Catalogue Girls: Claudette on Making Music That’s for Everyone

Fashion Stories. Posted 9 months ago

Sabina McKenna

Claudette photographed by Bec Martin for our Catalogue Girls series.

Starting her musical career the unconventional way: on the dance-floors of Melbourne’s inner city nightclubs. Claudette Justice-Allen was setting the standard for clubrats all over town long before she wrote a song about it. Given that she was musically inclined from her childhood days, it’s no surprise that she became the well regarded performer she is today, and one of four in the famed theatrical house group The Glamouratz.

In 2013 she moved to the UK to study music and performance, in Hackney, at the London School of Music. And in her two years living there she started her first serious musical project called Claudy Knight, with local DJ and producer Adrian Harris.

These days Claudette is all about that performer life, so as well as stripping down and at the same time dressing up to get on stage with the Rats, she sings and writes with her ten piece disco band, Claudia Jones Live, while DJing part-time.

Chatting to her on the phone from her balcony in her Berlin, she tells me why The Glamouratz new EP, Rathouse is so relatable to everyone, no matter their age or interest: “because everyone goes through a real good clubbing phase in their lives, and for some of us it never ends…”

Sabina: Hi Claddy! What are you doing in Berlin right now, and why did you go there?
Claudette: Hey so we planned to come here originally to meet our record label, Public Possession, but now we might play a couple of sets as well to promote our new EP! But we’re mostly here for the party – hah!

Sabina: How did you end up signing with Public Possession?
Claudette: Our friend Rohan from Bell Towers did a remix of our single Club Rat, which we had already released independently, and showed it to them. Then they were like, we want your next EP! So now they are actually gonna do a re-press of Club Rat to release it as a single on their label, for summer (our summer).

Sabina: Awesome, so tell me a bit about the ‘Rathouse’ EP… what inspired that?
Claudette: Well obviously the club and dance world! We started to get sick of having to listen to so much serious dance music when we were out, so when we started making Rathouse we wanted it to be about good beats that were fun to dance to, and lyrics that were relevant to whatever we were feeling at the time. For example, Pussy Doctor and Unpredictable Broke Ass Bitch are about two classic situations…

Sabina: Haha, tell me more! All your lyrics do seem to speak to quite specific sentiments and scenarios…
Claudette: Yeah they really do… Being an unpredictable broke-ass bitch is an obvious one… It’s just about surviving as a creative while you’re broke and still trying to look hot and enjoy yourself. Pussy doctor is meant to be a liberating song for women, or anyone else who might identify with it really. It’s about someone who needs their ‘pussy fixed’ because it’s been a while, you know…

Sabina: So is that how the band came together at first? With you all being musicians, and realising you have a shared experience?
Claudette: We all came together while we were drinking our friend’s rider at Animals Dancing like two summers ago… We decided that night that we all really liked each other and that we should try and make some music so it turned out really well, even though there are so many egos in the room when we are working. We are lucky enough to have a good dynamic, where some of us stand down at certain points, when others are thinking we don’t like a certain sound or need to get on with something new. It’s a four way street…

Sabina: So did you start out with an idea of what you wanted to offer people with the music or who you wanted as your audience?
Claudette: Club Rat kind of paved the way for everything that came after, so we were mostly trying to keep things fun and easy going. I think that’s why everyone can relate to Club Rat so much. We even have fans who are much older saying things like, omg this song, I can relate to this – I used to be a Clubrat! So it’s accessible to lots of people even though it’s a contemporary sound – everyone goes through a clubbing phase.

Claudette photographed by Bec Martin for our Catalogue Girls series.

Sabina: So you have a pretty niche following too, how do you think that happened?
Claudette: We tick all the boxes in the group when it comes to representation, so it’s nice that our following reflects that. We wear what we want on stage; Adam wears dresses and jewellery all the time – because clothing shouldn’t be gendered. We like that we can set examples like that for our fans… Even some bros are into our music, which is funny because it doesn’t speak to everyone. But that is ok, we aim to be all inclusive … It’s made for queer people; it’s made for people of colour – for all the fun people really. The rest can take a seat haha!

Sabina: What do you like about the music scene in Melbourne at the moment?
Claudette: I have always loved the soul scene there. It’s quite a tough circle to enter and you have to be really good, but I have a lot of friends who are soul performers – women in soul are absolutely killing it! The electronic scene in Melbourne is so boring right now, which is why we started this group. There is just nothing new coming out of it so we are trying to be that breath of fresh air. But to be honest, if we started Glamouratz in Berlin it probably wouldn’t feel like anything new… Theatrical house has been around for a while here because there are stronger communities established for queer people, and queer culture, and they tend to embrace different sounds more readily. In Melbourne we are really comfortable listening to the same shit over and over again.

Sabina: If you could change anything about the industry on a whole, apart from that, what would it be?
Claudette: Speaking day to day, people need to start respecting and paying artists on time. We are all professionals in this industry so we should be able to expect payment for our work on our terms, and that isn’t happening at the moment. It’s really unfortunate that people find it hard to understand the amount of work we do in the arts, so we shouldn’t have to work another job to make ends meet. I think the longest I’ve waited has been half a year or something totally ridiculous…

Sabina: Yeah that is a huge problem in creative industries… Did you always know you wanted to make music?
Claudette: Yes and no… There was a time at the end of highschool around year ten when I had to decide whether or not to continue doing music professionally, and was at a bit of a crossroads with acting. I’ve always been a singer. When I was a child I would follow my auntie around who is a jazz singer, Tubby Justice, and we would sing together. It’s been a big part of my life and love it, so I think in the end I chose music because it was what came most naturally to me.

Claudette photographed by Bec Martin for our Catalogue Girl series.

Sabina: What did you do before GlamouRatz?
Claudette: A few things, so Claudy Knight was my first project that I did with Adrien Harris, which was like electronic RnB… We are actually releasing an EP soon that we wrote in 2015, with a label called Golfpoint. I’m really excited to have that out there as I feel like it is some of our finest work! I’m also in a ten piece disco cover band called Claudia Jones. I’m all about a good selection so we play a mix of classics that everyone knows, and some of the lesser known disco songs. We’ve started writing as well, and are hopefully going to release a song over summer… This is my year of releases – it’s all about getting things done!

Sabina: Oh, I thought it was The Year of the Slut…
Claudette: Oh yeah! Haha! It is but I meant for me personally… Actually you’re right: everyone pick up a copy of our new record with a limited edition, The Year of the Slut engraving! Haha!

Claudia Jones live is playing at Open Studios Melbourne on the 7th of September!

Photographer: Bec Martin
Creative Director: Savannah Anand-Sobti
Catalogue Girl: Claudette Justice-Allen