The Dutchess & The Duke


The DUTCHESS and the DUKE: Kimberly Morrison and Jesse Lortz. Two kids hanging out together, growing up together, having fun together. Two kids pissed off at each other, picking on each other, blaming each other, calling each other’s bullshit. Two kids playing in all sorts of bands for years. Sometimes together, many times apart. Through all the years they’ve known each other, however unforeseen, however ridiculous, the result has always been inevitable…………………………

The first time they got around to playing music together was in 2002. Morrison was recruited by front man Lortz into the deconstructionist R n’ B group THE FLYING DUTCHMEN to play organ as “THE DUTCHESS,” an (unsuccessful) attempt to add an air of class to an otherwise classless group. After several singles and an album, the band broke up after a month long European tour. Lortz kept up the Boom Boom Party Records label with THE FE FI FO FUMS, a 3-chord punk trio with three singles and one LP under their belt, while Morrison was making waves all over the place with the INTELLIGENCE, the FALLOUTS and her latest group the UNNATURAL HELPERS. The one-time recording of the SULTANAS found Morrison and Lortz working together again on a dance-floor girl beat group, ala the Ronettes meets 60’s fuzz. From the ashes of their collective youth and these collaborations, the duo of Morrison and Lortz reunited and embarked on a journey to bring forth a poetic experiment that blurs the lines between American folk and pop music of yesteryear and today: The DUTCHESS and the DUKE.

2007 saw their debut single release on Boom Boom Castle Records, for “Reservoir Park” b/w “Mary.” Quoth Todd Killings (Victim of Time): “Executed with the conviction and genuine style of some of the best early 1960s teenage heartbreakers like Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Eric Burdon… [With] delicate layers of heart-meltingly harmonized vocals, it takes mere seconds… before it absorbs all of your attention and your mind starts searching for that checkpoint of familiarity that sucks you in without mercy.” Soon thereafter they settled in to the Fall season to record their first long player for Hardly Art, spending days and nights huddled over an 8-track in the Magical Basement Studios in West Seattle run by none other than Bryan Standridge (SUSPICIONS). With this wizard behind the reels, they enlisted many friends to help with their debut album, including Donnie Hilsdat (NICE SMILE) and Karen Mitchell (SUSPICIONS), while onstage, they recruited Ruben Mendez (COCONUT COOLOUTS) and Oscar Michel (GRIS GRIS). All in all, there were electric, acoustic and 12 string guitars, flute, tambourine, maracas, some bass, and always many, many voices. Think of the most depressing summer camp sing-along…….

The result: She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke. Some songs are dark confessions; some are painful admissions. Some songs toe the line between ugly and beautiful, like yourself. Compared to “Between the Buttons”-era Stones, Dylan and Leonard Cohen, TheDUTCHESS and the DUKE’s songs marked a turning point for Morrison and Lortz. From the dark gypsy swagger of “The Prisoner” to the lilting harmonies on “Out of Time,” each song touts magnetic guitar lines and vocals so straightforward that they belie all other intricacies. The b-side from their debut single, “Mary,” was so described by Steve Borchardt (Terminal Boredom): “I can't think of a modern record I've ever heard where the lyrics have struck me as being as well-written… [with a] melody as every bit as evocative and touching as the lyrics. And that's not hype, that's the truth.” Like a transmission sent 50 years ago that is just now being received, The DUTCHESS and the DUKE have crafted an unassuming album full of possibility and urgency, reminding us of the basic human condition that is all too often forgotten or ignored.

Making these sounds together was a completely new game to these two kids. There is nowhere to hide in their songs. No squawking feedback. No drunken haze. No broken, drool-filled microphones. Simple and striking harmonies unlike nothing else this duo had previously ventured towards. These songs and the way they are played are completely vulnerable, uncertain, real and terrifying....