Interview: Pepper Rabbit
These days, it seems like every indie rock-esque band in existence is moving East – more specifically, to Brooklyn, which is nothing less than a mecca for music – as fast as possible. Not so with Pepper Rabbit. In fact, they did it all backward, moving East (from Massachusetts and New Hampshire) to the West (all the way to Los Angeles).
Pepper Rabbit plays its own brand of indie-folk music, rife with lush orchestration and hauntingly-inspired sounds, which is surprising, considering it is made up of just two members. While the band has experienced a large underground following over the past year, few who have heard them will be surprised if this up-and-coming group becomes the next buzz band. It’s only a matter of time, really.
As for why the two traded in East Coast hip for sunny skies, drummer Luc Laurent had this to offer:
“The grass is greener on the other side,” he said from the house in Southern California that he shares with singer and multi-instrumentalist, Xander Singh.
The two returned home from a month-long North American tour about a week ago, and Laurent marveled at how interesting the entire experience was.
Shortly after it kicked off, the band met up with tour mates Cotton Jones in Texas, a place that Laurent described as somewhat unsettling.
“The first time you’re like, ‘Oh, this is cool, it’s Texas.’ [But] everything’s called the ‘Texas This,’” he said, referencing the state’s unique sense of pride and the overwhelming amount of consumer products – ranging from burgers to cars – with the name Texas in them.
Continuing on their trek, the band toured through the South, the East Coast, and then headed up North to Canada, which was just as bizarre an experience for them as Texas was. In particular, the phenomenon of waterslides at hotels caught the members off guard.
“If you don’t have a waterslide you’re not like a real hotel,” Laurent said. “It’s like a cultural thing. Maybe waterslides were invented in Canada and this is like a national pride thing…it’s almost like how Texas has, like, all that weird Texas pride stuff.”
Yet in spite of how weird it struck them as, apparently the Canada waterslide trend was not too weird for them to take part in, as evidenced by what they did one day when they arrived in town for a show far too early.
“[We checked into our hotel and] the three of us just went watersliding for like an hour,” he shared laughing.
Now the band is back home – but didn’t head there without hitting up CMJ post-tour and playing a handful of showcases – and has a few more days before they take to the road again, this time to tour up and down the West Coast.
Then they’ll be home for the holidays and hope to focus on tying up the loose ends of their next album, which they began writing and demoing in May and June of this year.
“The next record has basically been what we’ve been working on this whole year when we’ve had downtime from touring,” Laurent said. “[And] now that we’re back home only for a week, we have, like, all these ideas to put down.”
It may not seem like a big deal, but considering the band’s debut album, “Beauregard” was released less than a month ago on Kanine Records, Pepper Rabbit is moving a lot faster than most bands tend to do these days.
“It’s really the most exciting thing for us,” Laurent shared. “Touring is really fun, but there’s something a lot more, I think, magical, at this point right now…to see, like, songs get written versus…playing the same songs every night.”
He did admit that it does seem kind of backward to be working on a second album before the first one came out, and that people have found it confusing, but ultimately said that it’s what the two of them love the most and do the best.
“Realistically, we would love to go in the studio and record another one next year,” he said. “[But] unless we get, like a grant, I don’t think any record labels are gonna wanna pay for us to be in the studio every year.”
The two originally started playing together noncommittally a few years ago, when Singh recruited Laurent to be a drummer for his solo project. The two formed an immediate bond, and the musical chemistry between the two led to the pair deciding to be in a band together.
“I was much more interested in everything else that was going on besides the drums,” Laurent admitted. “[I wanted to] try to see where we could get the music to go to with the two of us.”
So as soon as he graduated college, Laurent packed up and moved out to join Singh, who was now living on the West Coast.
“I think that’s when things really started to happen,” he said, referring to the fact that being in the same city meant that they finally began playing live regularly.
Playing live also meant translating the countless instruments and looped and sampled tracks into a real performance. Considering the band is just two people – as well as a permanent live member who plays bass, keyboards, and sings backing vocals – that wasn’t necessarily an easy task.
“The songs all have…a lot of drums and most of them have basslines, so having the foundation of the live show was kind of a no-brainer,” Laurent said, mentioning that the biggest challenge lay in taking all the instruments and narrowing it down to the most important sounds.
“[But] we just kind of like jumped in,” he said. “You’ve gotta get out there and see what works and see what doesn’t.”
Furthermore, he said the experience of trial and error on the live front has given them even more insight when they’re in the studio.
“I think playing these live shows has also helped us with recording,” he said. “You kind of learn what instruments to [focus on].”
But while it sounds like a smooth road from point a to point b, Laurent admitted it wasn’t without a few bumps here and there, which mainly manifested themselves as disagreements about the music itself.
“When we started living together and writing together, it was like, ‘OK, how do we bounce things off of each other without being too stubborn?’”
But Laurent said – minimal butting of creative heads aside – that their relationship is rather symbiotic.
“We’re both really cooperative guys,” he said, speaking on Singh’s iPhone. “We even share a car.”
They also both have their own interests to pursue, so they never have to worry about getting sick of spending too much time with one another.
“It’s nice to come home and just do your own thing,” Laurent said of the break between touring.
“Xander’s like really into seeing movies at the movie theater, and I don’t really care for it,” Laurent said, mentioning that he prefers to spend his time at home hanging out with his girlfriend.
Pepper Rabbit plays the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco this Friday, opening for fellow animal-inspired bands, Miniature Tigers and Freelance Whales.
The animal thing was “something we were really oblivious to when we named our band,” Laurent said, postulating that in 20 years, people are going to look back at music today and make all sorts of guesses about the meaning of the animal band name trend.
“I felt, like, kinda self-conscious about it,” he said, referring the first time it was brought to his attention. But eventually, he realized it didn’t bother him so much anymore. “All band names are kinda weird in their own way.”