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Gram Rabbit makes its own ‘Miracles’

by Kevin Bronson on July 20, 2010

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In 2004, Gram Rabbit unveiled a debut album “Music to Start a Cult To.” The title was prescient.

Six years later, the Joshua Tree quartet indeed has a cult following — but, mystifyingly, only that. Despite having released two more albums of some of the most far-thinking, far-out psychedelic disco around, membership in the “The Royal Order of the Rabbit” is still modest.

||| Stream: “Candy Flip”:

“Maybe it’s just a matter of the band expertly slipping through the cracks — the fanbase that is aware of Gram Rabbit is very much into it,” says Ethan Allen, the producer who’s joined the band. “Maybe it’s too pop for indie and too indie for pop, or maybe it’s the age of [music] distribution we’re in. But I don’t think it’s for lack of quality or innovation in the music.”

Stock up on bunny ears, because Gram Rabbit’s fourth album, “Miracles & Metaphors” (set for an October release), figures to have everybody hopping. The album — teased with this week’s release of “The Desert Sound” EP — sounds like the breakthrough desert-dwellers Jesika von Rabbit and Todd Rutherford deserve.

“Miracles & Metaphors” is part radio-ready rock record (and more cerebral than most of those) and part outer-space disco derring-do (and more twangy than most of that). It still minds the Gram Rabbit aesthetic — think No Doubt, abducted by wise aliens and returned to a remote locale in the Mojave (or as Time Out London opined: “Portishead on horseback”). But, the foursome’s eccentricities reined in ever so much, both the disc’s miracles and metaphors are better realized.

“It is a rock record, and I think we could have gotten a little rockier,” von Rabbit says. “But it has those spacey elements we love … more lush and desert sounding.”

Gram-Rabbit-PhotoSays Rutherford: “We wanted to make something that’s still very much of the desert, especially the spiritual side of it.”

The first single, “Candy Flip,” is vintage Gram Rabbit, the kind of banging electro-dance number that put the band on the map. “Party in the desert, party in the desert / Everybody wants to party in the desert,” is a chorus that could have appeared on any of their albums (after the 2004 debut, they released “Cultivation” in 2006 and “RadioAngel & the RobotBeat in 2007).

After “RadioAngel,” the band and its management split up, and the album foundered. “Creatively, we were getting the itch to make more music,” says Rutherford, so in late 2008 he and von Rabbit retreated to remote house at Rimrock Ranch, five miles north of Pioneertown, to write. The ideas from that session were brought into Allen’s studio, and some addition and subtraction later, “Miracles & Metaphors” emerged.

The songs’ themes vary from serious to pointedly whimsical. “Falling Debris” was inspired by a Black Friday trampling death by shoppers at a Wal-Mart; “Horses Can’t Throw Up” came from a book of “dumb facts” but is anything but; “They’re Watching” is a piano ballad prompted by the Patriot Act; and the album’s title is a chapter in the 1903 book “The Kinship of Nature.” Anyway, it’s clear Gram Rabbit aren’t just party animals; von Rabbit and Rutherford do some reading on those lonely desert nights.

It’s music for thinkers and revelers, and maybe that’s the reason the so-called music industry hasn’t latched on to Gram Rabbit and multiplied their reach.

“The industry has always been stumped by us,” von Rabbit says. “They don’t know what kind of box to put us in.”

“But you can’t give up because certain doors haven’t opened for you,” Rutherford says. “This band has weathered many a storm, and I think we’re in a good place.”

Says von Rabbit: “This band needs a miracle. We’ve got the metaphors.”

||| Live: Gram Rabbit, supported by the Ruby Friedman Orchestra and Useless Keys, headline the Troubadour on Wednesday.

Top photo by Marina Chavez


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Erik Ehlert July 21, 2010 at 11:00 am

One of the most innovative bands around. And a real good time to boot. More a reflection on the state of the industry. But it also shows the vigilance and passion of Gram Rabbit to keep putting music out there.
Great review.

Sassy Lashes July 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm

oh this is one of those bands that make me cringe with embarrassment for them. like watching your mom and dad be “naughty ” in costumes. its awkward and uncomfortable. the music is so kitsch lacks genuine genesis. adding a raunchy baseline and a whip may grab some attention but wont take you to the next level. they lack the sophistication to pull off the complex sound mixtures they aim for and it just makes me sad for them. i wish they would stop trying so damn hard.

kevin July 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Sassy, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

Strawb July 22, 2010 at 10:29 am

Being a desert native, I have always loved Gram Rabbit’s support for the desert and how they have intertwined the desert into their music and image. I agree they have a cult following because it takes a certain ear to become a consistent GR listener. GR’s music is bizarre, space-like, and at times down right annoying. I don’t consider them to be incredibly talented musicians, but I have always enjoyed their astro psychedelic bunny hopping theme, as well as Jessica’s unique high pitched vox. I <3 GR

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