INTERVIEW: The Twisted Dolls

Manchester three-piece The Twisted Dolls have been playing their version of the blues since 2013 and are quickly building a loyal fan base. We caught up with lead singer Luke Thornton to talk gigs, lunchtime inspiration, and the perks of social media.

Hi Luke, what have you been up to today?
Well, today has been another working weekday, but I did come up with a really good idea for a new song this morning at my desk, so I had to hum it to myself all morning so I didn’t forget it. Then I bombed it home to my flat on my lunch hour so I could record it on the guitar. Little musical touches like that keep the working week interesting.

You’re lead singer, guitarist and manager of The Twisted Dolls. Does the pressure ever get too much?
I really am proud of the work that we do in the Dolls; we’re completely self-run. It is hard, we all work jobs and we’ve all got rent to pay, but when you play live, and you look up from your guitar at the crowd and see people digging the songs you’ve written, it doesn’t matter that you’re in work in the morning or that you’ve just finished a 45 hour week; it’s all about that moment in time. Watching people enjoy it, and potentially become new fans; I live for it, it’s my ultimate fuel.

You play your first gig with new drummer Grace Chilcott at The Deaf Institute in Manchester on August 8th. How have rehearsals been going? 
Grace, well, what can I say? She’s hands down one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met. So committed to her instrument. She’s learnt all the songs we’ve given her in a short space of time, and we’ve even gone through two new tunes which will be making their début at this show. She seems to take absolutely everything in her stride and her playing has really lifted the songs and band as a whole, to another level. We’re extremely excited for this show, it will be something special.

You recently played the Something to Smile About Festival where you shot the video for new track ‘King of the Blues’. Any highlights you can share with us?
It was an absolute gem of a festival, run by the kindest of people. In a completely un-rock n’ roll fashion, we sat on the grass in the sun, ate chips and had ice creams; we had a ball. The biggest highlight was having some people come up to us after we played and say how much they’d been looking forward to watching us play. This was a place we’d never been before. A couple had actually travelled up from Northampton to come and see us especially, which was so humbling, I’m still struggling to get my head around it.

Given the success of band such as The Black Keys and Band of Skulls, is rock ‘n’ roll blues experiencing a bit of a revival?
I think it is increasing to a degree, and acts such as those can really pave the way for underground blues acts, it sort of gives you hope that you can reach a successful level. For me, though, it does still lie heavily beneath the commercial surface, on the underground scene. You may hear on the radio, or in a music magazine that guitar music is on the decline or that it really needs to come back around; for me though, spend any night of the week at a local gig venue and you’ll find bands absolutely cracking their amps and playing great guitar-driven music. I think that in the next year or two, there will be a band that ‘kicks down the door’ and paves the way for a new era of guitar bands.

Would you recommend any other blues bands from Manchester?
Ruby Tuesday are personal favourites for the Dolls; they’re our blues brothers. Jimmy McCarthy (RT’s guitarist) and I have a mutual back and forth love for each others guitar playing. He always plays something that makes me go “God damn that’s impressive!” and he in turn drops me a message now and again telling me how much he digs my riffs. It’s nice to get close with bands on the scene, I’m not really into any kind of ‘trying to out-cool each other’ ethos. Duke Mercury are another great band, a furious two-piece that really bring it to each and every show.

Some of your musical influences (KOL, Arctic Monkeys, The White Stripes) have been recurring headliners at major festivals in the UK and across the globe. If The Twisted Dolls could headline any festival, which would you choose?
I would actually love to headline Kendal Calling. It’s one of the best festivals I’ve been too, that main stage which is kind of in the woods is great. Hand on heart, though, I know Jimi and I would say it’s the Isle of Wight festival. We went there a few years ago and it was absolutely unreal, I saw some of my favourite acts there, it’s a special place.

Your Facebook page for the band is consistently updated with new gig info, photos, videos and shout-outs to your fans. How important do you think social media is for bands?
It seems to be quite important in the modern age, both a good and a bad thing I think. It can be very easy to get into the mindset that you can do everything you need on social media, and that ‘likes’ are the be all and end all, which is a bit of a shame. I think it’s an excellent communication tool, and a great way to reach out to fans, and showcase what you’ve been working hard on. Social media is a great tool, but for me, there are two things you should rely on and that’s great songs and a great live show. From the Beatles to the present day, in all those years of popular music, those things are what you can rely on most, to try and do well. Using social media to improve the reach of those two things is the best way for me.

Which bands are you looking forward to seeing live this year?
I’m looking forward to seeing Blossoms play at the Ritz. We supported them last year and they’re a superb outfit doing really well. I’d quite like to catch the Sundowners again, too. Then there’s a whole host of local acts who I love to watch; The Tapestry, King Kartel and Last Race Home – so if I can catch all of them, I’ll be made up.

Finally, If you weren’t playing in The Twisted Dolls, what would you be doing?
I think I’d be desperately trying to make it as a fiction writer, one of my favourite things in the world is a good story and I really enjoy writing them. If not that, I met someone recently who told me they’d had a summer job testing Pot Noodles in a factory – I mean, that’s got to be a good job, right?

The Twisted Dolls will be supporting Gold Jacks at the Deaf Institute in Manchester on 8th August. Tickets are available via Skiddle.

Kate Crudgington

Photo by Emily Conlon

Kate Crudgington

Kate Crudgington

Assistant Editor for Gigslutz (2015-2017) Now Co-Founder, Co-Host & Features Editor for @getinherears