Jules on Clairy:
“I met Clairy when we were young, relatively. We made a band together, kind of like a soul-rock-hip-hop group with lots of rapping and singing. We had a ball, made a tiny splash, smoked a lot, broke up, saw some lawyers, things got ugly, and took a vow of silence.
Three years later, I have a dream that I’m going to the Windsor 24 hr bottle shop and I see Clairy and she’s eating a hotdog and we’re really happy to see each other. The next day I check my facebook and low and behold, there’s a message from Clairy saying she’s getting an (ol’) R’n'B band together for this Sweet Jelly Roll party and would I like to come and play.
The following New Years morning we sat in a tree and talked it all out as the sun was coming up. New day, life’s full of suprises…”
Photography by Shinpei Iwazaki , Direction by Vaughan Joseph Allison Hair by Ai Horibayashi Makeup by Nicky Takeda & Takenori Takahashi Special thanks to Glen Clancy, Asako Kohara, Nik van der Giesen, Naoko Okamoto, Kenji Kojima & FUGLEN.
Clairy on Jules:
“We met a decade ago and in the midst of beats and rhymes, became allies and teenage heroes to ourselves and anyone who would turn up to our little gigs.
Years later i found him again. Living in a barely standing ex coffin factory, cooking stew for Jazz strays. Always keeping the music sweet at home with his beautiful record collection. Always with his head bobbing, out dancing every motherfucker with those crazy shuffling feet.”
Gabe on Darcy:
“The first thing I think of when I think of Darcy is that he’s a romantic, a part time lady-killer. If Darcy McNulty were a drink he’d be Irish Whisky sipped from a shot glass.
When the mood takes him he is the king on the dance floor. He plays the sax better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s like a woodwind Hendrix in a Hawaiian short sleeve shirt with palm trees on it, checkered coat and a fedora. He’s also lent me a lot of books. Most of them have too good to return. I think that says a lot.”
Pete on Ruby:
“Big hair, big voice, big heart. Red wine & cigarettes, Johnny Depp & Jack White, style and substance. Overcomes her fear of flying on a monthly basis to keep our show on the road. Amazing songwriter, incredible singer, and a beautiful person.
When she came in to the fold, she was one of the last pieces to complete this puzzle – a piece you didn’t know you needed until you found it, and when it fit so perfectly, you weren’t sure how you ever did without it in the first place.”
Ruby on Gabe:
“I met Gabe when we where about 13 years old. We didn’t hit it off right away. But we kept crossing paths in the playground and eventually I told him he could either “just be my best friend or bugger off.
We’d cut class and hang out at my place where Gabe would entertain me with show tunes and Doors covers on the piano.
I feel incredibly lucky that now I get to write songs and play music with this immensely talented, funny, kind and eternally dorky boy. Gabe is the Sonny to my Cher, the Lennon to my McCartney and macaroni to my cheese.”
Jules on Loretta:
“Loretta comes from a very musical family. Last year I spent Christmas night with the Miller family and as soon as I walked in I was handed a large glass of Ouzo and Loretta, her mum Tracey, her Aunt and I passed the guitar around and sang songs for the next 4 hours, then we called a cab and went to Loretta’s boyfriends house where they were doing the same thing. Big families, all sitting around together singing, drinking and having a great time.
Loretta is all about family and music. She knows 1000′s of songs, can harmonize anything, loves bourbon and is petrified of flying.”
Ricky on Pete:
“If Ethical Pete had any more sides, geometry would have to declare itself a failed science and start all over again. That’s right, if Tetris Pete told me tomorrow that he’d been a crack-shot sniper in the Korean War where he’d supplemented his income as the most in-demand dancer of the Seven Veils in Pyongyang I wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
A martial arts expert with a law degree, a lauded Barista, actor and absolute gentleman, Sir Peanut has settled for the time being as our axe-man. I’ve heard some play slicker, some play faster, but never have I heard anyone play as absolutely filthy as The Ill-Nut.”
Loretta on Camilla:
“The girl is pure sunshine from her infectious laugh and great dimples right down to her many coloured cotton socks.
Camilla doesn’t judge people when they’re down, just listens. I NEVER hear her complain and (using a Clairy phrase here) she always takes the ‘burnt chop’.
She parties hard but will still look after your kids in the morning… She is a sensitive Cancerian, a deep thinking hard working, dedicated Bangin’ Rackette. Fiercely loyal to the ones she cares for, Camilla is a true soul sister.”
Camilla on Nick “Ricky” Martyn:
“By birthrights his name is Nick, but to us he will always be ‘Ricky Martyn’. He bangs. He climbs things, breaks things, loves things, and eats everything. He plays the cowbell like a motherfucker and the drums like a machine.
He’s a gentleman of fine extremes, he can be found doing deep breathing yoga before a show, and then drinking whiskey in stilettos at 4am.”
The lights go down on a smoldering red head in a tight dress.
