CVIndependent

Thu02222018

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

In recent years, Jesika von Rabbit has focused on her solo career—but her popular band, Gram Rabbit, reunites every year around Halloween for a celebration at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

The queen of the High Desert and her Gram Rabbit bandmates—Ethan Allen (guitar) and Todd Rutherford (guitar, bass, programmer)—will be performing on Friday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Oct. 29, at Pappy and Harriet’s.

If you can’t wait to get a dose of JVR, she’ll be performing a free show with the Sunday Band at Pappy’s this Sunday, Sept. 18.

During a recent phone interview, von Rabbit explained why she and her busy bandmates can’t quite walk away from Gram Rabbit. Rutherford works as a music producer, while von Rabbit and Allen have their own music projects.

“I think we’re very dynamic, versatile and a bit of a spectacle,” von Rabbit said. “We mix up our sound a lot, which keeps our sound fresh, and you never know what you’re going to get. Our musical style isn’t just one thing, and I think it keeps people on their toes. We’ve been genre-jumpers, and I think people like to see what comes out of our mouths and our guitars next.”

Gram Rabbit formed in 2004, when the High Desert wasn’t quite the destination that it is for music and arts today. The group quickly won over the locals; both Gram Rabbit and von Rabbit on her own have sold out Pappy and Harriet’s, something that few local acts have accomplished.

“I think our success is attributed to the fact we’ve been doing it up here for so long, before this area was gaining any popularity. We originated up here, and we were this fun band among country acts and folk music,” von Rabbit said. “We were this band from outer space that was more rock ’n’ roll, electronic and dance. It was the perfect spot to have under-the-moon dance parties with whatever costumes, hula-hoops and glow sticks. All those felt like vibes you’d want to do out here, and I don’t think there was anyone doing anything like that at the time. … We were more animated and brought a little city life to the desert. We were also nice kids and liked to hang out in the community and got to know a lot of the locals.”

Gram Rabbit found success beyond the desert. The band played at Coachella in the early years, and the band’s tracks have been used on television shows on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, STARZ and MTV, as well as at least three movie soundtracks. Still, Gram Rabbit never abandoned the desert to make a home Los Angeles or anywhere else—and always included the high-desert in music videos and its repertoire.

“Our sound was influenced by our surroundings. Our music was desert-soaked,” von Rabbit said.

As is usually the case, the members are bringing in some friends to play with Gram Rabbit at the Halloween shows. Last year, Spindrift and local band Astro Zombies played with Gram Rabbit.

“I’ve been trying harder to have bands that have creepy names to go along with the Halloween themes,” von Rabbit said. “The first night (this year), we invited a band from San Diego called the Creepy Creeps to open for us. They’re pretty wild and dress up in Mexican skull masks and have go-go dancers. They’ve been rocking it in the San Diego scene and have opened for some big acts. They opened for Robert Plant not too long ago.

“The second night, we’ve asked the Death Valley Girls to open for us, because they rock, and their singer is really sweet. They’re doing really great right now, and they have a perfect Halloween name.”

A couple of months ago, Death Valley Girls frontwoman Bonnie Bloomgarden told the Independent about her encounter with a mummy that was trying to get into a gas station in Los Angeles—an incident that she swears really happened.

“We’ll have to get a mummy to get onstage with us during our show with them that night,” von Rabbit said with a laugh. “Or maybe I’ll be a mummy, or a rabbit mummy. I’ll have to figure out my costume and put that on my list.”

Von Rabbit said she’s in the process of releasing two new songs on her own, one of which is called “Dog at a Human Party.”

“I’m sitting on two new videos right now,” she said. “One should be out soon, and as far as another full album, I have a collection of songs. I’m not sure how well they fit together for an album, which has always sort of been my problem. Right now, I’m unsure about putting out an entire album, and I’m more interested in releasing singles and videos.”

In recent years, Gram Rabbit fans have had only the Halloween shows and perhaps an occasional show here or there to look forward to. However, that’s about to change.

“Gram Rabbit is in the studio a little bit right now, working on a couple new songs, so I have that on the burner and we’ll see how it goes,” von Rabbit said. “Probably not a record, but I’m thinking we’ll release a single or two, or a three-song EP.”

I asked von Rabbit about her favorite memories from the Gram Rabbit Halloween shows.

“Last year was great and probably my favorite so far. It was so cool to have Exene Cervenka at the show both nights and loving it,” von Rabbit said about the X frontwoman, who was in attendance. “… It was cool to hang out with her, and she loved me and loved our music. That’s pretty awesome. The shows are always so crazy, and I’m always involved in the chaotic blur of what they are, but last year was great. I loved the opening acts; I loved our set; and our costumes were great.

“We’ll have to see if we can top that this year.”

Gram Rabbit will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, with the Creepy Creeps, and 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, with Death Valley Girls at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15 each night. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews