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The Claudettes at Otus Supply, 3 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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There’s nobody named Claudette in the Claudettes.

But once you hear it, you’ll be hard-pressed to forget the group’s name.

The Chicago troupe plays an idiosyncratic blend -- punk, blues, R&B, rockabilly, cabaret, some jazz -- that’s both indescribable and undefinable. It’s been honed over the course of three albums, including the new “Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium.” The latter, also brings the group into a new era, showcasing new vocalist Berit Ulseth and adding guitar into the mix via bassist Zach Verdoorn.

And the sound of evolution is music to the ears of Johnny Iguana, the Claudettes’ pianist and songwriter...

• The Claudettes is not trying to be a run of the mill band in any stretch of the imagination, according to Iguana. “I want to be original and striking and expressive within a roots setting,” he says by phone. “That’s where the band originated, so I don’t want to get too far away from it. It’s important to me to have the word ‘roots’ or ‘blues’ in the description. But I want to be able to argue our way into blues festivals, jazz festivals, any great venues in those musics we’d consider the ‘roots’ sound.”

• Though Iguana produced the group’s previous releases, the Claudettes enlisted Mark Neill (the Black Keys) at his Soil of the South studio in Georgia to help make “Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium!” “For this record I wanted another set of ears,” Iguana says, “someone to bring ideas and use the studio as an instrument. It was an interesting experience, not always relaxing. (Neill) has a very, very, very rigid sense of principles of what’s right and what’s not when you record. “We had to kind of conform and say ‘This is an experiment. This guy makes great records; I don’t want to fight for ego’s sake, sonically.’”

• The Claudettes’ eclectic approach can be a hard sell, but Iguana says the quartet revels in winning converts. “When we have gotten onto these blues festivals some people are confused but a lot of people come up to me and are excited about it,” he says. “They recognize the touchstones that are in there. We still do instrumentals and we have a big repertoire and we do covers; We can lean on some of that stuff to not scare people, but they always sound like the Claudettes. And that’s OK, I want to do some scaring of people.”

If You Go:

• The Claudettes

• 8 p.m. Thursday, April 5.

• The Parliament Room in Otus Supply, 345 E. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale.

• Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

• Call 248-291-6160 or visit otussupply.com.

Web Site: www.otussupply.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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