INTERVIEW: The Claudettes

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

GREAT! The album came out on March 23, and we’re deep into band practices for the touring that starts April 4.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Don’t Stay With Me”?

I wrote the main piano riff first, then the vocal melody, borrowing some of the types of phrases that Berit sounded so stellar on when we covered a Lesley Gore song. Here’s how I’ve describe the song that was then born: “A hot rhythm but a cold tale of a mismatched couple, where the much more alluring half wishes her sweet-but-unexciting partner would do the hard part for her and break things off.”

Did any event inspire you to write this song?

No, just the sound of the music and the vocal melody–those led the way. The words that followed echoed the sentiments of the music.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

Joe Martinez, Jr. took my concept and ran with it, bringing us to a studio (it was boiling hot in there, by the way) and spinning us around on mechanical spinning floors and doing some really cool things with bright lights and total darkness.

The single comes off your new album Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium – what’s the story behind the title?

I titled the instrumental title track first. The music just sounded like a ’60s wild gonzo punky blues thing. I thought of a school dance gone haywire…and the title followed. The title of that track seemed like a great title for the album overall.

How was the recording and writing process?

I wrote pretty fast and furious once the band really started to gel on tour. We recorded in 10 days in Georgia and Mark mixed on his own, sending me the tracks as they unfolded.

What was it like to work with Mark Neill and how did that relationship develop?

Mark had emailed me out of the blue, having heard the Claudettes’ earlier recordings. He was right–it was a great match. His drums sounds and his love of ’60s sonics in particular was a perfect match for this batch of songs. Mark has his own very strong notions about the right way to record, the wrong way to record, about recording at low volumes, about doing things in single takes rather than patching things together. It made for some challenges, but they were all worth it, as I hear the album now…

How much did he influence the album?

He fully changed some of our drum parts and he made some great overdub suggestions and percussion suggestions. The songs were mostly fully formed but he went a long way in creating the sonic universe in which they now live. I think it’s unusually atmospheric…kind of apocalyptic, thanks to that booming, singing, Phil Spector-esque bass drum and the rabid, snarling Cerberus of a bass sound.

What role does Chicago play in your writing?

It plays a role in that the grit and soul of Chicago blues has been impacting me since I first fell in love with it at age 15 or so. That spirit mixed with the punk I’ve loved since that age, too–and the classical I grew up playing…and the crossover blues-jazz of guys like Bobby Timmons and Mose Allison–to help birth this Claudettes sound. A big part of this sound, of course, comes from the particular human beings in this band with me. They all have lots of heart, soul and great tones.

Known for playing with different genres – how do you normally tend to balance all those influences together?

That split of different genres comes about naturally, like some kind of fusion cooking based on a mix of regional and cultural influences. I think this blend sounds puzzling to some (since most bands are very firmly ONE genre, which, according to business models, is how you’re SUPPOSED to do it!). It’s rootsy and old but new and punky…there’s an elegance and a rudeness, too.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Every song is different. Some are based on frustrations and anxieties about the world and the Internet Age, some were inspired by stories and news I heard on the radio or real-life stories of people I know, still others arose from just the sound of words I wrote to fit musical phrases.

Any plans to hit the road?

Oh, yes (more to come):

What else is happening next in The Claudettes´ world?

Writing, writing, writing all the time. We already have 17 songs in queue for the next album. But until that recording, we’re going to squeeze every bit of emotion and energy out of this album’s songs. This band is really special on stage. It’s an experience. It’s Berit Ulseth, Zach Verdoorn, Danny Yost, Johnny Iguana. There’s no other band anything like that.

Listen here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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