Smile Politely

The tale of The Claudettes

Almost all Blues music out today is really beholden to old records and trying to copy it. No one wants to hear it. As I’ve gotten older I’m less worried about impressions. With our music, you can pick out a bunch of different influences that arise from one track to another, but The Claudettes have an original foundation and our personalities helped. Some of the music is clearly happy and jubilant, and some have sadness to them. But there’s craft.

That was Johnny Iguana speaking; pianist, musician, and one of the two members of The Claudettes, a duo changing the stereotype of traditional Blues music we know today by adding a wild, upbeat twist.

The Claudettes found a name for themselves after Iguana, from Chicago, and Michael Caskey, from Michigan, collaborated their drumming and piano playing skills and took a trip down to Oglesby, Illinois where they met Claudette, the owner of Claudette’s Bar. The duo picked up the name, officially going by The Claudettes, and worked out a deal where Claudette could sell alcohol to customers while the duo jammed with their instruments. The story of The Claudettes begins there, but Iguana’s journey started a few years ahead.

“I was always interested in playing music since I was a teenager,” said Iguana. “I played in Blues Groups, but I always had punk bands. I just played whatever felt good inside of me to play. For years I always liked collaborating different places with different music. That’s what made life more than living.”

With a group name to go by, a location to play at, and a crowd to listen, The Claudettes had the complete package of a growing artist with one exception: a record label. That’s where Yellow Dog Records comes into play.

“Up-in-coming bands will send out their records to labels, and that’s how we were introduced to Yellow Dog Records,” said Iguana. “They really prize groups with their own type of music that aren’t about playing one type of music. A while after [sending our demo in], they replied back. Mike Powers had listened and was enjoying it, but they were busy and didn’t have lot to put out.”

As the tale unfolded, The Claudettes were signed to Yellow Dog Records.  Now with their album Infernal Piano Plot…Hatched on sale and ready for the public, Iguana’s music creating styles for the album are an interesting aspect to reflect on.

“Some days we have time to sit down and play the piano,” said Iguana. “Like with any art we try to work at it. But muse and inspiration isn’t always there. I knew I was going to have four days alone in my house. And I just played piano day and night. The piano part came from a blissful four days by myself.”

The Claudettes have traveled far from the bar in Oglesby, Illinois and now work to spread their music to anyone with enough soul to listen.

“We got in the van and went far and wide going from Canada to France,” said Iguana. “It’s great seeing red dots with places that we know that we’re going to travel to. We’ve gotten to go to the Middle East and to Japan this last July. I love going to places I haven’t been yet.”

As for an overview of the live experience, Iguana’s got a few stories to tell.

“Our drummer is the most fun musician to watch,” said Iguana. “Claudette is always on stage screaming yelling at us and the audience while we’re playing music. In California there was this guy dancing to music and feeling it. Turns out he was totally deaf, but he could feel the pulse of [the music] and was just having a great time.”

The journey of The Claudettes is a story meant to go down in the books, but for now Iguana is just playing the music he loves being dedicated every step of the way.

“When in doubt, go out will appear on my gravestone,” said Iguana. “I had a night in New York City where I didn’t want to go, but I went out anyways and I met Jimmy Wells and they didn’t have a piano player at the time. I joined the band after that and it changed my whole life. I wouldn’t have moved to Chicago and started what I do now. If more people would decide to just go out people would have more enriching conversations and meet someone beautiful. At the very least you might have a great time. We might be out there when you go out.”

The Claudettes will be performing at Cowboy Monkey tonight at 9 p.m. with the Curses, We the Animals, and Curb Service. Try to give the band a listen, and if you’re in doubt, take Iguana’s advice and go out.

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