Kitty, Daisy and Lewis - Swing out sister, brother, sister

The siblings were bullied for wearing retro clobber, but they kept the Fifties vibe, and are playing Glastonbury

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis are a trio of siblings – Kitty, 18, Daisy, 22 and Lewis, 20 – from north London, who play thigh-slapping traditional rhythm and blues and hillbilly swing. With their quiffs and 1950s vintage look, which they have had ever since they were at primary school, it is as if they are transported from another era. Most endearing is that they recruit their mum and dad as backing musicians for their live shows, which includes Glastonbury this summer.

"At the beginning it was just us," says Kitty. "Then we dragged our parents into the band for live shows. They didn't want to do it at first. They were too embarrassed. My dad used to hide behind the speakers."

I meet the clan in their local pub in Kentish Town, near to the family home, where they still all live together. They release their first entirely self-penned second album, Smoking in Heaven, later this month, which includes their new single "I'm So Sorry", complete with plenty of trumpet solos.

Despite not having any mainstream chart success, this band have a very high-profile fanbase. Coldplay's Chris Martin personally hand-picked them for his US tour in 2009. "He was late on stage because he was jamming with us backstage in the dressing room and Kitty was trying to teach him harmonica," recalls Daisy.

"I'd just left school after my GCSEs," says Kitty. "I came down the stairs and mum said, 'Do you want to go on the Coldplay tour?' We were thrown in the deep end." They appeared in Dustin Hoffman's 2009 film Last Chance Harvey when they performed their remake of Johnny Horton's song "Mean Son of a Gun". Their 2008 single "Going Up the Country" was used in the closing credits of Jake Scott's film Welcome to the Rileys. Amy Winehouse is also mad about the family band.

"A month ago Amy dragged me into the kitchen of her local pub in Camden," says Daisy. "She said, 'I can't believe I'm with Daisy from Kitty, Daisy and Lewis!' and offered me chocolate Easter-eggs."

The band's sound is a mix of old-fashioned 1940s/1950s rhythm and blues, blues, roots music, jazz, country and western, Hawaiian, rock'n'roll and ska, which makes it impossible to pigeon-hole. They hate to be called a rockabilly band – "because that is just not what we are about," says Kitty.

They were teased at school for their quiff hairstyles and got called "Elvis" all the time. "Mum used to send me to primary school in old cowboy shirts with my quiff," says Lewis.

"I was called a farmer's wife when I went to school in old Fifties shirts," laughs Kitty.

"It wasn't so much a fashion thing," explains Daisy, who is getting married in July. "It's just the quality of clothes, after the Fifties, went downhill. Mum has an eye for old stuff and shopped in junk shops. We've always been wearing this stuff. It's who we are. It's what I feel comfortable in."

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis Durham started playing in their band in 2001, after they became a fixture at the Come Down and Meet the Folks Sunday-afternoon country and rockabilly club at north London's The Golden Lion pub with their parents, as young kids. "We would sit in the front row on three chairs listening to the bands. Then we'd get fired up and go home to play music," recalls Lewis.

Big Steve of the Arlenes, who ran the event, asked Lewis, then 10, to come and play banjo with him, and Kitty, then seven, joined him on drums. Daisy, 12, picked up her accordion for their next stage appearance. Soon they were headlining their first gigs in pubs as Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, while their school friends were at home doing their homework. Their first single "Honolulu Rock-a Roll-a" was released in 2005 on Resonance FM-linked label Oof!. Then, after a corporate gig in Topshop, where BBC Radio 1 DJ and Bestival curator Rob da Bank was DJ-ing, da Bank signed the teenagers to his indie record label Sunday Best. They released a second single, "Mean Son of a Gun", in 2006, followed by "Going Up the Country" and "(Baby) Hold Me Tight" in 2008.

In 2008 they released their self-titled debut album, which was a mixture of bluegrass, jive, and rhythm and blues covers their dad used to sing to them when they were children, together with new material, also released as a 10in vinyl album. In 2007 they produced a compilation album of their favourite music, A-Z – Kitty Daisy and Lewis: the Roots of Rock'n'Roll. The family home was always littered with musical instruments of all types.

"Mum and dad weren't the type of parents to say, 'put it down, you might break it,'" says Daisy. They listened to Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Wynonie Harris rather than modern music.

"We like the old sounds of records we listened to as kids and they are sounds we want to hear in our music," says Lewis. "If you listen to a Muddy Waters record you can hear two notes, and from that you can work out loads of other tricks." The whole family would jam together in the front room and spontaneously break out in song. "You'd be sitting on the sofa and someone would start playing," says Lewis. "One by one the others would enter the room and before you knew it a whole frenzy was going on. For us to play music with our parents is the most natural thing in the world to do."

The siblings are self-taught multi-instrumentalists who sing and swap instruments during songs. These range from banjo, glockenspiel, accordion, ukulele, harmonica, an electric lap steel guitar that Lewis built, to more traditional instruments such as guitar, drums, and piano.

Their half-Norwegian mum Ingrid Weiss – who plays double-bass – used to play drums in Kurt Cobain's favourite post-punk band, The Raincoats. When she turns up at the pub with the family dog, she looks conventional compared to the her three Fifties-inspired children. She is a keen collector of 1940s and 1950s dressmaking patterns, and makes vintage dresses for the girls.

Anglo-Indian dad Graeme Durham – who plays guitar in the band – owns and runs London's The Exchange mastering studios, which has done albums for Laura Marling, Foals, and The Chemical Brothers. He has produced and recorded Kitty, Daisy & Lewis's album at the vintage recording studio they have built at home. With 1940s and 1950s recording equipment, using ribbon microphones and tape, their homemade studio was inspired by Memphis's Sun Studios. This family is fixated with all things vintage, and releases music on vinyl, as well as digital downloads and on CD. Earlier this year Lewis opened his analogue recording studio in Soho's Riflemaker gallery, where the public could cut one song direct-to-10in disc. He collects and DJs 78rpm records.

"Old records have a pure and natural, open sound compared to music recorded on computers, which doesn't sound musical. When we built the studio at home we did bring in a computer. We heard it and laughed; it was so far below the quality of what we could do on tape recorders," says Lewis.

They have been referred to as the musical version of The Waltons because they smile happily on stage together. But, like any family, there are arguments – for them it's often on stage.

"Sometime we haven't decided what song to play for the encore, and dad wants "Paan Man Boogie", which we don't like anymore," says Daisy. "Dad's like, 'come on!'" There is also screaming, crying and walking out during rehearsals, and they give each other dirty looks, when mistakes happen. "But we're not going to split up over it," says Kitty. "We're a family. After five minutes, everything is back to normal."

'Smoking in Heaven' is out on 30 May. "I'm So Sorry" is out now, both on Sunday Best

Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal