With the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold across the globe, Folk and Tumble is taking time out to speak to the musicians and artists who though no fault of their own have found themselves out of work and facing uncertain futures. Next up in our series is Johnny Iguana, keyboard player with The Claudettes.
FT: You have a new album due for release in April 2020. Has the COVID19 situation had an impact on the release plans?
JI: The album is coming out as planned. We have press and radio and all that stuff rolling. And yet: like everyone else, we have a calendar full of cancelled dates including some UK dates we were excited about. Hopefully, they’ll be “delayed” more so than cancelled. But the gap between release date and tour dates is not ideal. I’m playing maximum piano at home, though!
FT: What can you tell me about your inspirations behind the new album?
FT: My bandmates are my inspiration. Berit’s singing, the friendship between us all and the great skills of Michael on drums and Zach on guitars. The title connotes some dark times we have had within our lives and families in the past year or two, and also the dark times on the planet and in America even BEFORE this virus descended. But, it also speaks to our insistence on having fun, taking chances, embarking on adventures… ’cause that’s what musicians do. ‘High Times in the Dark’. Perfect title for this band and this album.
FT: How would you describe the music of The Claudettes to a first-time listener?
JI: I’ve wrestled with that, but arrived at “Garage Cabaret” recently. Berit has a warm, silky voice well suited to jazz and country. But the band rocks with punk spirit and energy, except on the heartbreak ballads. Our shows and this album are very dynamic, and emotions are all over the place… very lifelike, I like to say. There is great skill among the players and singers here, but we lead with our hearts, all the way.
FT: Like many musicians at the minute, you are sitting at home having had your main source of income taken away from you through no fault of your own. How does that sudden loss affect you financially and mentally?
JI: The band was ready to hit the road after our winter mostly apart. To add many more months onto that hiatus is painful. I miss my bandmates. People are looking into government and charity/foundation sources of replacing lost income. We’ll get by, but if this indeed turns into more than a year of on-and-off quarantines, and proclamations advising against crowding into venues and festivals, this will be a humdinger. It’s hard on us, but also SO many other musicians and small-business owners and employees we know. I had a lot of freelance writing work this week; next week, I’ll rarely leave the piano bench. My chops are only going to improve. Maybe this worldwide quarantine will lead to a golden age of songwriting, musicianship, and show attendance. The New Baroque period, maybe?
FT: As a self-employed musician, are you aware of any government support measures?
JI: We’re figuring that out now, as the government is. I just want to play the piano, write songs, record, and travel. All this stuff is a drag, but c’est la vie.
FT: What can people do to support musicians like yourself through this difficult time?
JI: Best is to acquire records via band and label websites, rather than streaming services or Amazon, etc. That helps the musicians and labels the most. In our case, all our records are available to buy online at: Forty Below Records and Yellow Dodge Records.
FT: Thanks for your time, stay safe and I hope to see you on the other side before too long.
JI: Thank you. There’s lots of music, videos and more good stuff on The Claudettes website. We’re not a morbid bunch. The high times dominate over the darkness over here. I hope we’ll see you all soon!
‘High Times in the Dark’ is out on 3rd April 2020 via Forty Below Records.