Monday 8 October 2012

20 Question w/ Rabbits

Following the great review of the latest Rabbits slab of discordant filth, what could be better, than to follow that up with an interview with this superb band.  Bite Rites is another stellar record to add to everyone's ever growing vinyl collection, hard drive or whatever format you care to buy.

Following the review, I immediately contacted the band and Rabbits were down with he idea of answering carefully crafted questions, what with being the ace interviewer that I am.  (Yeah Right). 

Anyway, we do pride ourselves on bringing you interviews with the finest bands around.  So following a recent album launch show to celebrate the release of their debut record on Good to Die records, Rabbits kindly answered my 20 Questions . Josh from the band gave us a great insight into the band and I am pleased to share with you here.  So, Enjoy!

(C) James Rexwood

Hey, How are you? I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to us, here at the Sludgelord.

We're doing well. Thanks for asking.

Q) Where are you at the moment and what are you doing, in terms of the band? You recently had a record release show for your new record, Bite Rites, how was that?

A) Yes, we just played our record release show for "Bites Rites" in Portland the other night. It went really well. We sold a lot of records, all the bands were great, everyone had a great time, and we even made some money. We're getting ready to head out on a short tour of the western states in a few days.

Q) For those people who are unfamiliar with your music, can you tell me little bit about the history of the band and some of the bands you've played with? Where you’re from, when Rabbits first formed? Current band members?

A) Seth is from Portland, and Kevin and I went to high school together in Pennsylvania (PA), but we have a long-standing PDX-PA connection and circle of friends from snowboarding, skating, and music. Kevin moved to Portland after high school, probably almost twenty years ago now, with some other friends from PA and ended up working with Seth. Seth played in Zero State with a friend of ours from PA, Kevin played in an early line-up of Portland-based Silentist, and I came through Portland when he was in Angel Hair and The VSS. I moved to Portland from San Francisco with my  band Pleasure Forever about ten years ago and ended up staying on Kevin's floor here-and-there for a few months when not on tour. Kevin and I started jamming with just guitar and drums in Kevin's basement, mostly messing around doing these very repetitive riffs and beats, and learning how to play a lot faster (blast beats, speedy riffs, etc.). Around that time Kevin started playing in Lion Fever which also had a member of Pleasure Forever, so it took awhile to get anything going. When Pleasure Forever split up and Lion Fever moved to LA, Kevin and I asked Seth to play bass. Seth played bass for a bit, but he was having problems with his wrist, so he switched to the guitar. We looked for a bass played for a while, and we also had a singer for a little bit, and once he left the three of us decided we got along so well and just said let's forget the bass, and then we started figuring out how to sing and how to use our amps and octave pedals to fill out the sound without a bass player. It's always been just the three us since we started playing shows. We've had people ask to play bass for us but we decided we like it the way it is.

Q) Is Rabbits a full time project, or do you have other bands?

A) Full-time. We usually practise two or three times a week and play two or three shows a month in Portland, and go on short trips maybe once or twice a year. I do some recording projects on my own.

Q) Probably a stupid question, but are you or would you like to be full time musicians? Presumably you work jobs too, right?

A) Yes, we all have full-time jobs. It could be fun to make a living being musicians, but it seems very unlikely, and maybe we wouldn't have as much fun being pissed off. We can be some grumpy fucks as it is. We're pretty old and really enjoy living in Portland so going on tour a lot and the associated relentless grind to make a living from music doesn't really appeal to us. Also, by not having to make a living off our music, we can get a lot weirder and not worry too much whether people like it or not.

Q) Are you big fans of rock/metal, if so what are you listening too at the moment?

A) Yes, of course we like rock and metal. We all like ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Slayer. The biggest direct influences for Rabbits are probably hardcore bands from New York, DC, and California, like Cro Mags, Minor Threat, Black Flag with New York and Midwest noise rock like Swans, Sonic Youth, Laughing Hyenas, and so on. We like the combination of the super aggressive and the super fucked up. We also pull in little bits and pieces from all kinds of music: pop, soul, black metal, whatever, but it's always our take on it.

Currently in rotation:
Josh -- Moon Duo, Wooden Ships, Comets on Fire, Black Angels, Psychic Paramount, K-Holes, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Vum, Celebration
Seth -- Poison Idea, Brainoil, Speedwolf, Iron Reagan, Goatsnake, Vastum, Nunslaughter, Grave, Salvation, Nomos, True Widow, Lee Hazlewood
Kevin -- Grinderman, D.R.I., Eno, Roxy Music, Morbid Angel, Aura Noir, Tony Williams Lifetime, Voivod, Spectrum

Q) When you started Rabbits, what were your hopes for the band?

A) To relieve the daily tension of our lives via something other than--or at least in addition to--drinking and drugs! Well, that's partly true, but really (or also), we love playing live for ourselves and our friends. Even at practise we have a lot of fun. In some ways people might perceive our aspirations as not being that high, but for us the best reward is playing or putting out a record and having our friends be way into it. That to us is the highest praise (since our friends have such good taste).

Q) If someone was unfamiliar with your band, how would you describe your sound? Has it evolved?

A) It seems like noise rock to us, but we get sludge-punk or punk-metal or other hyphenations a lot. We've all been playing music since we were teenagers, and now we're late 30s to 40 years old, so we don't think too much about whether something is punk or metal or hardcore or whatever--we just play stuff we like and don't play stuff we don't like. There are some basic constants throughout all our songs--droney parts, rolling drum parts, few solos; it does have some more punk aspects to it lately, plus it's gotten both weirder and catchier at the same time.

