We sat down with the silver-tongued vixen Clairy Browne to talk about the Bangin’ Rackettes, their new album and their never-ending tour dates in the U.S. and Australia.
Playboy.com: When did you start singing?
Browne: I’ve been singing forever. I don’t even remember being able to talk! [laughs] I grew up in a pretty musical family; my dad was a musician in South Africa in the ’60s and was a part of a group that he formed with his brothers. They were influenced by VelvetUnderground, The Beatles and Crosby, Stills and Nash, so growing up he was playing all that music in the house. It was really in the blood; we’d stay up late and play music. It wasn’t unusual for us to be jamming as a family at four in the morning. It was all so fun. And then I eventually ended up joining a bunch of different groups and bands.
Playboy.com: And how did Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes come about?
Browne: Four years ago, maybe a little longer, I was working in a primary school with Camilla [McKewen], who’s one of the Rackettes, and that’s a whole other story. It was a public school and our office was pretty much a tiny little closet. We’d sit in there and fantasize about putting on these epic shows of grand proportions. Bringing together a project that has the same hysterical feeling of 1960s music acts you see on television, with the audiences losing themselves, sweating and screaming, giving every single part of their heart and soul. There wasn’t anything like that in my city at the time; there were a lot of DJs who would play really rare 45 records, but there was no live music that encompassed that feeling. It wasn’t just straight up about showmanship, though! [laughs] So we met up with a bunch of Melbourne musicians that I knew from working around the tracks and we all came together over the similar love of music and started jamming together and rolled on from there!
Playboy.com: You have this very theatrical vibe about you. What inspirations do you draw upon?
Browne: We draw from a lot of art, it’s not just from music. Our inspiration comes a lot from old school R&B and rock ’n’ roll from the ’60s and the ’70s, more contemporary sounds and hip-hop too. We also draw from artists that we love and films that we love. We draw a lot visually from David Lynch and John Waters. We’re interested in taking from all art forms and creating something that is relatable.
Playboy.com: I haven’t had the chance to catch one of your live shows, but I’m sure they’re awesome. What sets them apart from other live acts?
Browne: I feel like it’s a cathartic journey for the audience. The most important for me in a live show is to experience a heart connection. Like when I went to see Charles Bradley he had such a powerful dynamic with the audience, it felt like I was the only person in the room and he was connecting just with me. It was this—I don’t know how to explain it, but it was as if there was a rope of light from him to me. To be able to create that with the audience is the most important thing. But it’s theatrical as well. So it’s live, it’s freaky, it’s a big party! That guttural gut-wrenching journey that I want them to go on is all in the lyrics that we tell with the music. Aesthetically, I want it to be cinematic as well so people are truly taking a journey through all the senses. We like to focus on our choreography and dance moves, which is something we put a lot of time and energy into, and of course our costumes and the way we visually create ourselves. Yeah, it’s all-encompassing. [laughs]
Playboy.com: Since you draw from so many different facets of art, what’s the band writing process like?
Browne: It’s pretty organic. It’s different for every song; I don’t think a lot of bands write this way. We have nine people in our group so the good thing about that is that it’s an eclectic pool of influence. Some will write independently, as a small group, or they will get together with me and we’ll write collaboratively; it really just depends. It’s always different; it flows whichever way it flows.
Playboy.com: It sounds like you guys are writing a comedy sketch show or something.
Browne: Yeah, it really depends on the song. We all try to work on the song once it’s been written together because we all have different feelings to put the different touches to it, but in the beginning stages it’s pretty all over the chart.
Playboy.com: Talk a bit about your latest video for “Vicious Cycle.”
Browne: We just released the video. It was cool. We wanted to do something really different from the other video we put out, which was really high camp, a “Prince goes to prison” kind of feeling. This one was a lot more of a dirty, sexy, behind-the-scenes look at the way we do things. It was shot pretty lo-fi and pretty choppy. It came together really quickly; it was just a couple of hours rather than a couple of days.
Playboy.com: Yeah, “Love Letter” was super choreographed. I’m sure that’s a major difference.
Browne: It was. For “Vicious Cycle” it was basically me and the girls in a little dark room with me throwing myself around the room after about half a bottle of whatever. I think it suits the song. That song is really about the industry and killing your idols. It’s a very sad and dark reality of people who create wonderful music and wonderful art that are destroyed by the lights of fame and crumble under that. It’s about that sad reality and how we can perhaps not kill our idols…I’m just going to throw that out there for everyone.
Playboy.com: Are you guys still doing a mini documentary?
Browne: That was a rumor, but it could happen. Anything could! We’re constantly filming our lives, and with nine people it’s basically a reality show on the road constantly.
Playboy.com: With nine people on the road that must make for a lot of great memories.
Browne: We do like to hit karaoke bars! Last night we hit one and Peter Bee sang “Born to Run.” His plan is to sing it in every city all over the world. So Beverly Hills was a riot.
Playboy.com: What is there to look forward to in the new year?
Browne: We’re going to record our album in Nashville in a couple of weeks, so that’s going to be cool. I’m looking forward to coming back to the States to release it and tour it around in 2014. So that’s always exciting to come and play shows here.
Playboy.com: Where are you guys recording in Nashville?
Browne: We’re recording with Andrija Tokic, he’s a great producer. He recorded the Alabama Shakes’ last album, Boys & Girls. It’s exciting to be able to go there.
Playboy.com: What’s your…
Favorite food: I’m fortunate to come from Melbourne, which is the most culturally vast food place, but I’m a really big fan of steak and oysters.
Favorite drink: Dirty martini. I had a beautiful one in San Francisco at Bimbo’s made by this lovely old man at the cocktail bar and it was the best thing I’ve ever had in my whole life. It’s like seawater.
Worst pickup line: I like bad pickup lines. I think it takes balls to throw them out and I’m always impressed. I’m kind of offended when someone doesn’t send a pickup line my way. But I think my favorite one is, “Get in the van.” [laughs]
Most embarrassing moment: I’m not easily embarrassed because I’m really into shock value, so it’s hard to embarrass me. I did go out one morning after a hella big party and I decided not to wear underwear for some reason. It was one of those days. I was just wearing a dress and heels, and I’m known for tripping over, I’m an avid faller, so yeah, I took a fall in the street and I fell face first and my skirt kind of billowed up and I exposed myself to half the street. I was pretty embarrassed then.
First memory of Playboy: Well I’ve always known about Playboy since I was little, but the first time I laid my hands on one was when I was 18 and I dated someone who had a really great Playboy collection, and it was a reprint of the Marilyn Monroe issue. She’s a major iconic babe for me so I loved it immediately.