Riff-shredding, ass-shaking, louder-than-life Morningwood is a glorious hodgepodge of personalities, backgrounds and influences -- much like their NYC hometown -- but that's where the pigeonholing ends.
"There's an attitude, this balls-to-the-wall feeling, you don't hear so much in New York these days," says Morningwood frontwoman Chantal Claret. "At one time there was a grittiness here with the local bands, a passion and energy, but now it seems pretty safe."
Claret, who grew up in New York, is the youngest member of the group at 23. She met Pedro Yanowitz (who had played drums for the Wallflowers, Natalie Merchant and Money Mark before turning to the bass) at a birthday party in 2001.
"...Her voice just blew everyone away. You could hear a pin drop. I was hooked and Morningwood was born that night"
"They spontaneously asked everyone to take turns singing a birthday song on the spot," remembers Yanowitz. "When it was Chantal's turn I thought she'd pass because she doesn't play an instrument, but she launched into a song she wrote when she was sixteen with no accompaniment and her voice just blew everyone away. You could hear a pin drop. I was hooked and Morningwood was born that night."
The newly christened duo immediately began writing songs together, and was soon joined by former Cibo Matto drummer John Paul Keenon O.
After becoming the stuff of local legend for their off-the-wall live shows -- which always provoke a lot of bumping, grinding and dancing, both onstage and off - Morningwood were spontaneously added to a showcase for Capitol Records executives where they proceeded to completely wipe the stage with the intended headliners and were soon signed to the label.
Ceaselessly inspired by the insanity of their home city but dying to get away from the endless distraction of living in it, the band was eager to record their debut elsewhere. That's when famed producer Gil Norton called to invite the band to London.
"It's an 'I heart your body - we don't need to talk' song."
Norton, who rarely works with new bands (but who has been responsible for masterworks by everybody from Echo and the Bunnymen to the Pixies to the Foo Fighters) got a hold of Morningwood's demos and reached out to the band directly to produce their debut album.
The band moved to England to record at London's Rak Studios, and in a house adjacent to the studio the band holed up for three months and created their self-titled debut record. "There were no girlfriends, no boyfriends, no family - it was like summer camp except with analogue equipment and Gil Norton," says Chantal.
Most of the Morningwood catalogue used for the record was already written by Chantal and Pedro by the time they got to the studio, but a new sonic hugeness courtesy of Gil Norton turned the songs into bigger animals altogether. "Jetsetter" was born via a phone call in which Pedro, who was on tour in Texas, played a riff for Chantal in London. She wrote the first line after waking up in the middle of night with the riff in her head and they finished it the next time they were together in New York. "Take Off Your Clothes" was the first song the band recorded together. Yanowitz worked on the song for a month and Chantal had the vocals nailed down in an hour. "I just started singing and it was done in two takes," Chantal recalls, adding that this is one of the tracks she finds to be most easily misinterpreted. "People think I'm joking, but it really is a love song. When you're so hot for someone and every time you see them you just want to take off their clothes. It's an 'I heart your body - we don't need to talk' - song."
"...There have been a lot of girls that we've seen after shows that have been like 'I'm gonna start a band' and that's just the most amazing thing for us to hear."
It's no surprise that Morningwood's debut is a bit of a party record - a cross between decadent sunset strip swagger (see: Guns N' Roses, Motley Crue), bubblegum pop in hard rock clothing (see:Van Halen, AC/DC) and that knowing cheekiness that only a female rock star can pull off (see: Hole, Joan Jett.)
Songs like "Nu Rock" and "Body 21" erupt out of the speakers, as catchy as they are searing. "Take Off Your Clothes," which Morningwood fans have been known to take literally at live shows, reflects the band's unabashed sense of fun. "Nth Degree" is a roof-down summer love song and call to the dancefloor that will not be denied. And throughout the album the band takes daring hairpin turns with their dynamics -- "Jetsetter" in particular goes from flirty whisper to epic hard rock stomp in the blink of an eye, before lovingly destroying everything in its path.
After the record was finished, the band headed back home to New York to get back to their first love -- playing live and loud. "You have to really love both extremes - recording is really never moving and being in a hole and playing live is moving every second and never stopping. If you love both of those extremes this is like the best job in the world," says Chantal.
"The entertainment factor is huge. Every night we have to win, win the crowd."
The band's live show is even more unhinged than their record promises. Chantal declares that for Morningwood, "the entertainment factor is huge. Every night we have to win, win the crowd." Pedro adds that "it is one of our band's missions to try to get as many people as possible to start their own bands - I mean there have been a lot of girls that we've seen after shows that have been like 'I'm gonna start a band' and that's just the most amazing thing for us to hear."
For a band self-described as "a monster truck having sex with a Bond girl," Morningwood take their fun very seriously, always putting an extra ounce (gallon?) of sweat into every note, every show. Nothing is ever dashed off. Nothing is taken for granted. And everything is possible...
--- from the official Morningwood website