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18 Jan 2018

The Queen Is Coming: Jesika von Rabbit's New Album Is Almost Here—and She's Celebrating With a Show at Pappy's

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Jesika von Rabbit. Jesika von Rabbit. Carly Valentine

Anticipation is building for the long-awaited new album by Jesika von Rabbit—and the former Gram Rabbit frontwoman promises it’s coming soon.

The Queen of the High Desert will be performing at Pappy and Harriet’s with the psychedelic Western music outfit Spindrift on Friday, Feb. 9.

During a recent phone interview, von Rabbit said she’s been hard at work on the new album with her producer and former Gram Rabbit bandmate, Ethan Allen—and talked about a cover song that has led to big things.

“The new album just got finished,” von Rabbit said. “I put out ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ back in June. I gave KCOD a song that probably wasn’t in its completed state, but I really haven’t released anything since June.

“I thought about covering Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ a couple of years back, and I wasn’t figuring out the chords right away, so I figured out how to play Cyndi Lauper’s ‘She Bop’ instead. That came easier to me, but I always thought ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ would be a cooler cover. But then a year ago, I was hanging out in Los Angeles with Ethan Allen, my producer and guitar-player, and he started playing the chords to ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ and it sounded really pretty. We just kind of plugged in and did it right there. That was recorded on the spot, and I did it in one vocal take. I’ve always loved Boy George.”

Boy George heard the cover—and gave Jesika von Rabbit a shout-out on Twitter. He even found a photo of von Rabbit as a child, with a poster of Boy George, and asked, ‘Is this you?’”

“I thought that was awesome,” von Rabbit said. “I’ve been waiting for his phone call to do lunch, but I haven’t gotten it yet.”

One newer song by von Rabbit, “Going Down,” received airplay on KCRW. The song is brilliant and eerie, with a haunting chorus.

“I released that back in December 2016, right before the new year, but I’ve been sitting on that one for a while, and it actually will be included on the new album,” she said. “There will be another phase with that song.”

On the new album, there will be a lot more instrumental contributions than there were on her first solo effort, 2015’s Journey Mitchell.

“It’s more than just electronic music like my last album was,” she said. “There will be full guitars played by Ethan Allen; I’ve got drums on it from a couple of different drummers, and it’s a lot more soulful than my last album. There’s a lot more of a world-music feel to some of my songs. It’s a lot more diverse and a lot deeper. It’s a little tropical.

“There’s a great song called ‘Palm Springs Living’ that I can’t wait to release. It’s deeper, and it has more layers and is a lot more organic. It’s still a little electronic, but organic. There’s also a country-twangy song that’s like Gram Rabbit’s ‘Devil’s Playground’ at the end of the record.

“It’s a short album; it’s only 38 minutes, and I don’t feel there are really any filler tracks. I think there’s something for everybody on this album. There’s this song that’s kind of science fiction, ’70s outer-space, and starts off Steve Miller and goes into some crazy Western world. There’s a song that’s super-trippy and has a bass line that’s kind of like stoner trance music. … I keep going back and forth on all the songs, but I really love the opening song of the album, which is kind of tropical and Beck-sounding. It’s really positive and catchy. I guess people will have to hear it and pick their own favorite song.”

Von Rabbit’s sound combines the weirdness of the high desert with the glamour of Palm Springs; I asked her what she’d do if she lived in another part of the country.

“I used to be in a band in Minneapolis, and we kind of had some fame there. I think I have my own Jesikaisms and my own personal style that would come out no matter where I was,” she said. “I think living in this weird sunny landscape definitely adds its own little slant to my music. I think I will always have that core sense of my writing, no matter what it is.

“But maybe I’d be a little angrier on the East Coast or something,” she added with a laugh.

Von Rabbit’s band includes Lee Joseph, the CEO of Dionysus Records.

“He’s really smooth bass-player and has been playing forever. I don’t ever have to give him any instruction at all as to what to do,” von Rabbit said. “He’s really excited to be a part of this and hadn’t been in a band for a while, and he didn’t expect to be back in one—and now here he is. He also brings a wider awareness of music and can turn us onto things we’ve never heard before, because he’s in-depth and expansive in his knowledge of music. Also, he’s a pretty snappy dresser.”

Von Rabbit said she was looking forward to sharing the Pappy’s stage with Spindrift.

“We haven’t played with Spindrift for a while, and they’re good friends, plus I love their sound and their energy,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a good combination, and there will be a lot of happy people there excited to see us play together. Spindrift is adding a nice spin to the night, too—no pun intended.

“It’s our first Pappy’s show of the year. We have our new drummer, Dan, who is really good, and Ethan and Lee (Joseph) are also great. We’re coming out fresh, debuting some new music in 2018 and spreading positive vibes.”

Jesika von Rabbit will perform with Spindrift at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

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