“So cry me a river/ I won’t drown/ And find me a sinner/ I’ve been found,” sings Jesika von Rabbit on “Final Clap Fever,” the first track off Gram Rabbit’s latest release Braised And Confused. Von Rabbit’s announcement that she is perfectly comfortable with whatever comes her way comes as no surprise, since Gram Rabbit, from the beginning of their career, has been a band that defies genres and embraces the natural weirdness that many bands annihilate in order to conform to whatever is trendy. The sonic result of flying the freak flag high is a band that isn’t afraid to experiment, and, as a result, is comfortable in any environment; from playing the hometown music festival Coachella, to L.A. night clubs, to local dive bars, to touring the country with the like-minded Western band Spindrift, Gram Rabbit exhibits the drive and determination that is necessary to survive in the ever-shifting music world. But this resilience might stem from their hometown– a hot desert that practically necessitates a hard shell and determination to stay afloat.
Hailing from the legendary high-desert town Joshua Tree, California, Gram Rabbit is a proper desert band: from the mysticism, to the strangeness, they’ve got it down. The band’s newest self-released album (their seventh full-length) is a strange combination of Hollywood glam and desert wasteland poured into a huge stew with futuristic electronics added for kicks. While it seems that Gram Rabbit was only in the kitchen for a short while (it’s been just over a year since their last release), Braised and Confused is anything but undercooked. A pun on the 1993 film Dazed and Confused, the album’s title seems like a contradiction: it suggests the band is fully-boiled/prepared/baked but also undecided, which I disagree with. To me, the band seems focused and mature. After all, the desert is a serene, almost austere place where contemplation and rejuvenation are encouraged. Anyone who has spent time in the desert can admit it is a great place to pause and reflect; the high desert, especially romantic at night, is THE place to catch the mountains pointing upwards at the stars in all their uninterrupted and luminous glory. The union of calm atmosphere and scenic landscapes is notoriously desirable for people needing (or being required to take) a break from lightning days. After all, the desert is home to Betty Ford Center, a rehab facility for the A-list Hollywood stars.
But for someone permanently residing in the desert, on the other hand, the quiet, and almost distraction-less atmosphere, can translate to insane amounts of productivity, as illustrated by Gram Rabbit’s seventh album in nine years, Braised and Confused. Yet Gram Rabbit is not the first band to find the high-desert a bottomless well of inspiration: Both Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys have recorded albums there, and U2 named an album after the city’s eponymous flora, not to mention, Gram Parsons’ tragic morphine overdose in Joshua Tree at 26. In other words, Joshua Tree is a unique and memorable town with a lot to offer.
Joshua Tree’s latest creative output, Braised and Confused, which you can check out on the band’s bandcamp, is seven tracks (five new, original songs, an interlude, and a Blur cover) of pure psychadelic-glam-desert rock perfect for a drive from Joshua Tree through Tinseltown’s gay little sister, Palm Springs. The songs are upbeat, rock numbers that demand to be played loud. The record is an adventure, a journey, and as such, it must be experienced on the road. Moreover, Jesika Von Rabbit is the ultimate spacegirl with sprezzatura to spare, and she shares it on the record. Her cool voice manages to be robotic, sexy and soft-grunge throughout the record and often at the same time: think of a less drug-addled, yet still rebellious Courtney Love, a rougher and edgier Gwen Stefani, now give her a bubble machine and bunny ears and you have Jesika Von Rabbit. Together with multi-instrumentalist Todd Rutherford and guitarist/producer Ethan Allen, Gram Rabbit crafts a unique brand of electro space-rock tinged with desert psychedelia and grunge-glam charm.
Braised and Confused finds Gram Rabbit primed for superstardom, the question is, how will they get there? Which road will they take? The Cheshire Cat said it best when he found Alice at a fork in the road and answered her question, “Which road should I take?” “Where do you want to go?” he asked. “I don’t know,” she says. To which he replied, “Then it doesn’t matter.” Because the band’s latest offering is sharp, polished, and sophisticated, I don’t think it will be long before major labels coming knocking. Until then, it is evident Gram Rabbit will keep hopping and dancing to the beat of their own drum, with disregard to how others have grooved. They’re from Joshua Tree, for crying out loud; it’s the Wild Wild West out there– there is no formula.