CVIndependent

Sun02182018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

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.

Published in Previews

The Mod subculture from the 1960s in the United Kingdom involved fashion—but it was also about great music.

Lee Joseph, the founder of Dionysus Records and the bassist for Jesika Von Rabbit, and Bob Deck, also known as DJ Bobby California, love the Mod culture, and started throwing the monthly Mod-themed Desert Soul Club parties at the Tonga Hut over the summer.

They’ll be throwing the first Desert Soul Club of 2017 at 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14.

“One of the inspirations is we were in Palm Springs and hearing the word ‘Mod’ all the time in reference to mid-century modernism,” Joseph said. “We wanted to do something genuinely Mod in Palm Springs.”

The music in Mod culture was generally soul, ska and British rock from bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks.

“We wanted to do the true British kind of Mod sound,” Deck said, “not just the soul stuff that’s popular, but also some of the Mod-rock stuff too. We mix a lot of that stuff in. It’s easy to describe it as ’60s soul and Motown and stuff like that, but we’re doing a lot more. We do ska music, which is basically soul that was misheard across the airwaves in Jamaica on AM radios. We almost feel like we’re teaching a bit about the history of that music. We both have a kind of passion for that kind of music. We wanted to teach what the true meaning of Mod is, especially around here, where we feel it is kind of misinterpreted.”

Joseph explained the lifestyle aspect.

“All the Mods had jobs and money, and they bought records,” Joseph said. “It was a post-war generation of kids who had money, and it was their own money. They didn’t get it from their parents. They spent their money on clothing, Italian scooters and records. They would go out to clubs and go dancing. They had jobs that started really early in the morning, so they started taking speed and would dance all night to American soul records. The movie Quadrophenia explains the whole thing.”

Deck said Mods were influenced by the goings-on in Italy.

“They had a real affinity for what was coming out of Italy at the time: Italian scooters, Italian fashion and Italian art,” Deck said. “With any subculture, it’s not just about one thing. That’s kind of what this movement was, and it does have a tie-in with what’s going on in Palm Springs with modernism.”

Then along came disco.

“The scene broke up because of the popularity of disco music at the time,” Deck said. “A lot of the DJs would start to mix in Donna Summer records, and people were like, ‘No, we don’t want to hear this stuff! We want to hear the old stuff.’ In the ’70s, the purist Mod fans started forming bands, and there was a second era of Mod music in the ’70s like The Jam and power-pop kind of stuff.”

Joseph and Deck play some of that second-era Mod music at Desert Soul Club.

“We play Motown, Stax and New Orleans funk stuff from the ’70s,” Deck said. “We don’t play a lot of down-tempo stuff. A lot of it is high energy, and it’s party music. People respond to the hits, like the Supremes and Smokey Robinson. We like to have fun, and we both learn from each other what we’re playing. That’s something we love to do in our personal lives: learn about music.”

Joseph said he loves to share music with people.

“I’m from Tucson, Ariz., and I collect records from the late ’50s to the early ’70s,” Joseph said. “If you can imagine, every town in America had independent local records released, so there are a lot of records out there from that era. I really like Dyke and the Blazers; they’re from Phoenix. They had a hit in 1969 called ‘We Got More Soul.’

“Being a record collector, I don’t have a lot of people over to my house. This is the way to share our records with people.”

Deck has a history with the Tonga Hut in Palm Springs, and thought it would be a great place for the Desert Soul Club.

“We wanted to do this there, because we really like the owners,” Deck said. “We wanted to help them out, and I was a resident DJ there for a couple of years. That slowed down, and we wanted to do something together. They wanted to do something with us—and it was an easy match.”

Desert Soul Club will start at 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, at Tonga Hut Palm Springs, 254 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-322-4449, or visit www.facebook.com/DesertSoulClub.

Published in Previews

If you’ve seen a performance by Jesika Von Rabbit, you’ve probably seen several interesting characters accompanying her. Of course, there’s her 71-year-old dancing man, Larry Van Horn. And then there’s her bass-player, Lee Joseph. Originally from Tucson, Ariz., Lee now calls Joshua Tree home. He’s the owner of Dionysus Records, which is home to a lot of great underground music. He’s also a DJ; Joseph plays a lot of fascinating selections from the ‘60s through the modern day. In fact, he’ll be DJing with DJ Bobby California at the Desert Soul Club at Tonga Hut Palm Springs at 9 p.m., Saturday, May 28. Admission is free, but be sure to dress sharp and wear your dancing shoes. Here are his answers to The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

Some battle of the bands thing in Tucson when I was 10 back in the late ’60s. The first arena concert I was taken to was Tom Jones at The Forum in Los Angeles. I was visiting after my brother had moved there; his date blew him off, so he took me. First arena concert I bought tickets to and went on my own: Rolling Stones/Stevie Wonder ’72. It was the inaugural show for the Tucson Community Center.

What was the first album you owned?

Can’t remember. I really had lots of children’s albums, and I think maybe it was the Dumbo soundtrack on Disney. The first rock album I owned that I chose was Herman’s Hermit’s Greatest Hits, Vol 1. I must have been 7 years old.

What bands are you listening to right now?

The Live at the Gold Dollar box set released by Third Man Records, Jack White and The Bricks, Two Star Tabernacle, and The Go. (I’m a member of the Third Man Records Vault.)

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Anything with Auto-Tune.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I wish I could have seen the Iggy Pop tour that David Bowie did playing keyboards, pretty much in the shadows.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I feel no guilt about anything I listen to, really.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Life is short, filled with stuff,” The Cramps, “New Kind of Kick.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The Dead Boys. Upon buying their Young Loud and Snotty album in late ’78, I cut off my hair, dumped three-quarters of my records (I lost most of my friends on that note as well) and immersed myself in the then-world of punk and “new wave.” It felt to me like the bridge between the awesomeness of 1966 garage rock and constantly evolving pop culture of the ’60s, and the modern world, flipping the finger at the stagnant late ’70s corporate sound of FM radio and mega-star bands. If not for punk, I think perhaps I’d have never had the inspiration to start a label.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Johann Sebastian Bach: “Where’d you get that awesome black velvet jacket?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

That’s no problem at all: Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Looking for a Weirdo,” Jesika von Rabbit. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13