Americana Highways is hosting this video premiere of The Claudettes’ song “Exposure,” from their forthcoming album The Claudettes Go Out!, due to be available on October 14th via 40 Below Records.
For the new album The Claudettes Go Out!, the band completed two sessions. The first was recorded and co-produced in Chicago by recent Grammy nominee Anthony Gravino (Kurt Elling, Charlie Hunter) and mixed in NYC by Grammy-winning legend Kevin Killen (David Bowie, U2, Elvis Costello). The second session, in Chicago, was helmed by Grammy-winning producer Ted Hutt (Violent Femmes, Old Crow Medicine Show) and mixed in LA by Hutt and Ryan Mall. It was mastered by Joe La Porta at Sterling Sound.
“Exposure” is Berit Ulseth on vocals; Zach Verdoorn on bass, guitar, bass VI and vocals; Michael Caskey on drums and vocals; and Johnny Iguana on piano and vocals.
The video was filmed, directed, and illustrated by Roman Berkowitz, with editing by Johnny Iguana. Starring in the video are the band: Berit Ulseth, Michael Caskey, Zach Verdoorn, Johnny Iguana; and the music biz reps are Christina Crossthwaite and AMNDTRN5K. All bands need exposure — when nobody know ya — even though people die from exposure, right? A lot of advice swirls like pointed daggers around indie bands who at heart just want to play what they love. It’s an enjoyable video for a cool song. The Claudettes have gone to the David Byrne side of things with this one.
We had a chat with Johnny Iguana of the Claudettes. The video appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: How did your new album coming out this fall get produced? What was that process like?
Johnny Iguana: We recorded an album and a half of songs in 2020 and 2021. The first half occurred before we felt we could safely reunite in a room, so we recorded our parts separately, then were lucky enough to have Kevin Killen (David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Tori Amos) mix it. A lot of emotion went into those performances, even with this piecemeal method, and these songs are really beautiful and sweet, too (I think we missed each other terribly). Then, we got to reunite with Ted Hutt (who produced our 2020 album “High Times in the Dark” and who has produced Violent Femmes, Lucero and many more) for a full-on live studio session in Chicago. The Claudettes Go Out! is an album that combines songs from both aforementioned sessions. I was concerned that maybe they wouldn’t go well together on a single album, but that turned out not to be the case. I find the emotional ride across these songs to be quite powerful, and it all sounds like the same band to me.
AH: What’s your favorite aspect of the song “Exposure”? What do you hope people will like about it?
JI: The song is a bit of a brash and bratty response to the pressure on bands to constantly gain “exposure” on all digital platforms and social-media sites. All we wanna do is be artists, not relentless self-promoters! And yet, of course, it’s necessary. Also, some bar-owning businessmen out there try to convince young bands and musicians to play for nothing or next to nothing, promising them the great benefit of “exposure.” As we shout in the chorus, “People die from exposure!!,” even as Berit ignores our cries and repeats the “Nobody knows ya, ya need some exposure” chorus. So, there’s dark comedy in there. As for the music in the song, I think it’s a JAM. Kind of Gang of Four meets B-52’s, with a bridge like The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” I love that blend…
AH: If someone listens to your new album all the way through, what two things will they learn?
JI: That Berit Ulseth is a remarkably versatile, soulful singer. Songs hear range from sad and beautiful to snarky and sardonic, and she just wins on all of it, as far as I’m concerned.
They’ll also realize how precious we ourselves hold being in a band together. The album closer “The Show Must Go On (And Then the Show Must End)” puts it plainly: this band, like everything else, won’t last forever. And that’s what makes each song, each album, each show so very precious. We love each other and are thankful to share this chapter in our lives together. “Time Won’t Take Our Times Away” is a deeply thankful song, celebrating the memories that live beyond life…the life of a person, the lifespan of a band…we are an emotional bunch, which is why I think we’re a good band (in addition to the thousands of hours of practice!). In fact, “There’s Too Much Affection in This World” is a song I wrote as an answer song to “All You Need Is Love.” I have so much affection for my bandmates, it’s almost too much…
AH: You’ve been characterized as “garage cabaret.” How does that sound, and tell us more about how your sound evolved.
JI: I coined that term specifically for our 2020 album High Times in the Dark. I think that was a good description of that album: punky, but slinky. The band is hot and perhaps overexcited, but Berit (our singer) is cool and unflappable. The new album, The Claudettes Go Out!, doesn’t sound like “garage cabaret” to me. This new album is rounder and warmer sounding, and more completely on the surface with its emotions. I love both albums…they are different…which makes sense, since we were in different places, emotionally, when we made these albums.
AH: What is something that has come out of your musical journey that you could have never anticipated when you chose to take this creative path?
JI: The first amazing part for me was when I joined the Junior Wells Band when I was 23. He was one of my three greatest musical heroes, and then I joined his band and toured the world with him for three years. I then toured with Otis Rush and had his home phone number in my possession. I never would have believed that when I was a 17-year-old piano player in a Philadelphia blues band. It feels similarly miraculous to me to have found Berit, Michael and Zach and to have become this version of the Claudettes together (we started the band just as the piano-drums duo of Michael and me). The personalities and sounds of these four people is a match I could never have endeavored to put together. It came about over time, and it’s perfect. I hope we do a lot more travels around the world together.
AH: What have you been doing lately as a side interest or hobby?
JI: Absolutely nothing. If I’m not playing piano and writing songs, I’m booking the Claudettes, booking our lodging, mailing out posters, coordinating promo for our shows, taking the vehicle in for checkups/oil changes, editing our music videos…just endless. B.B. King called it “Payin’ the Cost to Be the Boss.” And I’m not complaining…it’s all centered around the thing I love most: the Claudettes. Maybe I’ll find a hobby later in life. Not now. I already am short on time…I’m trying to do all I can to make the world realize that the Claudettes are the Bee’s Knees!
AH: When is the album coming out?
JI: Mid-October. We’ll announce specifics soon. By then, we will have put out four of its songs as singles. After the album release, we’ll begin to release four more songs from the album sessions that we kept separate from the albums. Thank you for speaking with me, and hello from Arkansas (we’re playing here tonight).
Find the song by the Claudettes, here: http://fortybelow.ffm.to/exposure