Blue Rabbit out of San Francisco comes at you like an urgent whisper, channeling early 90’s wombadelics like Lush and Cocteau Twins, the rumble and earthiness of Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits and the soft-compressed breaks of the Bristol Trip Hop in a way that feels as fresh as the 2009 calender you just thumb-tacked to your wall.
Selected from hundreds of submissions, we asked band leader Heather Anderson to fill us in. Here’s what we discovered down the rabbit hole:
We released our debut album, Separate in 2008. It’s a concept art piece, in that all 8 songs on it tie together as part of “The Story of Sadie Jones,” a collaborative art project that incorporates recordings by indie artists from all over the world into an illustrated storybook. I am the founder/producer of the project.
Several of the songs on the album were written when BR was a twosome, about the trials of trying not to love your band mate – because I was loving Kevin, and he did not want to go there. If you’re a voyeur – you’ll hear me accept what little he was willing to give in “Like I’d Like You To,” or how sad and awkward it got in the end by listening to “Stupid Flag” – a blow by blow shot list of our lamest moments. Even the title came straight from his mouth. He asked me once – if when I see he’s about to be a jerk – if I could please just raise up some kind of “stupid flag.” I told him it doesn’t work like that, but that it was a damn good title. People teased that we were pulling a “No Doubt.” I like to think I was channeling Fleetwood Mac. I want people to know that some of these songs were my private audio-letters to Kevin, so that they can picture us alone in a warehouse practice space after work – he beating a drum, and I singing these things to him, about him.
Now that our debut album is out and starting to circulate, we’re starting pre-production on our new EP. None of the new songs are about Kevin and me. In fact, the only one about a lover is about my current boyfriend’s Bridge to Terabithia childhood love affair. That song “Flattened and Shined,” and “Freezing a Frame” are now up as live videos on our site. If Separate’s songs make you want to dance in your head, the new songs make your body jump up and down.
Long ago, I was a lone blue rabbit making four-track recordings in my bathroom. Then one day I posted on Craigslist – an ad looking for all the missing band parts – and found a drummer. I threw some words at him like “dramatic pause, ¾ time, cymbals crashing, the sense of bitter epiphany.” He said to just sing it, and so I did, a Capella. Like magic, he played exactly what was in my mind.
We played secretly, “in the closet” – literally – for a year and a half as a vocals/drum duo. My voice has a limited low range, but I like to write sweeping melodies, so during most of our practices, I’d yell out mid-song, “and this is where our imaginary friends come in!” Then I’d squeak out the higher parts as best I could; there were so many great melodies for these imaginary people.
In February, 2006, I posted an ad for singers. I found ten singing women who wanted to know how I would ‘eliminate’ them. I said they would be eliminating themselves. So I rehearsed with all 10 for two months – five a night, twice a week, teaching them songs like a choir director with no sheet music. They learned every line by ear, parroting them back to me; we sang along to iPod recordings of Kevin drumming. They asked if we were ever going to have instruments, or when they could meet the ‘real’ drummer. When they’d dwindled to the original four, I called Kevin: “I found us some imaginary friends!” These four stayed with us until 2007, when we reorganized, sticking with our final two: Arami Reyes, and Sarah Rocklin. The rest of the members were carefully gathered like lucky thrift store finds. Not that they are used goods – but that the feeling of discovering a treasure is the same. Rounding out our crew, they are: Celtic harpist (Eah Herren), keyboardist/singer (Timothy Galida) who was doing voiceover work for a good friend, and cellist (Kristin Harris) whom we also found on Craigslist.
Through our personalities and tastes, we each bring a unique perspective to the music, though it’s seven times trickier to get around (two cars, lots of flight tickets), and we’re seven mouths to feed – not one. But the trade-off is so worth it, because we are seven times what any of us could ever be alone.
There are songs in my head all day at work. On breaks I pace the allies between the office buildings mumbling them to myself, Rainman-style, until I can get the syllables to line up just right with the rhythm of my steps. I mutter and hum rhymes at bus stops, always when walking, driving, doing dishes, showering. When I am moved, I think in melody, in lyrics. If I am angry, enraged, joyous, enamored, my thoughts turn musical. My childhood house fell down in a landslide. When moving the black-bagged remains, I found a diary of mine from age five. Every page had a song. I opened to one about the sun. There were verses and choruses marked, even bridges. It ended in giant kid-scrawl, with the words “REPEAT and FADE.” The songs are in me. If I didn’t let them out, they would kill me.
Until we keel over. I want to tour the country in an old converted sleeper bus. I want to share stages with Arcade Fire, The Dears, Devotchka, Radiohead, Broken Social Scene and others. I want to co-produce 3D animated /live action music videos. I want to tour overseas. I want to play to people who know our songs by heart.
We are off to Toronto to play Canadian Music Week this month – our first trip together (that involves a sleepover). Our cellist, Kristin Harris, is getting married the same weekend, so Michael Fecskes of SF faves Built for the Sea will be filling in. He blew our minds at practice – whipping through our songs with little to no guidance! I’m glad we all like each other because, whether or not he’s yet fully aware, we’re about to bunk together for four nights in one room, dorm-style.
At least once a month you can find us singing it like we mean it at venues around the San Francisco Bay such as Cafe du Nord, Hemlock Tavern, Hotel Utah, Amnesia, The Starry Plough and more. On our plate right now in the next 40-odd days: Shooting a music video for Sleep, working on a radio remix of Sleep with a producer in the UK for UK radio play, Cafe du Nord on March 21 (with The Minks and Sex With No Hands), and Hemlock Tavern on April 15th sponsored by The Deli SF (with Chelsea Wolfe, Tippy Canoe). The Hemlock show will be taped by Wiretap Music and aired on their radio show the following week.
A few nights a week, we are in Soma, San Francisco, creating music in a tiny room we cloaked in red cloth and strung with lights.
Next year, look out for us touring the country in that sleeper bus.
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