The Dutchess & the Duke have recently emerged from Seattle tracked by a growing legion of fans attracted to their weathered sound and compelling male/female dynamic. The Dutchess is Kimberly Morrison and the Duke is Jesse Lortz, two prolific musicians and performers who are beginning to receive the sort of acclaim their talents deserve. The duo released its first full-length, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke, this past July in the wake of a gritty 7-inch recalling classic moments of vintage rock and bluesy storytelling. After the release of their debut, the band — including percussionist Donnie Hilstad — took time to chat about tastes and preferences in the café of a SoHo Whole Foods.
I know you guys have been in a lot of other bands throughout the years -- I think Jesse was in Fe Fi Fo Fums. What other groups have you been in?
Jesse: The Sultanas. [Donnie] was in that, too, kind of '60s girl dance music.
I read about that. It sounds amazing.
Kimberly: We have the 7-inch.
Donnie: We have a lot of 7-inches.
[To Kim] Which bands have you been in?
Kimberly: I've been in the High Beams, The Intelligence, Unnatural Helpers, The Hacks, The Fallouts. Flying Dutchmen, Ian and the Barnetts...
Are you guys interested in doing side projects still, or is this kind of it for a while?
Kimberly: I always am.
Donnie: Yeah, and there are some side projects going on as we speak.
Kimberly: All mine are all weird right now.
Jesse: Donnie's in another band called Nice Smile with Rob Vasquez.
Donnie: Rob is a quasi-legendary Seattleite, hated and loved the world over. Or at least the city over.
Jesse: He's actually loved everywhere but Seattle. He's kind of reviled.
What are your favorite new bands to come out in the last couple years
Donnie: I like that King Khan and BBQ shit.
Jesse: I don't really listen to music.
Kimberly: I really like The Go a lot.
[To Jesse] You say you don't really listen to music and go to shows?
Jesse: I kind of stay home and eat lots of food.
Kimberly: I go to a lot of shows, but I don't know who I like -- I like The Lights.
Did you play SXSW this last year?
Kimberly: I did with my other bands.
Jesse: We'll probably play it this year.
Do you guys have a favorite decade of music?
Kimberly: Probably '60s.
Jesse: I would have to say probably the 1990s. I don't know -- I think now is pretty, even though I can't name off a list of bands I like. It's cool to be in the music scene right now at least, because you're in a position to just have friends everywhere.
I think the internet's made a huge impact on that, too. Bands can get noticed and you can have your show up -- people can talk shit the next day, which is better than people saying nothing. Maybe, maybe not.
Jesse: People saying nice things — it's so immediate — you don't really have time to sit and think about what you really want to say. You just kind of crap it out all over.
Did you guys have a favorite record as a kid?
Jesse: Huey Lewis and the News. California Raisins.
Donnie: I don't want to sound too hip, but I really liked that Joan Jett and the Blackhearts record.
What's your favorite venue or city that you've played in so far?
Jesse: I liked Atlanta.
Kimberly: Atlanta was really, really fun.
Where did you guys play in Atlanta?
Jesse: The Drunken Unicorn. It's two blocks away from our friend's house, where we went immediately after and played ping pong and drank until six in the morning.
Had you guys been before?
Kimberly: No. We got to hang out with this really cool guy named Vijay. We played with his band at a record store earlier in the day. It was just really fun.
Jesse: For me, going and playing shows, the exciting part is not even really the show itself, but hanging out. The show is a small part of it.
Did you guys take a different approach when you were starting and recording the 7-inch versus recording the record? There's a different sound on it.
Jesse: Well, when we did the 7-inch, it was really fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. Our friend who recorded it was still trying to figure out how to use all his stuff. Like, when we did the LP, he got some nicer microphones and had a better handle on how to work everything. We wanted to rush it, but we ended up just taking our time.
All in Seattle?
Jesse: Yeah, West Seattle.
Do you guys have a favorite track off the record?
Donnie: I like “Out of Time” and something about a whip or a stick—
Jesse: Oh, “Back to Me.”
Kimberly: “Out of Time is the one that gets stuck in my head the most, that I find myself singing to myself all day long.
Jesse: My favorite is “Strangers.”
Who does the writing?
[Everyone points to Jesse.]
Do you have a favorite lyric that you wrote for the record?
Jesse: No. They're all equally miserable.
Is there any song that you wish you could hear again for the first time?
Jesse: And feel that feeling again? Yeah, there was this song, “You Don't Know What Love Is” by -- I can't think of the guy's name -- some jazz guy.
Donnie: “The Trip” by Kim Fowley. I had an out-of-body experience.
Do you guys have a guilty pleasure song? Like “Umbrella” or anything like that?
Kimberly: I listen to all that stuff, I love it.
Jesse: I really like that Cassie song, that “Me and You” song that came out.
Kimberly: It was pretty cool actually when we were rolling into San Francisco. Jesse was fooling around with my iPod and he started bumping my best of Def Jams, so we're rolling down the freeway to Montell Jordan, “This Is How We Do it.”
Where are you guys going to go next with your music? Have you started writing anything new?
Jesse: We've got three new songs since the album, and we've got a bunch more music that we're working on. It'll just kind of be whatever it is. It might have drums.