When Aussie singer Clairy Browne hits San Francisco this week with her R&B-rockabilly band the Bangin’ Rackettes — touting their steamy debut, “Baby Caught the Bus,” with its single “Love Letter,” featured in a Heineken ad — it won’t be the first time she has appeared in town. She was here on vacation a decade ago, crooning karaoke in the Castro. Clubs warned her she could only perform one song, she says, on the phone from a South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. “So I’d take a bunch of wigs and do as many songs as I could in as many wigs as I had.” But security caught her. She says, “I was like ‘How could you tell?’ and they said, ‘Because you didn’t change your sweater!’”
You once said that if you weren’t singing, you’d be writing about gender politics. True?
Yes. I’m just really interested in queer politics, and I’m highly involved in that kind of thing. I used to do a lot of writing about politics in general, but I’ve kind of stepped away from it and I’m just living it at the moment, because music takes more time.
Where were you published?
It’s so embarrassing now, but I had a blog called My Name is Lena, even though my name is not Lena. And I wrote a fair bit of erotic fiction, essays, think pieces and Judith Butler-style academic queer history stuff. And I was writing in a couple of local socialist magazines, as well.
And the article you’re most proud of?
I wrote about how transgendered people were truly spirited people and gender warriors. And I was kind of impressed by my own s***!
Are you yourself gay?
I’m queer, yeah. I’m coming out in Texas! But I’m not ashamed to say that.
Do you have a significant other?
Is she in the band or at home? I have quite a significant other. At home. And she’s a he — he’s trans.
What is the perfect world you imagine for yourselves as a couple?
Well, obviously just equality would be nice. And I’d like for different identities to be recognized and acknowledged and just become part of the everyday, so that it doesn’t become a struggle just to basically exist in the world, legally, workwise or socially.
But onstage, you definitely have fun with the voluptuous Russ Meyer-“Faster, Pussycat” archetype, right?
For sure. You have to. I’m trying to bring back tough frontwomen who aren’t afraid to say what they think, and who don’t really conform to any typical ideal of femininity. And I think that’s really sexy, that whole Russ Meyer style of accentuated women. And I’m feeling the part, so why not?