THE WAY JESSE LORTZ tells it, the Dutchess and the Duke aren't in it for the long haul. "I never planned on being a professional musician," claims the singer/guitarist for the Seattle group. "I know that this will end at some point. People are going to get sick of listening to the songs, or it will dry up—eventually, I mean. Hopefully we'll have a couple more records, but I don't want to be holding onto something just because."
Lortz formed the Dutchess and the Duke with longtime friend Kimberly Morrison (who, for the record, is in the music game for the long haul). Their twin-acoustic sound has been referred to as "campfire punk," but it's actually reminiscent of that distinctly European take on folk-rock that cropped up in the 1960s: a little French chanson here, a little Between the Buttons there, a dose of 12-string twang, and tambourine and maracas to fill it out.
It's a sound that was reached by accident. "We were doing a kamikaze BBQ-party band, with really minimal drums so we could set up and just play," says Lortz. "Then we did a single and it totally didn't fit into what we were trying to do. We thought it would be like a one-off—I thought I was going to get fucking blasted for it."
That single, "Reservoir Park," caught the attention of Hardly Art, who liked the song's acoustic vibe. Says Lortz, "The label was like, 'Hey, do you want to do an album?' We were like, 'Yeah, totally!' And they were like, 'Do you have more songs?' and I was like, 'Uh... yeah, totally!' [He laughs.] Then we got the advance and it was like, 'Okay, I guess I'll write an album of this shit.'"
The band's excellent second album, Sunset/Sunrise, has similarly hasty origins; Lortz wrote most of it only after deciding to work with Greg Ashley of Gris Gris in his Oakland studio, a former creamery. Sunset/Sunrise was written with the cavernous space in mind, and it's a remarkable expansion on their minimal sound.
Since the completion of the record, Lortz has uncharacteristically written another batch of songs with no looming deadline. He's in the middle of a divorce, and he hopes to use the new songs for a solo project. "It's basically just a narrative of the week before I left my wife. It's similar stuff but it's a little more stripped down. It's not a huge departure. It's just something that I need to do on my own."