If you ever wished that Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull had recorded an album of folk-rock duets in 1966, The Dutchess And The Duke’s 2008 debut, She’s The Dutchess, He’s The Duke, was like a gift that finally arrived more than 40 years later. After stints in a number of different Seattle-area garage-rock bands, high school friends Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison stripped down to just acoustic guitars, an occasional tambourine, and their own rough-hewn harmony vocals for D&D. While the results are undeniably pretty, the songs also exude a dark sexuality that gives them a dangerous edge. (Hear them this Sunday, Dec. 6 at the 7th Street Entry.) Lortz talked with The A.V. Club about the group's newest, Sunrise/Sunset, and why misery is good for songwriting.
The A.V. Club: You’ve described The Dutchess And The Duke as an “experiment.” How so?
Jesse Lortz: It’s funny because the label wanted to put out an album with a band I played in before, The Fe Fi Fo Fums, which was this really straightforward, garage-punk band that I was burned out from doing. So I said, “Why don’t you check out this 7-inch The Dutchess And The Duke recorded?” And they really liked it. I guess it was good timing. We never expected anything to come of it. We never expect anything to come of anything.
AVC: Why do you think this group caught on in a way your other bands didn’t?
JL: The songs are maybe a little more unique [and] kind of more heartfelt, rather than just “let’s go party and get wasted.” And people like listening to other people’s misery. I don’t know if that makes it easier to sell records, but I kind of think it does.
AVC: Is there a lot of misery on the first record?
JL: Yeah. It was a lot of memories coming back. I was going through a lot of depression and shit like that, and it just started coming out. The next thing I knew, I had 10 songs.
AVC: It doesn’t really come off as depressing music, though.
JL: Good. [Laughs.] It was a way to deal with history, I guess. And it’s funny because a lot of people don’t think of it as a downer record. I’m the one who thinks it’s most of a downer because they’re all my issues.
AVC: Is the new record more optimistic?
JL: Definitely. I wrote it in a week because we had to record over spring break. All I was thinking about was, “I’ve got this baby on the way, and I’ve got to make a record.” It was kind of weird because our first record came out before we were even a band, and it felt like it was expected [that the next album] be another depressing record.
AVC: Are you a better songwriter when you’re happy or miserable?
JL: Probably when I’m miserable—just because it’s easier to get carried away in your emotions when they’re downer emotions. If you’re happy, you feel like you’re bragging. It’s not like I’m super happy all the time, but my situation has changed quite a bit.
AVC: Your vocals are often compared to Mick Jagger. Do you hear Jagger when you sing?
JL: Not really. Maybe on the first record because we were just trying to figure out our sound. And I was listening to a lot of Stones, so it makes sense that I would have hid behind a Mick Jagger-like voice. But having actually been a band for a year and playing a ton of shows, we’ve started to get our own voices.
AVC: How has being in a band with Kimberly affected your friendship?
JL: I feel like it’s probably made us closer. When you’re just friends, you can let each other slide on a lot of shit. We’re friends but we’re also business partners. We have to call each other out sometimes. But we also give each other encouragement more than if we were just friends. This will hopefully be how we make money, going on tours, and making records. If we don’t get along, it’s not going to work, so it’s added incentive to get along. [Laughs.]
AVC: Do people assume that you’re a couple?
JL: They used to, but not so much anymore. That’s just our society. A man and a woman are hanging out, and they’re obviously fucking. It’s just the way it is.