Musical evolution has been a hallmark of the Claudettes since forming as a duo in Chicago in 2011. That trend continues on “Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium,” the latest album from the band, performing at Emporium Wines/Underdog Café in Yellow Springs on Friday, April 6.
“Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium,” the studio follow-up to the 2017 live EP, “Pull Closer to Me,” is the second release from the revamped version of the Claudettes, which features founder Johnny Iguana (piano, vocals) with Berit Ulseth (vocals), Zach Verdoorn (guitar, vocals) and Matt Torre (drums).
Iguana recently answered some questions about the band and its new album, recorded in Valdosta, Ga., by Mark Neill, whose credits include the Black Keys and J.D. McPherson.
Q: What’s the biggest change since expanding the lineup?
A: That expansion has been accompanied by a shift away from mostly bluesy instrumentals to a much higher percentage of vocal songs. Since the beginning, the Claudettes have incorporated elements of blues, jazz, soul, punk, classical and Tin Pan Alley. This new album is going to be perceived as much more indie-rock than our previous recordings but I still believe this to be a roots-based band, with blues and piano still central to the sound, even as this new album lurches this way and that, from punky Cramps-like stuff to really mellow piano ballads.
Q: You've never been beholden to genre and this album is no exception. While it's eclectic, the album has a cohesive feel. How did you achieve that balance?
A: Producer Mark Neill has a very strong set of principles when it comes to the art and the science and the practice of recording. That cohesion is due in large part to him and his precepts. We did most of these tracks all live, just overdubbing vocals. It was usually one complete take of those, too, and adding some percussion and Mellotron sounds. Mostly you're hearing an old Rickenbacker bass, '40s Gretsch drums with decades-old heads, tuned by Mark for each song, an old Studer mixing desk, a room set up the right way, an acoustic upright bass and the sound of a band playing at conversational volume.
Q: What makes Emporium Wines/Underdog Café the right venue for the Claudettes?
A: It's just so utterly unique. It's a bunch of music lovers and wine drinkers gathered in a small room on a Friday evening. It's so different from the big music venues and music bars. It's hip in a very unpretentious, off-the-circuit way. I love the folks who work there, who run the place and who frequent the place.
WANT TO GO?
Who: The Claudettes
Where: Emporium Wines/Underdog Café, 233 Xenia Ave., Yellow Springs
When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 6. Two sets. All ages
Cost: Donation requested
More info: 937-767-7077 or www.emporiumwines.com
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