In 1987, Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV released his first record with the Pixies (fans know him best as Black Francis in that band). Over the next two decades he would reemerge as a solo artist (Frank Black) and with a band (the Catholics), cut a few records in Nashville, and even step behind the boards as a producer for Art Brut on Art Brut vs. Satan, which came out earlier this week. Now he’s ready to reveal another new project: Grand Duchy, a sonic family affair featuring his wife, keyboardist and bassist Violet Clark.
“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.”