Pixies were not just my favorite band of the last two decades, but the best band of the ’80s and probably ’90s by far. So news that Black Francis started a band called Grand Duchy with his wife, Violet Clark, to release a potent dose of “experimental pop” warranted my special attention. I rapped with the pair for Rolling Stone, and reviewed the release for Tribune’s Metromix. Oh my golly.
“I am a duke,” Thompson goofed by phone with his spouse from their home in Portland. “I wear a Marlon Brando mumu wrapped around my body.”
Clark provided backing vocals and bass on the Frank Black releases Bluefinger and Svn Fngrs, but Grand Duchy is a more collaborative family affair. After floating the single “Fort Wayne” online, the duo released the Lovesick EP and full-length Petit Fours across the pond in February and in America this April.
It was a painful creation.
“I gave birth to two kids between the ‘Fort Wayne’ single to the American release of Petit Fours,” Clark explained. “The album was a natural extension of our life. The downside was that our life kept getting in the way.”
What they ended up with is described by Clark as “experimental pop,” a rocktronic mixture of stomps and synths. From the raunchy “Come On Over to My House” to the ethereal “Seeing Stars,” Petit Fours turned out to be a horny good time.
“One of the hallmarks of our relationship is sexual tension,” Clark confessed. “We’re still boyfriend and girlfriend.” Grand Duchy go on tour in May, right before Charles jets to the Isle of Wight to join the Pixies in June. But according to the duo, a wish-list double-bill isn’t in the cards.
“I don’t think it is the realm of possibility,” Thompson said. “Kim Deal invited us to play the All Tomorrow’s Parties set that the Breeders are curating, but we can’t do it for logistical reasons,” Clark added. “There’s certainly no ill will; it’s only support. But a double-bill would be emotionally confusing.”
That’s probably good news for cash-strapped Pixies fans interested in purchasing the forthcoming Minotaur box set, whose details are still a mystery to the band’s leader. “I don’t know much about that,” Thompson admitted, “except that it seems very big and very expensive. But we’re working our own box set for the Der Golem soundtrack. It will also be nice, but much less expensive.”
This interview appeared in Rolling Stone
Coming off as a cross between Pixies stomp, Breeders pop and electronica soundscaping, “Petits Fours” is an approachable sonic mosaic. The gothic grind of “Black Suit” and garage thrash of “Come on Over to My House” finds Black thankfully screaming his lungs out once again.
Clark mostly holds her own against the legend, shaking the surf boogie of “Volcano!” like a moneymaker and going ethereal with ease on “Seeing Stars.” Only the Auto-Tuned disco of “Ermesinde” and digi-rock of “The Long Song” fall comparatively flat.
But with great expectations come great challenges. Nobody’s perfect. Just ask Kim Deal.
This review appeared in Tribune/METROMIX