For those who think rock and roll is dead: Take one listen to Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes to be proven wrong. A nine-piece group from Australia, the group came to the public’s view after buzz over their debut album Baby Caught the Bus, released in the U.S. in 2013.
Led by the magnificently strong lead vocalist Clairy Browne, whose pipes bring to mind fellow bellowing and beautiful vocalists Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine and Amy Winehouse, the group presents a nostalgic retro-soul sound matched with layers of ‘90s pop and ‘50s doo-wop.
In anticipation for their Sept. 8 Blue Note appearance, MOVE chatted with Browne about her early musical loves, singing Frank Ocean in the shower and live chemistry.
MOVE Magazine: How did you develop your style of singing? Clairy Browne: It’s something that just came naturally for me. I had a lot of musical influences while growing up, and continued gaining more influence that helped shape my style of singing.
MM: When you first fell in love with music, which musicians did you idolize? CB: When I was three years old, my parents took me to see Stevie Wonder. My memory is vague, but I remember the feeling. A lot of The Beatles and Velvet Underground. Then I got into early R&B and listened to a lot of Etta James and Sam Cooke. But then there was this teenage-dream side of me that was in love with all of the ‘90s pop music.
MM: What sort of sound does the band wish to achieve? CB: It’s definitely evolving. We’ve been continuously writing as a band since our debut. We enjoy the foundation of early R&B and soul music, and we feel we can kind of go anywhere from there.
MM: How did being rooted in Australia affect the band’s sound? CB: Actually, it’s interesting. A lot of bands popular in Australia don’t reflect our style of music at all. There’s a distinct indie-rock sound there. I think a lot of what we play is originally music from America. We were able to grow up on music both international and from Australia.
MM: How did all nine of you come together to form the group? CB: I had a vision to put together a big group so the live feeling would be very raucous and hysterical. I wanted to get something reminiscent of 1960s rock hysteria and have an environment where both the crowd and band are just going crazy. So I gathered people I knew, some friends and some I had worked with, and we put on a show. And it was extremely successful, so we moved on from there
MM: What kind of material do you feel most comfortable writing and singing about? CB: There’s probably a larger scope than I’ve explored in the past that’s likely to come out eventually. I love things people feel connected to, universal stuff like love, loss and sexuality. But then, of course, there’s just so much to explore. It’s definitely reflective of what you’re going through at any given time.
MM: Name a song you sing in the shower or your car but never on stage. CB: I definitely love to listen to Frank Ocean in the shower. It’s so beautiful, I think I had that album (Channel ORANGE) on loop for months.
MM: If you could invite three people living or dead to join you in a pre-show meal, who would it be? CB: My woman at the moment is Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black,” so she’s definitely there. I’ll say Etta James because that’s definitely an interesting combination. And then I guess Beyoncé because, well, I want her to be there. I don’t have a reason past just getting her by me.