Q) Why the name, Rabbits? It seems to be somewhat of a contradiction, given the oppressive nature of your music, was that deliberate?

A) Yes, it was intentional to pick a name without any connotations that apply to heavy music plus also something that signifies that if we're going to out-heavy other bands we're going to do it with the music, not an evil-sounding name. And people that can't get past the name have no business listening to us. It's helpful all around.

Q) What is the scene like in your hometown?

A) The scene for heavy and weird music in Portland rules! People are doing a lot of different things, but everyone for the most part is really supportive and friendly, and there aren't many big ego trips since there are so many good bands and cool people here. You might open for some band one night and then a couple weeks later they open for you, and it's no big deal. It's cool too because these days there are lots of good venues and lots of good bands to play with. Many of the people in bands are a lot like us: life-long music heads that have always had regular jobs and play in bands because they love it. Lots of mutual respect goes around in this town.

Q) What are your views of blogs such as the Sludgelord reviewing your records, as opposed to mainstream music magazines? Has your music reached the mainstream mags, at home or around the world?

A) We had some short write-ups in Terrorizer and Decibel for the last record. Lots of blog stuff. The blogs definitely are more far-reaching in some ways than the music industry rags. One thing that happens with the blogs is they tend to take the press releases a little more seriously than they deserve to be taken. A few bloggers have said we're over-hyped or jumping on some trend or whatever, which couldn't be further from the truth. Most--or at least some--industry people are used to the hyperbole of press releases and don't buy into them as much. We really just want the record to be out there in the world, whether or not specific reviewers like it: all press is good press.

Q) Bite Rites remains abrasive and yet a little more accessible, to my ears at least. How does this material compare to your previous record, Lower Forms?

A) Lower Forms was about four years worth of material, whereas Bites Rites is more like four months worth of material. We recorded Lower Forms mostly live in one room with no headphones, each of the songs in one or two takes, and we had been playing many of them live for years. These new songs were very fresh when we recorded them, so we made them a bit simpler and shorter and just banged them out. Probably in part because they were simpler songs, we played them a bit crazier, which we could do since we tracked the instruments separately--as is the fashion these days--and didn't have to worry about fucking up so much.

Q) During the gap between your previous record you also changed labels too; did that affect the momentum of band? It is just my opinion but it could be said that your more sound is more suited to Good to Die records, as I found some of your tone similar to label mates Dog Shredder?

A) The Relapse deal was for one record, and has an enormous roster of bands. We had a European tour planned for October (since cancelled), and we asked Nik at Good to Die if he could get a record out by then because we didn't think Relapse would be able to do it as quickly as we needed. Good to Die is a great new label and it's a great fit for us and the way we work. Relapse may put something else out for us, and they are still very supportive of Rabbits. The sound had more to do with the evolution of the band than a specific label.

Q) Where do you fit in terms of the current trend of metal bands?

A) We're also very loud.

Q) 2 albums later since the bands inception, what are some of your highlights so far? What are your aspirations for the future?

A) More shows, more records. It's all good. We have a flexi disc coming out, possibly a cassette of hardcore covers we've done, and some other collaborative ideas. With this last record we seem to have broken through some wall that will allow us to get even more experimental in the future.

Q) You’re signed to the awesome Good to Die Records, home to some very diverse artists, how did that come about? Did you ever consider a DIY approach of releasing your music yourselves?

A) We released our first 7-inch ourselves and also a few CDRs. We are very involved in all the aspects of our records. We recorded the first few ourselves and have done a lot of the artwork and dealing with the mastering and pressing. Nik from GTD put on some good shows for us in Seattle and was just an all-around good guy, and we could see he was approaching the label in very business-savvy way (which is not a given for new labels) and was also putting out records by good bands that we had played with and that we also knew were cool people. It was just a nice fit.

Q) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with?

A) We haven't toured all that much other than California. That's always fun in the sun. Our best shows are in Portland because we can put together really great line-ups with cheap door prices at fun bars. We've made a lot of friends here over the years so our shows are always a bit like fun house parties that just happen to be at bars.

Q) Did you have any set goals in terms of how you approached writing your music for Bite Rites? Does everyone contribute song ideas or arrangements?

A) We start with riffs and drum beats and then jam them out. We have a dry erase board in our practise space that we use to remember parts and organize songs. Rabbits’ is about the three of us playing the way we want to play and somehow making it seem as though we're playing as a single super organism. We're both into what we play and the sound it has. Many of the songs could work with different arrangements, but we like to "Rabbitize" everything.

Q) How do you feel about the digital era of music and people downloading music for free? Would you or have you ever considered releasing your music for free or ‘pay what you like’ to raise the profile of the band?

A) That's just the way it is and no one's going to stop it. We don't really need to help people download music for free--it seems as though they have it figured out. Bandcamp is set-up in a real user-friendly way for both artists and fans, but the artist gets a small cut not that different from what they would get doing a record with a big label. We buy a lot of records and encourage others to do so, especially ours.

Q) What are your plans for the rest of the year and any chance you're coming over to the UK?

A) We have a short tour planned for the states this month. We're talking about a tour of Europe and the UK in the Spring with Arabrot.

Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, do you have anything you like to say to your fans?

A) Thanks, fans! There aren't that many of you out there, so stick together!

(C) James Rexwood

Thanks guys

No, thank you, Aaron
So, thanks to Rabbits for a great interview.  Show some support to these guys by checking out our interview here and then checking out their record.  Great guys and amazing band.  Please checkout the links below for info and you can buy their record here