Melbourne pop goddess Clairy Browne brought her bold and bright music to BIGSOUND, performing songs off her debut solo album Pool for only the second time. We talked over the transition from studio to live, being authentic and getting rid of guilty pleasures. Photos by Rochelle Flack, and a big thanks to Bloodhound Bar for lining us up with a beaut space.
I went to your showcase last night and it was such a good time. It was very visual, there was a lot going on, and I really dug that. How did you go about putting together your live show?
It was a new project for me. I had never worked with such high quality production before and translating that to a live setting, I had to be aware of incorporating that into doing something live that had live energy and not losing the production integrity. It was pretty detailed. So, I just got a band together and worked on my samples and incorporated elements of live action. I had a couple of dancers come on board which was great. It was really about bringing across a high energy pop show with production integrity.
I like going to see pop artists where they have put some thought into it and it’s not just a backing track.
Yeah, I mean it’s important for it to feel live and organic.
And how did you meet your dancers?
Azaelia Rose is a really good friend of mine, we were hanging out and I asked her if she wanted to come on board and choreograph the show. She’s got a really good feel for the style and aesthetic that I wanted to present, so she was totally on board. And she reached out to Liana, who is another dancer. They were both super keen to be involved.
And that aesthetic is very strong. Has that been a deliberate choice for you with Pool, putting together an aesthetic?
Definitely. I think for all the projects I’ve been involved in, I’ve been very intentionally focused on aesthetics. I think it’s very much part of the experience. What you feel and see is enhancing the sound. Lighting is important and having movement that particularly fits that style is important. Different to what I’ve done in the past but it’s a contemporary and futuristic expression.
You hadn’t played for a little while before your show at The Toff In Town. How did you go about preparing for that show? Mentally as well – did you have any nerves?
Hell yeah. It’s really daunting to expose yourself, especially if you have already built a name for what you do and then you flip everything on its head and do something completely different. You have to come out of the gate really on fire. So that was important to me. I like to rehearse a lot. I like to feel everything in my body so it’s something I don’t have to think about. So I slave-drove my crew *laughs*… And everyone was super excited to be involved so it was cool. We just rehearsed a lot and finessed it to the point where it was going to be strong.
And I guess feeling confident in what you do and knowing you can do it is part of that.
Yeah, I think it’s a huge part of it. With anything performance, your emotions speak to your performance. So if you’re not feeling like you can carry it off, that will show. Heaps of yoga, heaps of positive self-talk and heaps of rehearsal.
You already sort of answered, but in the process of moving it to a live setting, has it been different to past projects?
It’s been totally different. Before I was working with just live instruments, creating a vibe. With this, there was so much in production that I didn’t want to lose, but I didn’t want it to just be a backing track. It just doesn’t have as much essence, or something. But it was about trying to marry those two things and doing it well. But if I didn’t have the team I have working with me, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. My drummer Ben Ellingworth is incredible. He’s helped me huge amount, dealing with samples and triggers and getting it to all feel right in the right place. My bass player Nick Adams is amazing as well. Super good ear and helped put it all together. And Gabe Strangio is my guy on keys. We’ve been working together for a long time so he already knew how I operated. It was a totally different thing, all completely new to me but a great learning curve.
You were working a lot on the production side of things with Amanda Warner. How did you meet her? Were you friends beforehand?
No, we hadn’t met. I got hooked up through someone else, so a mutual of a mutual contact. And we totally clicked straight away. She’s really good at drawing something out of an artist. She got straight away what I wanted to express and what my voice was and how it was all going to fit. So we were able to write stuff really well together and produce as well.
I remember one producer I know was saying how it’s also a people job. You need to be really good at communicating as a producer.
Yeah, and listening! I think that’s important. I’ve worked with producers before that have just wanted to put their cast over you. To me, that doesn’t work. It doesn’t bring out an authentic product. This is probably the first time where I’ve done something and I’ve felt like I’ve had a strong voice. I was in control of the message and what I was putting out.
When I interviewed Kira [Puru] EARLIER, I asked about inspiring people and she talked about you being a boss-ass bitch and a strong femmo woman. Do you have anyone like that?
Well, definitely Kira. And I think that it’s important to acknowledge your peers because that also is about heart. If you can connect with someone on a heart level, they can inspire you and encourage you. She’s obviously one of the smartest, most driven people I know. So I think we both support each other in that respect.
In terms of my idols, I like to look at women who have a strong flavour in- basically pop icons. Able to cross borders. Someone like Nicki Minaj who has been able to cross over into the pop scene and basically just bossing that whole thing. Those people to me are something that holds up that power, something that I look to get inspiration.
Absolutely. I feel so bad about it now, but I used to be incredibly guilty of dismissing her work, years ago before I took a closer look. She’s a machine and it’s all her. she’s put so much thought into it.
Yeah, I think in this country particularly we have this bad habit. Anything that’s commercialised is shit or it’s too formulaic or no effort or skill has gone into it. I think that is really wrong. It should be something that is honoured. Pop culture is popular for a reason. It speaks to me, for sure.
I was caught up in all that teenager “I want to be different” stuff, but I was so much happier when I let pop music in!
Let go of the shackles of what you’ve been taught and conditioned to feel is not cool. I think that is a major problem in this culture. Australians should stop cutting their own dicks off. Do you know what I mean? It’s like how can we actually grow if we’re pooping on anything that’s commercially viable?
Tall poppy stuff.
Yeah! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think it’s a chronic disease we need to eradicate. Arts is the first place to do it. If we can prop up artists that are okay with self-promotion and working hard and doing something commercially viable, there’s nothing wrong with that.
There’s a lot of artists where you say you enjoy their music and people smirk.
There’s no shame! I have been asked that before, like “What’s your dirty shame music?” It’s like, well nothing actually. I feel cool about all the music I like and I’m happy to say so.
Yeah, exactly. I’ve noticed “What’s your guilty pleasure?”
There’s no guilt involved. Guilt is dead. Guilt should die. You don’t need to feel guilty about pleasure.
On the other side of that, Pool is all about self-celebration, and that’s such a positive message to have out there. Did you want to put that on the album off the bat or did it happen organically?
Both, I guess. That’s who I am and I wanted it to be really authentic. When I was writing I was like “I’m actually going to be bare and do the shit that I like.” When I wrote ‘Vanity Fair’, I was like “I want to write a booty anthem” because I want to celebrate body positivity and also parody, a little bit, poke fun a little bit at this big booty epidemic in pop culture. It’s funny to me but it’s also celebratory. People can give you shit for that but in all of the tracks I wanted for there to be raw authenticity. So I think that’s probably why it’s celebration of self, because that’s where I was at.
My final question is, who have you seen or are keen to see at BIGSOUND?
Tonight I’m going to see Kira, of course. I really wanted to see Ecca Vandal but I missed her show last night. Gideon Bensen. I saw Wallace last night, which was awesome, and Vandal as well, who I loved. But I’ll just get around to a much as possible tonight, I think!