For the latest interview with acts from the FIVE STAR Keep Pop Loud CD we sent some questions over to our favourite Oxford post-punk types The Half Rabbits. With there being so much going off in their home city and with their various projects it was hard to know where to start, so we thought some introductions may be in order....
Hello, The Half Rabbits. Any chance of a quick introduction to the band, the members and your history for those who don't know ?
Michael: Hi Keep Pop Loud. We’re the Half Rabbits from Oxford, UK. I sing and play guitar, Chris plays guitar too, Alice plays bass guitar and sings, and Sally plays drums. We formed a few years back in Oxford, after Alice, Chris and I met at school. Actually, Chris is the only original band member and the only one who really knows the story behind the band name. Something to do with a Japanese folk tale, I think. We’ve been playing live all over the country ever since.
Outside of music where does the band draw it's influences from? Are there any films, books, TV shows (etc) that we should really check out?
Michael: Absolutely. For books, let’s go with the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. As for films, I’ve always loved movies with amazing soundtracks –think The Crow, 28 Days Later, Oh Brother! Where Art Thou, and Donnie Darko. A more recent favourite of mine is the movie There Will Blood and the related Upton Sinclair novel Oil!. For why There Will Be Blood is on the list, listen out for news around our track 'Gasoline'…
From the outside it seems The Oxford scene is pretty amazing and eclectic right now, how does it feel to be a part of that/do you feel that you're a part of that community?
Michael: It’s pretty amazing from the inside too! Such variety, quality, and passion. Every time I check out my favourite music blogs and sites it seems another three Oxford bands have broken through.
I’ve just been asked to contribute vocals to a Tiger Mendoza track. Given the superb job they did with our track 'When The Rain Stops' (which you can download free from our site and Reverbnation), I’m really looking forward to it.
You have to remember that this is made even more amazing by the fact that Oxford is so small. Most bands are concentrated in the Jericho and Cowley districts of the city. It’s very common to see very well known musicians picking up a coffee right by your house on a Tuesday morning. Oxford music packs a punch bigger than most cities two or three times the size. Maybe even five times the size.
What bands/artists from your area right now should we go and investigate?
Michael: There are lots of different styles of music doing the rounds at the moment, and you’ve probably heard of some of them already. Trophy Wife seem to be doing well, as do Chad Valley. Foals of course. It’s a shame that Ute split up recently, and I thought they were great. If you’re looking for tips for 2012, my favourite Oxford bands at the moment are The Scholars, Tiger Mendoza and The Cellar Family.
Michael, you've been playing in The Winchell Riots too this summer. How did that transpire?
Michael: Hell yeah! We played at Reading and Leeds festivals, plus an awesome headline show in Oxford. It was great fun. There were a thousand people at Reading and they punched the air as we played all the anthems.
I used to live with two of them – Phil and James – and we’re all great friends. The Half Rabbits and the Winchell Riots put out a double A-side single to celebrate Christmas one year. We’ve even played covers as a supergroup on New Year’s Eve at the Oxford O2 Academy. I was Dizzie Rascal. Sorry.
As for how I teamed up with them, the Winchell guys had just parted ways with their previous guitar player and suddenly found out that they were playing at Reading and Leeds. It was pretty short notice, but absolutely exhilarating. I was living in London at the time, so used to come back for late night rehearsals with both bands. The first rehearsal with the Winchell Riots was in a disused shack in a farm in the middle of nowhere. We just opened all the doors and windows and blasted the songs out into the night.
The Half Rabbits played a monumental show for the BBC at the O2 Academy in August, then the next day I had to memorize a whole new set with a completely different band. It was a bizarre experience, but a wonderful one. Hopefully I’ll be playing my own songs at the festivals next year.
On top of that, Punk Elvis (your record label) is coming up to it's tenth release. What do you have planned for it and do you have any lessons from the first nine that we need to bear in mind at KPL Records?
Michael: We do indeed. People usually ask me about the band and less so the label, even though the whole project has gone very well.
We’ve got to PELVIS007 (our Optimists EP) and the Half Rabbits are releasing PELVIS008 at a live show at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford on Friday 18 November. We’re recording that new EP with Pat Collier, the awesome guy who recorded our Optimists EP, who you’ll know for his work with such megabands as Primal Scream and Jesus & Mary Chain. And Katrina and the Waves’ 'Walking on Sunshine', which I think he’s quite bored of people asking about.
With the label in mind, we’d like to use this opportunity to announce our Punk Elvis winter extravaganza, taking place on Saturday 3 December at the Phoenix Picture House in Oxford. It’s going to be amazing. We’re playing, and so is Phil from the Winchell Riots. Plus an awesome new act named Gert Lassitude, who’s got a great thing going on with a classical guitar, a sampler, and some amazing lyrics. I challenge you not to like his track 'By Stealth, By Forc'e. We’re planning on putting that out for free as PELVIS010. So proud.
You've used terms such as post-punk and art-rock to describe yourselves on your various sites. What do those terms mean to you and why do you think that less and less acts seem to be identifying with such sub-genres?
I think the important thing is more what they mean to people who’ll be interested in our music. Someone recently describes us as sounding like the Smashing Pumpkins with Ian Curtis from Joy Division on vocals. I think terms like post-punk and art-rock help to get that message across.
'Gasoline' is on the Keep Pop Loud CD (and there's a video in the works). What might we not know about the song, it's inception or recording that you can tell us?
The song was the lead track off our Optimists EP. It’s probably the one that most people associate with that release, probably because it’s first and is the most accessible track. Pat added an awesome drum machine sound to it, which gave it a really driving but almost detached feel.
Michael: I mentioned that we played a BBC show in summer. It went so well that we got speaking to Sam and Tim from the BBC about doing a video for 'Gasoline'. We’re recording it in November at an abandoned airfield. The last time I spoke to the BBC guys, they were seriously planning on setting three of the band on fire (!), so make sure you look out for that.
Incidentally, we were interviewed and filmed by Oxfam yesterday. Chris and I played them an acoustic version of 'Gasoline', so check that out here
You seem to have had a pretty good year as a band especially with regards to becoming better known nationally. What's next for The Half Rabbits?
Michael: We’ve had a very good year as a band. We’re going to see where the new EP takes us, as well as continuing to promote our album and Optimists. We love playing in cities like London, Reading and Bristol, and are also traveling further afield, as always. Perhaps a show in Sheffield, Keep Pop Loud?
Quite possibly, I'll have to see what I can do...
Who is your favourite pop star of all time? And crucially, why?
Sally: I’ll take this one. I’m going with Freddie Mercury because he wrote such great songs and was also such a good performer.
Michael: My choice is Johnny Cash, who somehow I’d accidentally avoided until a month or so ago. He could get more emotions into one song than most people get into a whole career.
Is there anything else that you want to rate/slate/promote/etc?
Michael: I’m pleased you asked. We’re co-headlining Oxford’s Oxjam festival this year. It takes place across five venues in the city centre on Saturday 22 October. We’re playing acoustic set in a brand new venue, named the Turl St. Kitchen, which as its name suggests is a food and wine place during the day. I went there the other day and it’s a really nice place. We’re really looking forward to it, especially as we headlined last year’s Oxjam event and helped to raise over £400. It was great fun.
Visit The Half Rabbits site, where you can get ahold of their ace discography which includes the stunning album From The Horizon To The Map and this year's Optimists EP
Keep Pop Loud