Morningwood has been causing both initial sniggers and infectious dancing since the distant year of 2001. The name explains itself, yet the music has always been undeniably contagious. While the brainchild of Chantal Claret and Pedro Yanowitz was on an indefinite hiatus as of a year passed, it has now been confirmed that the last chance to see them live will be on the Mindless Self Indulgence tour this Spring. With this finale confirmed for the band, Chantal was kind enough to talk about her time with Morningwood and what to expect from her upcoming solo project.
“2011 was a really transitional year for me,” she begins. “Actually 2008 through 2011 were transitional years. They were really hard; I went through what I think is a quarter life crisis trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I was about to quit music and start trying to make a baby when I realized if I didn’t follow through with what I really wanted to do I would spend my life regretting it, so 2011 was all about making that happen.”
“Morningwood was my first love, my first band, my first learning experience with music. It gave me the opportunity to travel the world, make music, learn how to make music, perform, be in a band, learn about an industry, discover what I liked & didn’t like & build my confidence. Ultimately I think we had a great run, but musically I really had to do what I wanted to do. I am proud of what I did with Morningwood but after 10 years doing something it is not where you want it to be creatively, emotionally or professionally it is time to change.”
Unsurprisingly, many fans have found it an added bonus that their final shows are with Mindless Self Indulgence; is this a shared sentiment? “OH FOR SURE!!! James and I have always wanted to tour with each other again. The last time we did was when we met in 2005. When James was looking for openers we were talking and somehow the idea came up and I was like “Why not?! It’s worth looking into”. I thought maybe I could make it happen.”
“This is probably the last time we will be able to play together because my new project is musically so different from MSI it wouldn’t make any sense,” she continues. “We had an unofficial last show last May in New York but no one knew about it, we had broken up but internally, so only 10 people at this sold out show at Irving Plaza knew about it. I wanted to give fans an opportunity to see us one last time. Playing with MSI is always great because we are all such good friends, well family really. Those are some of our best friends in the world, so we couldn’t think of a better way to go out.”
What should we expect from these last shows? “A LOT of energy, enthusiasm, possibly some tears. Also James and I will probably be trying to outdo each other so that will be fun. And I’ve got nothing to lose so he is really gonna have to work.”
Marking ten years since Chantal and Pedro met, the band released 22 previously unreleased demos; should fans expect anything similar to mark these last shows? “No, we are basically gonna do our “best of” show and play all the songs we love to play. Those songs we just wanted to give as a treat, they had been sitting in my iTunes some for 8+ years and I thought it would be a shame to never have them be heard. But I don’t think any of those will be performed live. Maybe Horses, but we’ve been performing that live since our first show where I used coconuts to make the horsey clip clops.”
”Who knows? I never say never,” says Chantal, touching on the possibility of working with Pedro in a musical capacity in the future. “Right now we have no plans to and he is busy working on musicals and I am in the process of finishing my record. But if he had something he wanted me to write or sing on I don’t think I would ever turn him down and vice versa.”
“Oh man, so many things…” – speaking of her favourite and proudest experiences in her years with Morningwood – “I mean we toured the world, got to go to Japan and Europe, playing to 60,000+ people at festivals, play 3 times on Letterman and a bunch of other talk shows, make super fun music videos, spend three months making a record in England with Gil Norton, got VH1 to start a record label for us, had movies & tv shows use our music, opened for Gang of Four & The Gogo’s and play with a million other bands I love. I got to create two records that I am really proud of [and] meet some amazing people. Ultimately, if it weren’t for Morningwood I never would have met my husband and be married and I have no fucking idea where I would be right now.”
Turning away from Morningwood, it’s no secret that Chantal has been working on her solo pursuit over the course of 2011. Does she think 2012 will be the year it really kicks off? “OH FUCK YEAH!! This is the year!! Already the first two weeks of 2012 have been busier and more professionally fulfilling of all of 2011. Things are really starting to get going and I am so beyond excited. This is going to be a good year. The only thing I’ve been saying to myself is “Everything’s coming up Chantie”, finally all this hard work is starting to pay off and I am so fucking grateful and excited.”
Speaking of an actual release time, she says, “I am planning on releasing 3 EPs very close to each other. I have a full record’s worth ready to go but I like the idea of breaking them up into 3 parts. Right now I think we are talking about May for the release of the first one!”
“I was much more in control of this record,” explains Chantal, talking of how she approached the writing of this project. “I went in with a much clearer idea of what I wanted because I knew exactly the type of music I wanted to create. If something happened and we ended up making something slightly different that is fine but as long as the intention was clear it was very helpful. Lyrically this was all me. The first Morningwood record I was given a lot more freedom in writing songs and the second Morningwood record had a lot more checks and balances with Pedro and people we were writing with, so a lot of songs got a little watered down lyrically. For my solo record it went back to me and everything that I sung is 100% me and I missed that a lot.”
Was there a particular sound or image aimed for while writing? “BIG 60’s BEAT! I want to have UPBEAT 60’s music with a big fat bottom. That is what I have always wanted to make, I mean seriously for as long as I can remember. I love 60’s music but I LOVE LOVE LOVE upbeat 60’s music. Since the age of 15 I was going to mod clubs & dancing to 60’s music, so this is what I absolutely LOVE. I want the shows to be super energetic like Tina Turner meets James Brown, lots of dancing and lots of energy. I cannot WAIT to play a live show.”
Last summer, the track ‘Bite Your Tongue’ was previewed for fans. Is this a fair example of what to expect from the upcoming work? “Yes, Bite Your Tongue is one of the songs that will be released. That was still a demo version of the song, it is being remixed & I re-sang the vocals, but yes that is the sound of what I am going for. I took that version down though.” As an overall product, Chantal simply says, “Upbeat 60’s music with a big fat bottom to shake it to. 60’s pop w/a side of hip hop.”
“It is starting to be mixed now and I am finishing two songs, there are 10 songs in the can, I LOVE LOVE LOVE them all!”
Will this be the first of many solo pursuits? “If you mean am I going to start another band and do another kind of music? I don’t have any plans to at the moment. Right now this is where my heart is, if someone wants me to sing on something I’m always open to that but as far as a style of music right now I am all about this.”
Turning to the wider musical picture, what are the greatest influences on her work? “Hmmmm, I would say first and foremost my mom, The Exciters, Tina Turner, James Brown, Bette Midler, Liza Minelli, The Cramps, Cee Lo, MadCon, Elvira, Pee Wee Herman, The Zombies, Spencer Davis, The Ronettes, Ellie Greenwich, Beyonce, etc, etc, etc, etc.”
As an overview for the future, what does Chantal hope 2012 holds for her? “Oh man, I hope 2012 sees the fruition of what I’ve been germinating for the past few years. I hope people are into it. I have always trusted my gut and my gut tells me I’m onto something good and that I’m doing what is right for me. I think that if I like to so much that other people might like it too. That’s all you can hope for right? I hope I get to play shows all over and I’m not looking for a private jet I just want to be able to pay my mortgage and do what I love to do.”
Anything fans should watch out for in the near future? “We shot a video back in October that will be released sooner than later, it is pretty damned awesome, I can’t wait for people to see it!”
“Happy new year and I can’t wait for everyone to hear the new stuff. AGHHHH!!! I am so excited!! Also add me on twitter & facebook if you want to keep up to date with all that shtuff!
It’s clear to see that Chantal is really hyped about her upcoming solo offerings, and it’s hard not to share this feeling. While not everyone is lucky enough to make it out to their final shows in the coming months, we’ve all got something to look forward to from this fantastic lady!