We meet up with Jesika von Rabbit of Joshua Tree, California’s Gram Rabbit to discuss their philosophy, style, and their newest musical successes. Keep your finger on the pulse of Gram Rabbit, with a song aired on a commercial during the Olympics and a new album out, Welcome to the Country, the band keeps rolling with the punches.
interview by : Jessica Jewell
Gram Rabbit, a genre-bending band that challenges convention. Their theatrical, interactive performances draw in a cult following, aptly named “The Royal Order of Rabbits” and succeed in drawing in crowds of a diverse span of musical tastes.
Based out of Joshua Tree, the band channels the rugged desolation of the landscape in their music. Unaffected by LA glamour or cliché, they succeed in retaining their unique identity despite trends that come and pass.
Jesika Von Rabbit, the band’s front woman, brings a frantic, borderline manic creative energy to the music. A statuesque, bodacious blonde, Jesika commands the stage with a sexual energy that draws in the audience to a captivating performance. The combination of her vocal talent and courageously fabulous fashion partnered with her desire to truly entertain makes her a musician set apart from the generic hordes commonly encountered in the music industry.
Their recent performance at LA’s Psychfest held at the landmark LA concert venue, The Echo, exemplified their versatile talent. Psychedelic audiophiles poured in for their set; yet at any other given night they could easily blend in with a darker crowd.
The band continues to discover new sounds and personality with every album. Songs range from psyched-out walls of sound, to twangy, catchy country refrains. Their sound is a masterful fusion of psychedelic-electro-space-country, and as eclectic as it may seem, they pull it off.
Front woman, Jesika Von Rabbit took some time to speak with Auxiliary to share where the band comes from and where they’re going.
Gram Rabbit has gone through an impressive range of genres. What is the driving influence that has kept your sound in flux?
Jesika von Rabbit : I suppose it is the unwanted desire to settle on one sound. We don’t put any boundaries on what we do musically unless it something that is obviously terrible to us. An artist that keeps repeating the same piece is not working to his or her potential, in my book. Life is short and we have a lot of ground to cover.
Has there always been one driving inspiration for the band’s sound?
JvR : I don’t know that we actually think about our sound that much, it just comes out. The desert has definitely been a major influence on us. Our song, “Cowboys & Aliens” kind of sums up a diverse and metaphorical combination of what the desert looks and feels like. Cowboys on the ground, aliens in the sky, beauty and ruggedness around you…
What inspired the band for the recent album, Welcome to the Country?
JvR : The latest Country album was actually a side project Todd and I had started a couple years back, a band called The Country. I had some songs that I was writing and I felt that they would suit a different band more than Gram. I now see that I was wrong about viewing it that way, since Gram has always been all over the musical map anyhow. When it came time to put the record out, we caught our mistake and released it as Gram Rabbit.
The band brings a theatrical, dramatic experience to its audience. What’s been Gram Rabbit’s motivation behind the performance style?
JvR : When I am on stage I feel that I am up there not only to be a musician but an entertainer. I see a lot of bands that get up there and perform their songs well but don’t give you much more to look at; we happen to have the vision to add other elements to our performance, and I think it helps bring the songs to life. I don’t mind being the class clown for people either.
Jesika, your presence is huge in Gram Rabbit’s image. Who or what are your fashion inspirations?
JvR : I suppose since I was a very young I loved colorfully dressed people, from Mrs. Roper on Three’s Company to Cyndi Lauper and Boy George. On or off the stage I like to wear bold and interesting things. It makes my life more exciting. I love to mix and match things that other people wouldn’t dare. Taking chances is exhilarating. It’s very much like our music.
What’s the story behind your name, “von Rabbit”?
JvR : People have called me Jesika Rabbit for years. One of my favorite songs is Jefferson Airplane’s, “White Rabbit”. I adopted the “von” from a family surname.
It’s impressive that Gram Rabbit achieved commercial success; like the tracks featured in Crazy, Stupid, Love and more recently on a Fruit of the Loom commercial that was aired during the Olympics. How do you manage to still retain your unique look, sound and eclectic following despite commercial pressures?
JvR : Retaining our unique look and sound is what comes easy to us. We’re not pressured by anything commercial; maybe if we were, we would be more successful by now.
What is it about playing at hole-in-the-wall venues in ghost towns in the desert? You could be playing popular venues in big cities exclusively, if you so cared.
JvR : Actually, you are misinformed, we don’t play hole-in-the-wall venues in the desert, we play at Pappy & Harriet’s, which is anything but. It is a world-class venue that books world-class artists and was just hailed as Spin Magazine’s top 10 venues. We have played many popular venues over the course of our career and will continue to do so.
Speaking of eclectic following: Gram Rabbit’s sound captures the attention of a diverse fan base. You’ve played the main stage at Coachella, small town joints. You have a wide cross section of different scenes that follow you. How do you feel you connect to them as a band? What is it about Gram Rabbit that galvanizes these different subcultures?
JvR : I think Gram is bit of band that attracts misfits. I also think because of our indescribable sound, it doesn’t exclude any one group or attract just one type of scene. There is something for everyone inside our music and I think that makes us relatable, and it is humanizing. I would feel stifled if we didn’t allow our music to be the patchwork blanket that it is.
You folks are based out of Joshua Tree. What is it about the desert that inspires you?
JvR : If you aren’t inspired by the beauty of the desert, I’d say there is something wrong with you. It is vast, mystical, spiritual, and energizing. No superficial distractions out here.
If you could tour with any band, who would it be?
JvR : There is this brilliant band out of Brussels called Ghinzu. I am truly amazed by them, and it would be a dream come true. Check them out!
Any news you can share with our readers?
JvR : We have a new album coming out this fall that we are excited to release. It includes all the best elements Gram Rabbit has to offer. The first single off this record is called “Final Clap Fever”, which we just shot a video for and should be out by the time your reading this. Go check it out. It features one of my biggest fans, and eight-year-old girl named Sophia. Her parents must have been bringing her to our shows since she was five and I wanted to use her in this video; she definitely stole the show.
The buzz is real. Check them out at www.gramrabbit.com.
live photos : Jessica Jewell
press photos : Marina Chavez