Union Duke
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Union Duke

Toronto, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF | AFTRA

Toronto, Canada | SELF | AFTRA
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Folk Country




"Union Duke Performs "A Little More""

Live Performance on Canada AM - Canada AM

"Union Duke - "Cash & Carry Review""

Union Duke were born and bred in Toronto, but the quintet’s sophomore LP belies their city slicker lineage. Sure, country is having a moment right now in Toronto (have you seen how busy the Rock ’n’ Horse Saloon is on a Saturday night?), but Cash & Carry still evokes farm life in rural Ontario. It’s music for drunken two-stepping or the do-si-do.

Incorporating both bluegrass and country (the stronger songs lean toward the former), Union Duke have nailed down their formula: rapid-fire banjo fingerpickin’, heartfelt lyrics about lovers and ex-lovers, stacked vocals and raw electric guitar that help keep the grit intact when it’s threatened by glossy production. These five guys are incredible musicians who’ve spent years honing their skills, but at times Cash & Carry feels a touch too clean and uptight. Adding some dirt and loosening up a bit would guarantee them that drunken line dance they’re after.

Top track: Your Old Lover - Now Magazine

"Sounds & Words: Union Duke performs"

Live Performance on Breakfast Television Winnipeg - BT Winnipeg

"NXNE DAY 1: Beliefs, Eternal Summers, Mac Demarco Wows at Drake, Union Duke Ends with Exclamation"

This five-piece bluegrass/country band brings everything to the front. Literally their five members lined the front of the stage, they do not use a traditional drum-kit; instead using a combination of kick-drum, high-hat and cymbal spread across the stage. It did not take long for the small crowd at the stage to grow and being jumping up and down doing their best version of a two-step. Union Duke approaches every song full-tilt, for lack of a better word they play the SHIT out of their songs. By the end of their set I was swinging arm-in-arm with strangers, and testing the Cadillac’s foundation with my foot stomping. Sweaty and out of breath we all cheered Union Duke’s efforts and asked eagerly where we could see them next. - The Take Media

"12 Things I Think You Should See at NXNE"

I had the pleasure of catching these Toronto boys at a fundraiser recently. They have a brand of balls-to-the-wall bluegrass/folk that will surely get you moving. They also happen to be really great guys, and there is something to be said for that! - NXEW

"NXNE Day 1 Highlights"

Union Duke were the perfect band to play the Elvis and Cash themed Cadillac Lounge. A band rife with footstomping and handclaps, both from on-stage and in the audience, Union Duke kept a blistering pace throughout their set, calling to mind acts like The Sadies and the afforementioned godfathers or country and rockabilly which adorned the venues walls. Three, and at times, five, piece harmonies propelled songs forward, as did some slick harmonica-tambourine-cymbal-vocals work by the cat o’ nine tails bandleader, Union Duke were a fitting end to a fast-paced first night of NXNE. - Criticize This

"Union Duke Album Release"

Everyonce in a while, you get lucky as a booker. You get hip to an awesome band, you get them in for a show, everyone has a blast, and then you find out that they are looking to book a night for their album release. Normally, you've got to jump through all sorts of hoops to make this happen, negotiatiating what the door cover will be, who gets a cut of what and how many hookers and brown m&m's the band is going to need in their dressing room before they will hit the state. Sometimes you just get a bunch of good decent guys who say, we want to have an awesome night, so how do we make it so that we can do a free show for everyone? Union Duke is the second kind of band.

I could keep writing about how good their live show is, and that pretty soon it's going to be pretty impossible for a venue our size to have this kind of band playing at it, or I could just say this. You'll hear about these guys soon enough, so if you don't make it out to the show, I'm not too worried, it's going to be packed. They. are. that. good. - 3030

"Bandits and Bridges"

Our destination was a steamy and inebriated Clinton’s Tavern, retrospectively the site of the best Union Duke show to date. The local troubadours found just the right stasis to flaunt their plush harmonies and reckless strides, balancing the breakneck pace of country-fried psalms like Lonesome Me and Help Me Push My Blue Days Away with mid-tempo novice On The Hunt and a handful of well-culled covers. The five-piece folkgrass unit, featuring recent addition Rob McLaren on guitar and perma-grin, perspired its way through The Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers and a mariachi-tinged send up of Haddaway’s What Is Love – exactly the kind of adaptation that’s sure to gladden audiences of all levels of familiarity.

