Interview: Bunnies

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Bunnies is an extremely psychedelic, “krautish,” supercool band residing in Northampton. Besides creating excellent weirdo music that clangs and clatters in the best way, they also make some killer video, which is embedded here. I talked to them about Bunnies’ 13-year run (still going!), how creative concepts are born and grown, venue accessibility, and of course, DELICIOUS GEAR. Enjoy this–I really feel like this band needs to be heard and seen and felt. Hoping to set up a show with these people soon.

–Francesca Olsen

DWP: Let’s do a little gear breakdown. Who is using what? How often do you change things up?

Bunnies: An equipment question! So, for the most part our live set-up stays constant. Although it changes from time to time. Live, we are a five-piece band. Mr. Bard plays a Les Paul through an Orange AD30R, which is a 30-watt single channel amp that basically sounds perfect. He uses an assortment of pedals including a Boss looper. Mr. Dubs plays a fender Stratocaster through a 2×12 combo. He’s been switching in between a 70’s Fender Twin and an Ampeg VT-22. He keeps it simple with effects. Just a Boss DD-7 delay and a MXR Distortion +. Mr. Newman plays an old Slingerland four-piece kit. He prefers large heavy symbols. I think he even uses two crash symbols as a high-hat. Ms. Macomber plays a 1972 Fender Telecaster bass. She always uses an Ampeg 4×10 cabinet. Lately she has an Ampeg SVT from the 80’s. Although from time to time she uses a 120-Watt Sound City Tour Series amp. Mr. Science uses an Arp Odyssey synthesizer through a Sunn Solarus and two old beater cabinets. For recording we essentially use the same equipment. With some added stuff. For vocals we’ve been favoring a Sony 38B. We also use more synths for overdubs: an Arp 2600, a Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 and a Korg Mono/Poly. We also use prerecorded reel to reel tapes and some sort of Bulgarian 12-string electric guitar.

DWP: Your latest release is very crunchy and psychedelic and weird–how do you feel you’ve evolved over 13 years as a band?

Bunnies: In our older music, it was maybe easier to hear what our influences were. There’d be a riff that was clearly inspired by Melvins, or a synth part that could have been straight out of a Devo tune. Over time, we got a bit better at melding all the sounds we love into a more distinct “Bunnies” sound. We try to keep expanding our musical tastes, which inevitably will have an effect on the music we make. Our first album was somewhat heavier. Perhaps you could say that the early stuff was heavier on the surface, while the new stuff is still heavy, but more like the kind of “heavy” that Marty McFly is talking about in “Back to the Future.” A heady sort of heavy. Our second album was performed as a trio: one synth, one guitar, drums, and vocals. This is when we began spending more time on arrangements and had new realizations — we don’t always have to be playing the full chords of our chord progressions, and it’s okay if a guitar is just playing one dinky note as long as it complements the song. In regards to the new album, we wrote and arranged it with the intention of adding a bassist and second guitarist to the live performance, plus all the many overdubs that would follow. So, this was probably our most complex and challenging piece of work so far.

DWP: Who did the art for Transportation to Mind Transformation? Did you give guidelines or do you just really like this person’s work?

Bunnies: The artwork for Transportation to Mind Transformation was done by Gregery Miller, an illustrator and concept artist based out of New York. He creates the most wonderful mythical worlds and fantastical characters, and we were already big fans when we asked him to do our album art. Throughout the months we were working on the album, we would send Greg the progress we were making, along with brief explanations of what the lyrics were about. We told him we wanted portraits, or faces, that express the forms of mind transformation described on each side of the record, Link Think (front cover) and Unchain Brain (back cover). Other than that, the only guidelines we gave were to feel free to get crazy with it and that there is no such thing as too weird. He completely delivered. It’s exactly what we wanted. We couldn’t be more ecstatic with the results. Thank you, Greg!

DWP: I watched your Advocate session and I see your singer is using a wheelchair. How do you navigate issues of accessibility around music and venues? How do you think attitudes and accommodations at venues have changed in the time you’ve been a band?

Bunnies: Accessibility is definitely an issue with some of the venues we play. I won’t name any names, because the people who work at those venues are all good people, and they always feel bad. They usually make it up to me by giving me free drinks and food. I think raising awareness is the best way to end the inaccessibility of music venues. Lack of accessibility doesn’t only burden disabled musicians. It’s also an impedance on potential audience members with disabilities (and their able-bodied friends) who would have gone to the show if not for that massive flight of stairs. I don’t think much has changed in the years since we’ve been a band. Some venues are older buildings and they aren’t able to make modifications to them very easily or affordably, so I don’t hold that against them or let it hold me back. One thing that does make me hopeful is that there is more awareness these days, and I feel confident that owners of the newer music venues will take the necessary steps (no pun intended). It doesn’t really help very much for me to bitch about it and alienate myself, because then I’ll just end up sitting at home watching television, when I could be out playing a rock show. What I’d rather do is point out and applaud the folks who do make it a priority to make their venues accessible. Hawks and Reed and The Root Cellar in Greenfield, Massachusetts are two venues which, despite having a lot of stairs, also have very nice elevators. Thank you, Hawks and Reed and the Root Cellar, for making inclusiveness one of your top priorities. It is much appreciated. When it comes to accessibility during the act of performing, I just deal with it. Instead of using pedals with my feet, I put them on a chair and use my hands to hit them. If I’m playing drums, I’ll flip the bass drum on its side and hit it with a drumstick. Whatever it takes.

DWP: I LOVE THESE VIDEOS oh my god. Does anyone have a production background? How do you flesh out concepts for this type of work?

Bunnies: So our drummer Matt (that’s me) is a professional music video director.  He goes by Mount Emult. (Editor’s note: Mount Emult has directed videos for The Pixies, Panda Bear, and Mini Mansions, among others.) He directed/animated the video for “The Trouble With Unchain Brain” as well as “The Deep State Of Strawberry Tart.”  Our amazingly talented friends Opertura directed the video for “The Problem With Link Think.”  As far as coming up with ideas for music videos it primarily happens in the shower or when driving.  Usually there is a small seed of an idea and then that is turned over on itself hundreds of times until… poof, it’s a music video.  I like to think in collage form so there is usually some amount of mashing going on, whether it be the imagery or the editing or the themes, or all of them.  Music videos are one of the forms of art that make the most working sense to me.

 

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