The first artist invited to play a residency at Vinyl at the Hard Rock isn’t likely familiar to you. Her name is Chantal Claret, and even if you’re a fan of her New York City rock group Morningwood, what she’s doing now is much different. Claret, 30, has adopted a style that mixes hard-hitting blue-eyed soul with a bit of bad-girl attitude. Her song “Bite Your Tongue” sounds like a lost ’60s radio classic, albeit with modern production. Which means the drums are bangin’ and so is Claret’s sassy, powerful voice on her recent solo debut The One, The Only…, which came out in June on The End Records. Vegas Seven chatted with Claret on the eve of her three-month residency of free, all-ages shows.
You played the Beauty Bar a few years ago with your previous power-pop band Morningwood.
I’ve played Vegas a few times—Beauty Bar, the Hard Rock once before, and some corporate gigs, including a really cool Speed Racer-themed event. I love Vegas, but I tend to go small-scale—5-cent keno, $10 buffets and catching a discount show.
How did you end up falling in love with retro-soul, femme-pop and girl-group R&B? It’s quite a departure from your rock band.
This is the kind of music I’ve always really loved. You know how as a teenager you find something you can’t believe you hadn’t heard before? Well, for me it was ’60s girl groups. That’s my jam. It’s what I studied, what I go out at all hours of the night to find live. It’s the music I sing in my shower.
You’re not alone in rediscovering this style of music. Is it OK to call it a revival?
It’s a total revival. What others are doing is close to what I’m doing. But nobody was doing exactly this—an upbeat, punked-up soul revival. I’d been thinking about doing this for many years. And I realized certain artists—Adele, Amy Winehouse— had been getting close to what I heard in my head. So I don’t want to be beaten to it. I knew if I didn’t do this now I’d kick myself after.
But things didn’t get going until you found a songwriting partner in musician Rob Kleiner, right?
Rob was a fill-in guitarist in my boyfriend’s band. I’d been writing with people who didn’t understand that I wanted to modernize this sound, not make it garage. I texted him one day, saying, “Let’s do this.” When I sent him some Nancy Sinatra and Brigitte Bardot songs, he knew instantly how we should sound.
Not to be nostalgic, but there’s something about older styles that’s genuine.
There’s also an element of “I don’t know what’s going to happen next” from music back then. An element of surprise. That said, being with Morningwood taught me how to put on a show. I mean, I still want to get piggy-back rides from people in the audience like I did before, but I want to play this kind of music. So if I can somehow combine the two, my Vinyl residency will be the best show ever.
How’s it feel to be Vinyl’s first resident artist?
It’s beyond an honor, especially as I’m relatively unknown as a solo artist. It’s mind-blowing to me. The sound [in Vinyl] is amazing. And the Hard Rock has given me such a vote of confidence. They built their brand on music, and so has Vegas. I remember going to see Bette Midler the last time she played Vegas, and afterward I walked out of there thinking, “I want to play Vegas.” But because I didn’t sell a million records like Midler, I didn’t think a run of shows was possible.
You’re bringing more than a traditional rock combo onstage.
The band is an eight-piece, including me, and they’re amazing musicians, including two backup singers. Life would be easier if it was just a DJ and I, but this is the dream sound. There’s lots of choreography and energy. I love to dance ’60s style, and by doing this I have expanded my arsenal of moves. The stage show is like Little Shop of Horrors meets Cry-Baby meets the Shirelles meets Tina Turner. My second show with this band will be in Vegas this week. So clearly the Hard Rock is serious about supporting new, up-and-coming talent.