By Jason Hall
Anybody who is a local music fan has surely heard of Jesika von Rabbit. She has been a part of the local scene since the early 2000s, and has been going strong ever since. Her band, Gram Rabbit, has released several albums. In 2005 after the release of Music to Start a Cult To, the band earned a spot on the main stage at Coachella Music and Arts Festival. The lucky people who were witness to this performance were not only gifted pink rabbit ears, but they were gifted music they would remember for the rest of their lives. As of 2013, Gram Rabbit has been on hiatus, giving Jesika time to perfect her solo project.
2015 saw the release of Jesika von Rabbit’s solo debut, Journey Mitchell. The solo project is a lot more electronic than Gram Rabbit, but still has that high desert feel. Lee Joseph’s Dionysus Records released the album for von Rabbit. This relationship played a huge part in the solo project, not just because of the distribution of the album, but because it helped solidify von Rabbit’s live sound with the addition of Joseph on bass. The duo perfected their sound while playing various shows in L.A., the desert, and Las Vegas. They quickly gained notoriety and were invited on tour with Eagles Of Death Metal.
In 2017, von Rabbit and Joseph continued with the momentum. They played various shows and festivals including Desert Daze. Desert Daze featured the debut of Jesika von Rabbit with a full band. They were definitely one of the stand outs of last year’s festival. The full band brought a sound to the project which raised the bar. von Rabbit and Joseph had an amazing sound complete by themselves, but adding Gram rabbit guitarist Ethan Allen, and drummer, Dan Kashuck, brought the band to new levels. von Rabbit has recently hit the studio to record her follow up to Journey Mitchell. The song previewed is mind blowingly good and proves von Rabbit’s music just keeps getting better.
Coachella Valley Weekly: At what point in your life did you know music was it for you?
Jesika von Rabbit: “Well, my mother was a singer. Music is in my bones. I grew up with music in my house. Some of my youngest memories of music were Rod Stewart’s ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.’ It was probably my favorite song when I was like 5. I’ve always liked music. I’m sure it helped that my mom was always singing. I came out of the womb with music. I knew I wanted to be a singer at 5. I started taking piano lessons from 7 until I was a senior in high school. Of course, some of the high school years I was distracted by punk rock and stuff. Instruments always intrigued me. I’ve always picked up any instrument around.”
Lee Joseph: “I had a brother who was a DJ. He brought home a couple boxes of 45s. They were tucked way up in the closet way out of reach, but every once in a while, they would give me a record. I was fascinated with the label designs. Even without that, music was everywhere in my house. My dad loved to sing. He wasn’t a professional, but he’d sing at home, local bars, and old folks homes. For a guy who wasn’t a performer, he sang a lot around town. I took vocal lessons because of my dad. Also, we had a piano, and one day I was really young and tapped out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ with one finger. My mom asked, ‘where’d you learn that?’ I couldn’t answer. They put me in piano lessons too.”
CVW: You covered “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” and shot an amazing video for it. Boy George was pretty impressed. How did that happen?
JvR: “He stumbled onto it somehow. I’m not sure if he found it or somebody he knows pointed it out to him. He tweeted the video. Then somehow he found a picture of me at 9 years old holding a picture of him. He tweeted that too. We exchanged comments. I was waiting for that ‘want to do lunch?’ Or, ‘want to open for me?’ That never came though. We filmed the video in Bombay Beach. The desert is such a great place to shoot. I sometimes feel like I should change up the location, then I realize, I’m in the desert and it’s beautiful.”
Joseph: “The lighting and natural terrain is perfect.”
CVW: After Gram Rabbit, you started your solo career with Journey Mitchell. There was definitely a change in tone. Was that something you were always thinking of?
JvR: “Gram Rabbit is on an indefinite hiatus right now. I didn’t want to stop making music though. I’m left with Pro Tools, my voice, my keyboards, and a couple other instruments, but mostly electronic elements, so it was easy for me to record a mostly electronic album. It was the tools I had in front of me and the best way to make use of them. Lee brought in the bass to the live shows. I needed that. I never wanted to be a solo artist. My band was gone, but I wanted to keep moving. I could drop a sample in and keep going, but I’ve always wanted a full band. I met Lee here at Pappy and Harriet’s and in the conversation I mentioned I was looking for a bass player. He told me he played bass. We really hit it off and a month later, he said, ‘I learned every one of your songs last night. Let’s jam.’ The first song we played was ‘Psychic Spice.’ Hear it with real bass and fuzzed out… I was like, ‘that’s fucking awesome!’”
Joseph: “We met here one night and really hit it off. She showed me the cover of her album which is a modified cover of a 50s comedy album by Rusty Warren. I looked at the album, and told her, ‘oh, this is a Rusty Warren thing.’ She was blown away that I knew that. It’s such an obscure thing. She sent me the CD in Burbank, and I sat down and learned it. I was curious about the music. I like making a left turn sometimes.”
JvR: “We haven’t really talked about that, but it was really crazy that he knew that album.”
CVW: There’s a new album coming out and now there is a full band. Can you tell me about the transition from Journey Mitchell to the new album with a full band?
JvR: “I always wanted a full band. It seemed like a tall order initially. I don’t know why I waited so long. In the past year, I was starting to get bored on stage. I felt like I plateaued with the duo. I knew I needed something more. I needed that full band experience. We did really well with that ensemble, but it was definitely time for something different. I was in the studio recording with Ethan Allen, and I was talking to him about adding a drummer. We were at his house, and he suggested looking up drummers on Craigslist. After reading about 30 ridiculous ads, I came to one and everything I was reading was exactly what I wanted. I emailed him right then. The next day, he came to Ethan’s studio. He was really cool and seemed really interested. I sent him the songs to learn. We had our first rehearsal, and it sounded amazing. Dan (Kashuck) has been playing with us ever since. I was shocked that I didn’t have to look hard. I really needed that to happen at that moment.”
Joseph: “The full band experience frees her up to really perform. Before, she was essentially the band. Now she has much more freedom.”
Jesika von Rabbit will be playing Pappy & Harriet’s on Friday, February 9, 2018. Tickets are $15 and available at pappyandharriets.com. Doors at 7 PM and show at 9 PM.