Bandits & Bridges, a foremost original composition, was book-ended by slow burning remorse that wrapped around an agile middle section. Substantial melodies have continually become the hallmark of this young collective, an advancement that only serves to bolster its already proven live cohesion. The encore combo of the traditional a capella Down In The River To Pray and a rousing stab at Rocky Top brought an apropos end to our night, as we pondered the high ceiling that awaits Union Duke in its push for fruition. Two stops and an unequivocal three-for-three record in terms of fun? We’ll take a concert schedule like that any night of the week. - Society Vernacular

"Folk-rockers Union Duke bound for Maritimes"

Toronto-based folk-rockers Union Duke are gearing up for what they consider the band’s biggest show yet— opening for Elliott Brood in Halifax, N.S.

The band is traveling all-expenses paid to the Maritimes to play at Dalhousie University’s homecoming today, courtesy of the Dalhousie Student Union.

“Playing music for anybody, anywhere is awesome— it’s probably the best feeling in the world,” said lead singer

Matt Warry-Smith, 21, a first-year radio broadcasting student at Humber.

He said this is the second trip to Halifax for the band this year, after a two-week east coast tour this summer.

Warry-Smith said that Union Duke got the gig thanks to his childhood friend and manager of the band, Warren Katz.

Katz is also the co-founder and president of the online music publication The New Halifax.

“He’s the road dog and touring manager for a few dubstep acts, so he’s kind of into the whole booking scene,” said Warry-Smith.

He added that Union Duke is the furthest thing from a dubstep sound.

“I’d call it folk-country-rock-bluegrass. In that order,” he said.

Katz said though the band has more than enough material to straddle a couple of different genres, they’ve really hit that up-and-coming alt-country sound.

He said Union Duke sent him a “wish list” of bands they’d like to play with.

“The list went: the Beatles, Elvis, Elliott Brood,” he said.
Katz said he naturally went with the band’s third choice.

Aside from being an avid supporter of his long-time friend, Katz is also a fan of Union Duke’s music.

His favourite song, “Lonesome Me,” recently recorded and written by Warry-Smith, will be submitted to the adult alternative category at the Juno Awards next spring.

Jenna Shelley, 28, a new fan of the group, and her friends first heard Union Duke busking at Toronto’s overnight art festival, Nuit Blanche.

“They sounded sort of like Mumford and Sons when they first started,” she said. She said she and her friend literally ran across the street to hear Union Duke.

“It was the highlight of our night,” Shelley said. - Humber EtCetera


The List & Country Band (2014)
Cash & Carry (2014)
The List & Heartbreak Kid (2013)
Bandits & Bridges (2013)



Like a musical locomotive hurtling 'round the bend, Union Duke is a Toronto folk quintet that's taking the world by storm - one captivating performance at a time. Bridging soulful indie rock with bluegrass and country, these city-slickin' whipper-snappers unleash soaring vocal harmonies over heel-stomping beats, in a growing collection of irresistible songs that set hearts and dancefloors ablaze.

Union Duke's 2014 release Cash & Carry was recorded in a log cabin in the Ontario woods and features songs of love, loss, and a cheap shirt. On the heels of 2013's Bandits & Bridges, these five energetic troubadours delivered their second self-produced record in as many years, and their runaway train shows no signs of slowing. They are currently working on their 3rd studio album scheduled for release in Summer 2015.

As sweet as their albums have proven to be, the real buzz surrounding Union Duke has come from their energetic live performances. Touring across Canada these past few years in the same beat-up van that delivered them to their very first show, they have left a vast trail of amazement in their wake, selling out venues as headliners and topping the must-see lists at countless festivals. With banjos rambling, guitars wailing, and superb melodies shining through each tune, an infectious magnetism emanates from every stage they've had the privilege to grace.

The legend of Union Duke begins well over a decade ago, when founding members Matt, Ethan and Jim were drawn together by their teenaged hooliganism and a penchant for timeless music. They skipped class to jam on battered instruments in an old workshop, wrote as many songs as they could conjure, and soon enough were sneaking into bars around Toronto to play gigs at the tender age of 13. Their rough and rowdy dynamic was matched by newest additions Will and Rob, natives of Port Hope and Red Deer respectively, and the five road-ready pals haven't looked back since.

Come hell, high-water, or hitch-hiking, Union Duke is driven by grit and determination to make people dance the drunken two-step wherever they may roam. Catch 'em when you can.

Band Members