The Duke Spirit dreams on 

Growing up in North London, Liela Moss wasn’t merely a sensitive child. She was downright spooky. Her home was haunted by an otherworldly presence, she believes.

"Most people felt it and kind of freaked out," Moss said. "Light bulbs would pop and the electricity would stop at exactly the same times on certain days of the week. The clocks would stop and I’d see lights, but I wasn’t afraid. Whatever it was wasn’t a frightening thing at all; it was more like a lingering form."

"The Shining" shenanigans didn’t stop there. Moss — who plays the Saturday at the Download Festival in Mountain View with her ethereal Goth-blues outfit the Duke Spirit — also had a recurring dream, she says, "where I was taken by the hand and went flying across buildings and streets near where I lived, then into a church where i saw a wedding."

Only later did she learn that an ancestor had committed suicide before taking her vows in that very chapel. "And it might sound crazy to you, but it all made sense to me as a kid. So, I think anybody can feel that kind of energy, if you put your mind to it. But some people just pay more attention to it than others," she says.

There isn’t much that Moss fears. On a recent trip through San Francisco, she wound up singing "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" with a scruffy homeless man in an alley outside the band’s venue, simply because she "felt that he was an exceptionally good soul — like an angel in unfortunate circumstances."

To track her sophomore Duke Spirit set "Neptune," she retreated to the desolate California-desert studio of producer Chris Goss, where she conjured up zen-like numbers like "My Sunken Treasure" and "I Do Believe."

"Even in such an arid place, life springs eternal," says the nature lover, who caught every last scenic sunrise and sunset she could. "And I think our record demonstrates that — it oscillates between a world of fuzzy, urgent rock, but it’s punctuated by moments where you take repose and look skyward, and something more spiritual shrouds your shoulders."

And ultimately, that’s what Moss, 29, wishes for her listeners — a fanciful childlike flight like hers, minus the ghosts, "where you’re on this incredibly energized trip, and then you stop and just listen to your own heartbeat. Listen to your heartbeat and look upwards."

IF YOU GO

Download Festival 2008

Who: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Gang of Four, Duke Spirit and others

Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, One Amphitheatre Parkway; Mountain View

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $20

Contact: (650) 967-3000 or www.livenation.com 

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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