The Claudettes Shut It Down In ‘Declined’  Premiere

The Claudettes Shut It Down In ‘Declined’ Premiere

The Claudettes' new track "Declined," whose video is premiering exclusively below, could be an anthem for the #MeToo era. But keyboardist Johnny Iguana says the song, from the quartet's upcoming High Times in the Dark album, actually preceded the movement.

"I wrote that song quite a while ago, to be completely honest, so it feels prescient in that way," Iguana tells Billboard. "I didn't write it 'cause I thought these are the times and this is a song that must be written. I came up with that music and was singing something in the chorus and the word 'Declined' just sounded good. Then I started chuckling over the idea of a romantic rejection on company letterhead. And I think Berit (Ulseth) recognized it as a great song since the beginning. It's a very perfect type of melody and kind of this light swagger, which she does really well."

The "Declined" video went through some permutations in development as well. Iguana initially thought about an acted clip depicting different rejection scenarios but wound up blending a band performance with vintage male angst footage, mostly from the '40s and '50s — "Back in the days when you could smoke a cigarette in the office," he says. "I went on the Internet and loved what I was finding — men stomping around and waiting and being interviewed by some women who have fantastic clothes," Iguana says. "I was laughing and kicking my feet and having fun with it. And Berit looks very in-command in the video, kind of sensual and looking in the material and telling you you've been declined. I'm really happy with the way it worked out."

High Times in the Dark, due out April 3, is the Claudettes' fifth album and was produced by Ted Hutt (Gaslight Anthem, Flogging Molly, Bouncing Souls, Nahko and Medicine for the People), who was suggested by longtime Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds producer Nick Launay. Hutt wound up coming to Chicago to record with the band on its home turf and even stayed in the guest room at Iguana's house, which was within walking distance of Shirk Studios.

"Ted is very funny and welcoming and warm," Iguana (real name Brian Berkowitz) says. "Compared to some of our other experiences in the studio, it was very relaxing. But his actions were very strong and authoritative. He listened to all the songs and said, 'Let's do these and not those. On this song cut this part, add this part, go home and write a bridge…' He was very strong with ideas, but in a very friendly way. He really put everyone at ease, which really helped in the studio when the clock is ticking and time is money."

Hutt and Iguana also agreed that the 11-track High Times in the Dark could very well be a breakout for Ulseth. "I think I've gotten really good at writing for Berit and coming up with the kinds of phrases and range that are right for her," Iguana says. "The last time she was pretty new to the studio and it wasn’t quite as relaxing, but this time she sounded really confident. Ted said at one point, 'I think this record's gonna get Berit really well known,' which made me feel really happy to hear. In this day and age when you're supposed to be a red-hot mama she's in that Julie London cool school, which I think is a cool contrast to how the band plays hot."