousand capacity venues and we played Ireland at the weekend in the Academy in Dublin and Belfast. We walked in, and they are eight hundred capacity; it felt so small. A couple of years ago, I would have been, Oh my God, an eight hundred capacity venue! This is amazing; it made me stop and realise, bloody hell, things are moving fast. I was on the high streets for ten years of my life, and that will always be a part of me, but the stepping stones venue-wise that we’re achieving. Sometimes I just want to stop and have a look round and go, wow!
VLR. Last question on busking I promise, but did you used to advertise on social media?
TC. “(cutting in) It got to that stage. We’d be in Croydon one week and then the next week people would go back there. We’d turn a week later, and people would like, where were you last week? Err, we were in Bexley Heath. Buskers tend to hit the same spot every week. There was a crowd, and we got to know people. It made us feel quite special because we’re playing on the high street, it’s freezing cold and they’re freezing cold with us. We just decided to see what would happen if we put it on social media, and yeah, it was… We would turn up at half nine in the morning and there would be fifty or sixty people waiting for us and it was like, what is going on? I thought, Is this it, is this what I’m going to be, the guy who sings on high streets? But with a little bit of luck and divine intervention. The name started getting out on various social media platforms and we became the most famous non-famous band in the country, probably. Know we do gigs in Newcastle, and people come up to me and say, we saw you busking in Bexley Heath, and it’s like, oh my God…! People travel to gigs, and after Covid, although there’s a little bit of apprehension, people need live music back in their lives. The compliments are really nice, and they helped my confidence and made my head swell (laughing). If you busk for any amount of time you become a busker and these we’re playing now I approach like a busker. If I had my way there’d be a bucket at every single gig! I’m still in a little bit of shock with what's going on. I’ve got a thirteen-year-old daughter so she keeps me busy and my feet on the ground.”
VLR. You have an evident deep love and understanding of Jamaican Bluebeat, Ska, Reggae and Rocksteady, so which artist first made you fall in love with the genres?
TC. “Well, my Dad had a sound system in the sixties and seventies, which is where he met my Mum. The moment my umbilical cord was cut, I heard it. The one artist who jumps out is Alton Ellis, who’s my family's favourite. There wasn’t really one Ska (pausing); if you bought a Ska album, it wouldn’t be one artist; it would be a mixture of artists. When it went to Rocksteady, then you had artists releasing their own records: Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis and the like. They became singers in the fact you could understand what they were saying, whereas Ska music back then was a little bit twee lyrically. My Mum and Dad would go, 'Oh, this is a lovely song, why don’t you cover this one?' And it’s like, 'Dad do you know what he’s singing about?' (laughing) We used to cover a song called ‘Don’t Stay Out Late’ which has the lyric “little girl you’ve got me in a rage” but it sounds a little bit paedo, you know. So Jimmy Cliff, Alton, Bob Andy and, of course, Bob Marley. What I love about the genres is there’s not just one artist; there are just songs. So if you ask me who my favourite artist is, it’s Bob Marley because he’s just such a legend. There’s Bob Marley and about ten people at number two!”
VLR. What did you and I’m interested in what your Dad thought of the 2-Tone movement?
TC. “He’s not a fan because my Dad came from an era of courting women, deep singing and the love of the rock'n'roll that came from that sound. The thing with 2-Tone is it brought in a bit of punk and a political stance. The one thing my Dad wasn’t overly keen on with Bob Marley is that he took a political stance, which is what he needed to do; it was part of his religion. For my Dad, music was something to be played beautifully, get you high, get you emotional but not to starting fights and standing up. The 2-Tone thing for him was a little bit on the harsh side. For me, I mean, how can you not like it. I know most of the guys, and I’ve worked with a couple of the Madness guys and Terry Hall, so how can you not like it? I’ve heard newer 2-Tone bands that I don’t like, same with a couple of Reggae bands. If I hear a bad 2-Tone band, I have to walk out; it’s got to be played right. People think it’s an easy sound; mmm, it’s not that simple. Music is music to me as long as it’s got a good melody and played well.”
The Dualers new album Voices From The Sun will be released on 12 August via Sunbeam Records.
For a full list of tour dates, album pre-order details and merchandise head over to thedualers.com