Grand Duchy

Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV is a man of many monikers: Black Francis, Frank Black, Frank Black Francis. Now comes the Pixies frontman’s latest musical guise, Grand Duchy, a duo he formed with his wife, Violet Clark.

The combo — which features both Thompson and Clark on vocals, and a melodic guitars-meet-synthpop sound — is set to release its debut album, Petits Fours, in the U.S. on Tuesday.

The record’s already out in Europe, and American fans can get a sample by buying the Lovesick digital EP, or checking out a few tunes on Grand Duchy’s MySpace — including a knockout cover of The Cure’s “A Strange Day” from Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to the Cure, which dropped in January.

Come May, the band will embark on a short West Coast “warm-up tour” (see dates below) before Thompson reactivates the Pixies for some summer festival dates across the pond.

In an interview with Magnet Magazine’s Web site — which Grand Duchy “guest edited” last week — Thompson and Clark discussed their contrasting approach to ’80s music, summarized by a note from Thompson in the band’s press kit that reads, “She digs the ’80s. I had spent the latter part of the ’80s trying to destroy the ’80s.”

Clark: It’s not as black and white as that. It’s not just the ‘80s, though. It’s pop music. A pop sensibility that, historically, Charles hasn’t catered to.

Thompson: It was just a reference point. What was the Pixies’ stance when we started in 1988? I suppose it was anti-‘80s—not the pop/new wave so much but more the mainstream hard rock or fancy hair metal. I don’t know if the Pixies were trying to be anything at that time, but we were trying to not be that. Which we wouldn’t have been able to do, anyway. So that’s my ’80s connection. Violet happens to dig a lot of the pop stuff from that decade, particularly the early part of it.

In other news, Thompson also is promising to release, under the Black Francis handle, a box set featuring the score for the 1920 silent film “Der Golem” that he wrote and recorded with Pixies studio/touring keyboardist and former Magic Band/Pere Ubu member Eric Drew Feldman.

Tracklist: Grand Duchy, Petits Fours

1. “Come On Over To My House”
2. “Lovesick”
3. “Fort Wayne”
4. “Seeing Stars”
5. “Black Suit”
6. “The Long Song”
7. “Break The Angels”
8. “Ermesinde”
9. “Volcano!”

Grand Duchy tour dates:

May 1: Nightlight, Bellingham, WA
May 2: Jazzbones, Tacoma, WA
May 3: WoW Hall, Eugene, OR
May 5: The Crepe Place, Santa Cruz, CA
May 6: The Uptown, Oakland, CA
May 8: Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa, CA
May 9: TBA, San Diego, CA
May 10: The Cellar Door, Visalia, CA
May 11: Harlow’s, Sacramento, CA

Video: Grand Duchy performing “The Timbers”

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