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interview: clairy browne & the bangin’ rackettes

Much like everywhere else (just about), soul music has seen something of a revival in Australia over the past few years. We’ve embraced Adele, the late Ms Winehouse, and Duffy into our hearts and our iTunes playlists. But despite the popularity, there have been rather few Australian artists riding the wave with these successful Brits.

That’s where Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes come in.

I first heard of the band about a year ago, when the lovely Lisa Dib wrote a review of their 7” launch at the Toff in Town. Opening with a line like, ‘Melbourne’s Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes are officially my favourite Aussie band- hands down’, particularly from someone I knew to be a discerning critic, the band caught my attention.

Fast-forward to now, and the band have hit stages at the Big Day Out and Golden Plains, enjoyed high rotation on Triple J, and released their debut LP, Baby Caught the Bus. Now they’re hitting the road to promote the single, ‘Love Letter’, and have just released a sassy video clip to boot.

It’s apparent from the band’s music and their video clip that many old school influences have fed into their sound and style. But Browne’s musical interests also comprise many more contemporary sounds.

‘I’m into lots of different styles like obviously old school r ‘n’ b and northern soul and old school blues but I also listen to a lot of 90s r ‘n’ b and folk, ballads, lots of the big soul voices, and hip hop. It’s pretty broad. Etta James, Tina Turner and the Ikettes, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Cee Lo Green, Erykah Badu, Outkast, Prince … to name a few!’

This vast range of influences isn’t the only thing that sets Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes apart, however. In addition to Browne and her three Rackettes – Ruby Jones, Camilla McKewen, and Loretta Miller – the band also includes a further five musicians.

‘The vision [at the beginning] was really just kind of the doo-wop girls and the band and then I got in touch with bassist, Jules Pascoe, who lived at this house, The Pound, where we still rehearse and write most of our stuff,’ Browne explains. ‘There was just a whole bunch of strays, that’s why we call it The Pound. Stray musicians around the place, just kicking it there, and they would join in a jam with us, and it just grew.’

Though there have been a couple of line-up changes since the band’s inception, their compelling frontwoman and onstage reputation have helped to cement their place on the Melbourne live music circuit.

‘It’s about participating with an audience,’ says Browne of performing. ‘You know that’s the strongest pull for us, just that it’s really slamming music, it’s alive, and it incorporates those watching as well.

‘I think that we’ve had a really great response because there isn’t that much tough female-led music at the moment … it’s not some indie band with four bored looking dudes, there’s more to it than that, and I think people have really embraced that feminine, empowering kind of energy that we bring across.’

And some words of wisdom for those who want to follow in her footsteps?

‘Listen to the music that you love and be persistent.’

Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes’ Love Letter Tour kicks off in Melbourne on April 27. Visit the facebook event page for all the details, and watch the clip for ‘Love Letter’ below!

(Photo credit: Stephanie Bailly.)

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