Duzheknew Cousins find a perfect union

Nova Scotia acts frequent tourmates collaborators

Friends bandmates and frequent collaborators Adam O’Reilly and Aaron Mangle are the madcap minds behind Halifax’s Duzheknew and Cousins. Collectively known as Duz/Cuz and currently in the midst of a multi-month tour of the U.S. and Canada the duo brings converse but complementary approaches to pop music. While Duz packs a skewed set of sensibilities from the (art) school of Talking Heads Cousins’ heart-on-sleeve torch burners will thaw even the frostiest frowns. For this jaunt the groups have once again altered ever-shifting lineups to create fresh incarnations.

“Tour is going really great!” O’Reilly says. “We’ve had surprising receptions everywhere and lots of great turnouts. For the Duzheknew setup this time around I’m playing guitar and singing Aaron is on drums and our friend Dave Ewenson is on saxophone and conga percussion. For Cousins Aaron plays guitar and bass drum and our friend Lee is also on drums. Both bands are way different than most people have seen them in the past but we like to keep it that way.”

Last month the Maritimers also made their first appearances at Austin’s annual SXSW music festival. In the midst of a four-day sensory overload the band decided to create its own fun stepping off the beaten path of industry-sanctioned events.

“It was pretty overwhelming” admits O’Reilly. “There are a lot of crazy bands and I feel like we went down slightly unprepared. We don’t have any hype around us so we just decided to play on the street. We had four shows where we basically found a spot downtown set up and started playing. Tons of people came out and saw us and they ended up being our best sets. We had a couple of official shows as well but those were kind of garbage-y.”

Inspired by the success of these ad hoc performances Duz/Cuz has taken to what they call “jazz busking” setting up in city parks or street corners just as often as bars. “It’s not that we get bored playing bar shows but a lot of the time the crowd’s kinds of ‘meh’ or we’re not feeling it” O’Reilly explains. “To combat that we just go out and busk. We’re all into jazz and love playing standards so that keeps us enthused.”

For this week’s stop in Calgary O’Reilly is excited to play all-ages venue the Fun Spot. Describing the enthusiasm of the city’s underage community as quite possibly the strongest in the country he wishes similar movements existed coast-to-coast.

“It’s a huge thing in the U.S. but here in Canada it seems like Calgary is one of the only places with a rampant all-ages scene” O’Reilly says. “Whenever we go we play these great shows and I almost feel like we blow minds in a funny way. Talking to kids I can tell we’re inspiring them not with our music but just by being on tour. They say ‘Wow you can do that?’ And I say ‘Yeah it’s pretty easy!’”

One final factor setting Duz/Cuz apart from the pack is an emphasis on alternative merchandise. Alongside T-shirts posters and cassettes — all stylishly screen-printed — they’re major proponents of books zines and high concepts. Recent items include a book called T-Shirt Rapidshare offering download codes for .eps files to print your own clothing plus a chord book full of songs that the bands have never played.

“My main goal is to get people thinking about music in different ways” O’Reilly says. “We do that not just by experimenting with the music itself but also with the way we’re producing and delivering it. It’s all about raising consciousness more than anything else but not in a pretentious way. I see it more like leaking knowledge into the world.”