Not only is Spuyten Duyvil’s name hard to pronounce, but no one’s really sure what it means.
“It’s a subject of debate,” said Mark Miller, guitarist for the band. “It’s colloquial, 17th-century Dutch, and I have asked some native Dutch speakers, and they are confused about what the real meaning is.”
The band will play at Me and Thee Coffeehouse tomorrow night, and their name (pronounced SPITE-in DIE-vil) comes from a Bronx neighborhood that is next to Yonkers, where the musicians all live.
Washington Irving wrote in his history of early New York that Spuyten Duyvil means “in spite of the devil.” While Miller thinks that’s wrong, he prefers it to other interpretations.
“We wanted to have a name that reflected our connection with where we live and the history of where we live,” he said. “But also something contextually about the music we write.”
Miller said their music expresses optimism “in spite of” influences to the contrary.
“‘In spite of the devil’ to me is a way of living,” he said. “Pessimistic people tend to think everything is going downhill. I think things are, generally speaking, getting better. So, I live ‘in spite of’ the negativity in society.”
Pessimists also feel that everything was better in the past, Miller said, which extends to the songs they listen to and play.
In contrast, when Spuyten Duyvil reaches into history for musical influences, it does so in order to recover something relevant to the present.
“I would define our music as American roots,” he said. “We draw on old-timey, second-line music, bluegrass, folk, and some straight up rock ’n’ roll, and a little punk rock energy.
“All of those styles come from the same roots, and we’re trying to bring them back together.”