The Duke Spirit's feisty front-woman gives the lowdown on her amped-up style. By Erin Donnelly
What is it about females fronting otherwise male rock bands that make them so darn cool? In the case of tambourine-shaking Liela Moss of British rock export The Duke Spirit, it's a commanding stage swagger; bewitching, bluesy vocals that have earned comparisons to a pre-Starship Grace Slick; platinum, Blondie-by-way-of-Brixton locks; and a rebellious, appropriately rock-infused fashion sense swathed in sex appeal.
Hot on the heels of the release of her band's second album, Neptune, and gearing up for an American tour with the band, Moss took a breather to speak with us about her love for indie designers, the female musicians who have inspired her, and her style survival kit while on the road. And though music is what makes her tick, it's clear that fashion is never far from the singer's mind. "I'm doing a couple of collaboration projects with some designers, so I shall be wearing some new stuff that I've had a hand in creating," she tells us. "This will be personally very satisfying."
What are your five most loved items lurking in your closet?
1. "A jumper dress by Bernard Willhelm."
2. "An all-in-one shorts thing by Suzy at Unhee."
3. "A circus ringmaster-style black blazer by Rag & Bone."
4. "A Canadian Mounty ex-military cape from an Army & Navy store in Toronto."
5. "A gold tunic by Renata Morales in Montreal."
What do you find yourself constantly wearing?
"A black all-in-one unitard—you can put anything over the top and always feel like you have a complete outfit—and a gold bit of rope. Strangely, this adds a touch of maritime regality to any boring old T-shirt."
What's on your fashion wish list for fall?
"Givenchy! There have been so many sculpted, crazy big pleat/ruffle things out of Givenchy that I love. Gorgeous."
From left to right: Liela on the cover of The Duke Spirit's Neptune album; Liela at the All Points West festival, photo by Kimi.
How would you sum up your personal style?
"Classic shapes with a bit of a savage sexual feel to them, masculinity within the feminine, and always something you can run around in and thus be empowered by. I love pleats, puffs, and patterns as long as something—usually the color black—infuses it with a hard simplicity."
Who are your favorite designers or labels?
"They're all fairly recent discoveries, and all came about through meeting the designers themselves, who were fans of our live show: Renata Morales, D'Albert, formerly of D'Albert & Hart, Unhee, and the Kiki de Montparnasse shops. More generally, [I like] Alexander McQueen for his sheer brilliance over the years; Hussein Chalayan for his exhilarating genius and architectural style; Junya Watanbe—oh my God!; and Bernard Willhelm for gorgeous geometrics—if that is a word!"
Liela with her bandmates
Ever steal clothes from your bandmates?
"Yep. Jeans. Vests. Many, many pairs of socks have ended up in my luggage for some reason."
As the female singer of a rock band, do you feel there is added pressure to have a strong style?
"If anything I tried not to 'dress up' for the first few years, to shy away from being the brassy blonde 'frontfrau'! However, with so much touring and a genuine love for clothes, I got bored and wanted to wear stronger-looking stuff. I also think that by exploring what I could wear, I found new moves on stage."
Liela poses in studio, photo by Jamie Beeden; Liela rocking the tambourine and her favorite Unhee onesie
What female musicians have influenced your fashion tastes?
"Björk, Chrissie Hynde, Marianne Faithful, Grace Jones, Courtney Love, and Tina Turner."
What else influences your look?
"Bryan Ferry, The Stones, Truffaut films, La Dolce Vita by Fellini, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the accessories grotto, Tatty Devine."
What fashion trend are you sick of seeing?
"Pork pie fucking hats!"
Liela looking dreamy (and like a ringer for Brigitte Bardo), photo by Andrea Spotorno
Clothes-wise, what do you live in while on tour?
"Siwy jeans, thrift-shop T-shirts, and blazers."
What are your favorite boutiques?
"Kokon To Zai, Sigerson Morrison, Selfridges, and vintage shops around the world."
Let's talk about those blond locks. Who does your hair?
"I've always done it myself, hence not being able to reach the back. Just last month for the first time ever I let a lovely called Jenay at the Juan Juan Salon in Beverly Hills do it."
Which of your song titles best describes your style?
"'Love is an Unfamiliar Name' on our first album, and 'This Ship was Built to Last' on our latest album, Neptune."
Liela onstage in Brussels, photo by Oliver Cesar
If you could trade closets with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Besides The Duke Spirit, what bands are you into?
"CSS, TV on the Radio, Future of the Left, Archie Bronson Outfit, Last of the Shadow Puppets, and Joanna Newsom."
What do you listen to while getting ready?
"The Stones, The Clash, and Jackie Wilson."
You studied art. Do you still pursue that when not making music?
"I love to see plenty of exhibitions, but I don't draw anymore. I honestly have a problem with creating material images as I feel like I make clutter around me. It's a weird reaction, I know, but I just prefer to sketch in terms of words rather than have pages of designs or pictures strewn around me. Maybe the urge will return. I'm in a lyrical phase right now."
The Duke Spirit's feisty front-woman gives the lowdown on her amped-up style.