Tracy Swigert Left Corporate America to Start an All-Girl Burlesque Rock Band

Lavender X, Tracy X and Kelsey X of Crazy XXX Girlfriend - Terrence Strong
Terrence Strong
Lavender X, Tracy X and Kelsey X of Crazy XXX Girlfriend

"I wrote these songs because I always had a chip on my shoulder," says Tracy Swigert, speaking in front of Kevin's Place on Cherokee Street. "You always see guys rocking, and I was like, 'I want to do that. Why can't I do that?'"

Her band Crazy XXX Girlfriend released its debut EP Dick Magnet in March. Its songs are rife with unapologetic carnal imagery, and the band's live show, Swigert explains, is a mix of rock & roll and burlesque.

"'Dick Magnet' -- it's meant to be kind of funny. It's poking fun at douchebaggery," she says, her bright green eyeshadow contrasting with her blond highlights. "Guys who expect to just have girls falling all over them -- it's the same kind of concept, but it's from a woman's perspective."

The seeds for what would become Crazy XXX Girlfriend were sown years ago, when Swigert was an undergraduate focusing on social science and women's studies. Troubled by a perceived dearth of all-women rock bands, she composed the song "Girls are Better," along with Dick Magnet's title track, while she was still in school.

But the path from writing the songs to actually putting the band together involved a large detour. Having played in bands since she was seventeen, Swigert took a long break from music after college. Beginning with a stint managing the theaters at Plaza Frontenac, she dove headfirst into the corporate world, eventually working for more than six years at a payroll company.

"I guess I just started to feel the pressure of getting a job," Swigert says.

But she grew weary of the anxiety and physical aliments that come with a life spent behind a desk. She returned to her guitar and poetry, and soon realized how much of herself she had lost over the years spent chasing a nine-to-five paycheck.

"I need to express myself. I'm a weirdo," she says. "I can't sit in an office all day; it's not who I am."

click to enlarge Crazy XXX Girlfriend. - Terrence Strong
Terrence Strong
Crazy XXX Girlfriend.

In 2012 Swigert began making changes. She started attending open mics and moved from south county to the city. Armed with the skills she learned during her time in corporate America, the newly recharged musician began 2013 with a goal: She vowed to quit her job by the end of the year.

"I've always been successful -- a good student and a star employee. Why not direct that focus back at myself?" Swigert remembers wondering. "Maybe if I put all my effort into something I believe in and have a dream, maybe I can make myself successful."

She gave notice at her job and cashed in her 401K. With more free time and a small financial cushion, Swigert could finally put together the band she had envisioned as a college student years before.

"SEXY all GURRRL band seeks rock women," read the Craigslist ad Swigert placed. Though that approach proved unsuccessful, it didn't take long to find two other women who fit the bill -- drummer Kelsey Liesen and bassist Allie Vogler -- through connections she had made in the St. Louis music community. Dubbing the project "Crazy XXX Girlfriend" and -- in the style of the Ramones -- each member taking "X" in place of her surname, the band made its debut in July of 2014. The trio recorded the Dick Magnet EP before Vogler had to bow out owing to commitments to her other band, River Kitten.

Undeterred, Swigert found a new bassist in Ashley Blackshear, who was quickly christened "Lavender X." A musician who plays flute, keyboards and clarinet in addition to bass, Blackshear had been looking to get into the burlesque scene when the chance to audition for the band came her way.

"It was like love at first sight," Blackshear says. "As we get to know each other more and more, we see that our expressions and personalities are very similar. We all have most of the same tastes in music, and we all have an innate drive for self-expression and liberation that comes through in our music."

The public's first chance to see the new Crazy XXX Girlfriend will be Saturday, July 18, at Atomic Cowboy, as part of the World Naked Bike Ride after-party. Now entering its eighth year, the event aims to promote cyclists' rights, promote positive body image and protest oil dependency.

Blackshear, who has participated in the ride and the after-party in previous years, describes the event as an awesome party. And though Swigert hasn't yet experienced the World Naked Bike Ride, it should come as no surprise that the self-described weirdo who started an all-girl burlesque band is fully ready to embrace the experience.

She wants to go full-out nude for the show, but her bandmates worry that that might not be professional. "[But] I personally enjoy being nude. I think it would be fun."

Crazy XXX Girlfriend 9 p.m. Saturday, July 18. The Bootleg at Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchester Avenue. Free. 314-775-0775.

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