The endlessly talented musician and visual artist Jesse Lortz has been working in Production at Stumptown Seattle for over two years. He is more widely known as the gruffer half of the band The Dutchess and the Duke (this video is very charming), along with songwriter Kimberly Morrison. Most recently, Jesse has been writing and recording music under the moniker Case Studies, making records as raw and warm as his former project, but sonically more lush and dynamic, and according to Jesse “unfiltered, self-administered psychotherapy.” Case Studies’ lovely new record This is Another Life, produced and engineered by Greg Ashley of the band Gris Gris, came out on Sacred Bones last week. He plays a show at Tractor with Horse Feathers and Pretty Broken Things on June 22.
We talked with him a bit about becoming a father, reading Ovid by candlelight, and eliciting cadence counsel from Rick Ross.
Hey Jesse! Thanks for chatting with us. First, a bit of background, if you please. Where are you from?
I am from Maple Valley, Washington. It’s about a half an hour southeast of Seattle.
Have you always played music?
I have always made up songs. When I was a little kid I made up songs about not wanting to do my chores, or needing glasses. I played in band in grade school, (saxophone, second chair) but I couldn’t read the music, just played along. My first real job as a dishwasher, I bought an electric guitar and a little practice amp. Since then it has kind of taken over.
Tell me about this new record, This is Another Life. How is your band Case Studies different writing-wise and musically for you than Dutchess & The Duke?
It is harder to listen to the Case Studies stuff. D/D had the same lyrical content but it was juxtaposed with the jaunty boy / girl dynamic. A little more accessible. Case Studies is pure unfiltered, self-administered psychotherapy, and not nearly as poppy.
What was your collaboration with producer/musician Greg Ashley (of Gris Gris) like?
He is a genius. We have a sort of weird rivalry / mutually respectful relationship. I would love to eventually compose a record alongside of him, instead of already having the songs figured out once he enters the picture. He is an excellent composer.
Your initial idea with Case Studies was to collaborate with anyone who signed up to play with you after learning the songs and each show would be entirely different. What happened with that experiment? Did you play any shows this way?
We played a show kind of like that at Arabica, in Seattle. It was part of a collaboration between myself and Garek Druss, we did some back and forth drawings together at my apartment and then one of his bands, Dull Knife, and Case Studies played. The lineup was me and the ladies that sang on the record. It was pretty incredible, but it was impossible for me to fully realize that original concept at the time. I was really poor and really depressed.
You are also a visual artist. Any other non-music projects in the works for you?
I’m working on a children’s book and Garek and I are gearing up to do another collaboration in the winter. Always drawing and I have just recently been working on some hand animated short films.
What are you really liking and inspired by right now?
Folk tales, Physics, Mythology, keeping our house plants alive, spending time with my little boy and trying to get out and do some camping with my lady this summer.
What have you been listening to and reading?
I have been listening to a lot of Kanye West and Rick Ross. I am learning new vocal and lyrical cadences from that stuff. Reading Phillip K. Dick, Cormac McCarthy and just started reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses by candlelight!
I heard that you are a relatively new Dad. How’s that treating you? Any sage advice to expound on in honor of Father’s Day this week?
It’s hard and magical. I need to constantly remind myself that although he is the smartest little boy in the world, he is still four years old, and can’t always understand what I am trying to teach him. My best advice would be to enter their world and try to think like them as much as possible. It makes things run a little smoother.
Always a pleasure to hear and see any of your work. Thanks for talking with us!