Natalie Bassingthwaighte is dying to hear what next week’s Sleaze party will be like. How many people will be there, she wanted to know. How crazy will it be? Is it really going to be the extravaganza they say it is?

Her band Rogue Traders are the headline act at the annual event, the second biggest party on the Sydney gay and lesbian community’s calendar after Mardi Gras. And it will be the biggest crowd Bassingthwaighte has ever performed in front of.

It’s so exciting. I’m going to have a blast, she said. I can’t wait. I really can’t wait.

She’s been to a couple of Mardi Gras parties in her time, which were always pretty crazy, but never to Sleaze. I’ve been working every time it’s been on. But all my friends go to Sleaze. So when we were asked to perform, my friends were saying, -˜You have to go!’ So I’m kind of doing it for them, and for me too. It will be fun to know all my friends are there. It will be wild.

Bassingthwaighte was best known for her role as Ramsay Street’s resident bitch Izzy on Neighbours until she joined dance outfit Rogue Traders this year as their lead singer. Their first single together, the incessantly catchy Voodoo Child, was a runaway hit which climbed into the top five of the Australian charts and has been nominated for three ARIA awards.

Bassingthwaighte said she never expected the song to be so popular.

This has been such a huge surprise for all of us. We all liked the song, don’t get me wrong, but every week it kind of went up the charts instead of backwards, which is unusual. And to have a single in the charts go platinum was very thrilling for us.

Unlike a lot of other Neighbours stars who’ve tried their hand at singing careers, Bassingthwaighte already had impressive musical credentials under her belt, including lead roles in recent stage productions of Grease and Footloose. Still, when she first auditioned for Rogue Traders the band had fears about taking the soap star on.

They were hesitant, to be honest, she said. In a way I kind of liked that because it makes you have to prove yourself a bit more. I wanted them to pick me because I’m good, not because I’m on a TV show. James [Ash, one of the founding Traders] had a lot of questions at first. He didn’t really know what experience I had, so I had to rattle off a CV as long as my arm.

He said they didn’t want to jump on the back of what I already had from Neighbours, so I said, -˜Let’s not tell anyone I’m doing it.’ Obviously everyone would eventually know, but we kept my involvement quiet for seven months, so people loved the song because of the song, not because I was or wasn’t in it.

I was worried if people knew I was in it they would make a judgment without giving the song a chance. But so far we’ve had such a great response from the music industry and radio stations and publications.

This was one reason why she decided to ditch her signature blond locks and disguise herself in a black wig for the single’s music video (another reason was because she likes to wear wigs for fun, she admitted with an embarrassed giggle).

So was it hard joining an already established group like Rogue Traders?

I kind of felt like I got an easier ride in a way, because I was jumping on their success, Bassingthwaighte said of the dance act, who had a hit in 2003 with their remix of INXS’s One Of My Kind.

For me it was a massive privilege and an honour to get in it. It was very exciting. For the past few years they’ve had different singers for every track they’ve done, and this time they thought they wanted to be known for having a particular sound. It’s a bit of a buzz, to be honest, to be involved with these guys. They’re very talented.

The band’s next single, Way To Go, will be released on 9 October, followed by their album Here Come The Drums on 23 October. It’s really fun, quite up, Bassingthwaighte said of the album. There’s a couple of ballady songs but most of it’s really crazy.

Every song is quite different. I see them all as different characters, like I’ve gone in there and sung each of the songs like I’m someone else. So now there’s this ongoing gag of, -˜What’s my motivation?’ every time I’m in the studio, she laughed.

Hopefully people will have fun with it and not take it too seriously. We wanted to make music fun again, because I think music forgot how to do that for a while.

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