“What we’re trying to do is play good music. I think in the past we’ve been mistaken for a cabaret act or something that’s more theatrical or somehow related to burlesque. It’s not a throwback thing jazzed-up with costumes, we put a lot into our music,” front woman Clairy Browne says.
Ain’t that the truth. If you somehow missed the soul of their debut album, Baby Caught The Bus or even just the smashingly catchy energy of their lead single ‘Love Letter’ don’t mistake Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes for some nostalgia or tribute band. Their music may hark back to the soul sister vibe of the ‘60s but their take on it is thoroughly modern.
Browne and co. have recently released their debut album in the US – 20 months after the Australian release – and although they’ve been playing these tunes for a long time, Browne is in no way sick of them. “I’ve grown new appreciations for the songs,” she says. “I think the songs became a bit laboured after playing them live in Australia for so long and Australian audiences can be really tough – you’ve really gotta earn their interest – but when I went over to LA and listened to the album again, not just hearing it on stage, I discovered a new fondness for it. It’s also good because we’re looking at making the second album now and I was listening to the first album thinking about how we could do things differently this time around and maybe try some things that we didn’t feel cool about the first time.”
They’ve seen some amazing places as a touring band – taking on Europe with the Cat Empire in 2010 – but sets at SXSW and more pivotally House Of Blues and The Troubadour in the US (among many others) was like ticking off a dream list of iconic US venues for Browne. “It was like a surreal dream to play in the States; it was like a long, washed out acid trip,” she laughs. “You’re travelling to these wild and amazing places that you see in the movies but you’ve never dreamed you’d play at and the crowds are so unique. It’s just its own flavour and it’s different again to playing in Europe. The best thing about touring is that you’re not just playing but you’re getting to experience people’s culture. Because we just get in a bus and go from place to place playing music, that’s the segment of culture we’re getting exposed to – how people respond to a show.”
The candid attitude of the audiences they met was something that spoke to Browne’s own straightforward personality. “People in the States aren’t afraid to say what they feel and that appeals to me as a performer,” she says. “Meeting people after the show is really the thing that makes you feel like what you’re doing is worthwhile.”
While home – as the cliché goes – is where the heart may be, Browne and the band are nowhere near reaching tour burnout. “You kinda get your tour legs and you just go. It makes me feel alive and I get a little anti-climactic afterwards. It has its pros and cons though… One of the best things to come of a project that has nine people is that each person’s music is dynamically eclectic and has so many different influences. But the logistical stuff is hard; it’s not just about getting nine people around the world, it’s also hard enough just to get nine people a table at a restaurant to eat before the show!”
BY KRISSI WEISS
Clairy Browne and co. play Lizottes in Newcastle July 9, followed by The Vanguard July and Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoomba July 12. Baby Caught the Bus is out now.