Her smoky voice channels aching and longing as three shimmying, bouffant haired singers in sequined dresses harmonize along with her. To the left, a baritone sax wails and shudders as the soul claps rise and fall in and out of a blaze of sound. The diva in front of her band raises her eyes to the ceiling, fist clenched tightly to her heart. The dancing ends over the roar of the crowd, they stand there entranced, sweating, and waiting: a typical dramatic moment for Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes.
The Clairy Browne experience is like a vivid flashback to the sixties, one that transports you straight onto the set of Shindig but with a darker undercurrent, with shades of David Lynch or Federico Fellini piercing through.
“I want to experience joy and pain in the same moment, and bring the audience along on an emotional journey with me.” Browne asserts.
Over the past three years the arresting head chanteuse in charge of nine-piece Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes has transcended humble origins from playing a residency at a local club in Melbourne, Australia to joining an international tour with Oz stadium rockers the Cat Empire, to recently signing with Vanguard Records and headlining their own US tour.
Their debut album “Baby Caught the Bus” produced by the award winning Steve Schram (Public Enemy, Cat Empire) drips with heart-wrenching doo-wop, noir theatrics, party attitude and tough-as-nails soul, the songs on the album have drawn favorable comparisons to artists as diverse as Sharon Jones, Tina Turner and Bettye LaVette.
“I want the live show and the recordings to complement each other but also stand alone as separate entities,” Browne explains. “We try to record mostly live because it reflects the rawness and grit in our sound. And the music has to be something you can always dance to, be it slow and grinding, or wild and fun.
That commitment to raw emotion pays off, whether on the luridly seductive “Yellow Bird”, the torchy, angst-fueled “Vicious Cycle” a homage to the fallen icons of classic soul, the drunken party clap-a-long “Frankie”, the vengefully dramatic “She Plays Up To You”, the title track “Baby Caught The Bus”, with its fetching ah-OOH vocals and rapid-fire choreography, or “Love Letter” inspired by the film The Piano Teacher, with its mix of sensuality and menace.
In 2013 expect to see a global presence from these irrepressible, high-voltage soul revivalists, now well-known to many a beer drinker around the world thanks in part to a popular Heineken TV ad.
As is often said – it takes a village and, indeed the number of people that make up the group that is Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes is akin to a small village. It is exactly this unique concoction of nine personalities that makes the band what it is, they all come from very different places but all have a common ground, a shared love of this music.
Browne and bassist Jules Pascoe had performed together for many years but lost touch and their friendship for a while. Out of nowhere, Pascoe had a precognitive dream about Clairy and soon after they reconnected in a bar one night and Browne recalls going over to Pascoe’s, a former coffin factory which the band fondly calls the Pound, i.e. a home for stray dogs, and the idea for the band was hashed out. The Pound became home to marathon jamming and writing sessions for bandleader Jules and also for baritone saxophonist Darcy McNulty and the foundation for the band was built. The bonds of friendship tightened during these formative times that reveal themselves in the band’s onstage chemistry.
McNulty’s baritone saxophone serves as the perfect musical counterpart to Browne’s purring and wailing with his alternately smoky and pyrotechnic sound, he brings chops that have been honed from doing time in Melbourne’s underground jazz scene over many years. Guitarist Peter Bee brings his carefully sharpened sleazy guitar sound, which has become signature to the band’s sound. Self taught wiz-kid keyboardist Gabriel Strangio, the youngest member of the band was dropped off at the Pound by Browne’s little sister and has been making bad jokes and playing creeped-out organ ever since. Drummer Nick “Ricky” Martyn had been playing for over ten years in various chamber groups, jazz combos and Turkish psychedelic folk troupes and provides the backbeat that holds the band down. Pascoe, McNulty, Bee, Strangio and Martyn are the backbone, the core of the band’s sound.
Out of the shadows step the Bangin’ Rackettes. Camilla McKewen, Loretta Miller and Ruby Jones. The Rackettes bring a mixture of vulnerability, toughness, sexuality and sweetness to complete the ‘girl group’ part of the picture with their shimmery harmonies and hypnotic stage presence.
On stage and off, they are like sisters: spontaneously bursting into song in public places, dyeing each others’ hair, sharing clothes and makeup and working out together with their own unique form of Jazzercise which they fondly call Rackettercise. Before becoming a Rackette, Camilla could be found high kicking, hair flicking and tap dancing on tables around her hometown. The resident costumier is passionate about sequins, glitter, tassels and whiskey sours. Camilla is sunshine on a cloudy day. As a child lovely Loretta would fall asleep on the sofa while her mother, singer Tracy Miller known as the Gospel Queen of Melbourne, rehearsed with her R&B band in the living room. Loretta learned her stage moves at a young age from her tightly knit family of soul and R&B musicians and was often found signing with alt-country singer aunt Lisa Miller. The last Rack to join the pack was Ruby Jones, Ruby of the big hair, hair so big it needs its own hotel room! Red lipped Ruby is the most rock ‘n roll of the gang, she hates funk, pretends to like jazz, lives for Jack White, red wine and all things hyper-femme.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, here they are: Clairy Browne and The Bangin’ Rackettes!
“Baby Caught The Bus” available May 21st on Vanguard Records