Jesika von Rabbit’s creativity can be found in other arenas outside music, too, and it showcases her broad range.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY JESIKA VON RABBIT
Rubber-suited figures sporting bunny heads. Esoteric desert landscapes. Performance art coupled with catchy songs.
Jesika von Rabbit certainly knows how to turn heads.
The trailblazing Joshua Tree performer displays her playful blend of electronic-psychedelic-pop on Jan. 29 at Four Twenty Bank Dispensary and Lounge in Palm Springs. (Missing Persons frontwoman Dale Bozzio follows.)
The outing is part of the inaugural Oasis Music Festival, presented by Agua Caliente Casinos. Originally slated to run this month, the fest was to feature all genres of music in more than 30 venues over five days. While many performances have been pushed back to May, several shows remain intact. The festival hopes to revive the potent musical playground that made Palm Springs famous.
von Rabbit serves well in that capacity. This creative bunny is fertile, folks.
Touching on everything from ’70s tie-dye mania to ’80s MTV culture, it’s hard not to appreciate the artistry in the performer’s craft. The former leader of Gram Rabbit has toured solo and with various acts nationally for some time. In recent years, von Rabbit seems to have generated appreciation from all age groups and restless pop culture connoisseurs have enjoyed ingesting something yummy on the fringe.
Another upward turn occurred last year when von Rabbit released the video to her hit, “Bombay Beach Bunny.” The work captured the attention of CBS San Francisco’s Eye on the Bay, and the video went on to garner nearly 87,000 You Tube hits.
Then came “Desert Dream Center” last fall. The deeply hypnotic single illuminates the singer’s vocal artistry. The black-and-white video, which was shot locally, features the fashion-forward chanteuse crooning in an abandoned shack while bunny-headed figures support her musical crusade.
von Rabbit’s creativity can be found in other arenas, too, and it showcases her broad range. Many of her original compositions found their way to film and television—from Crazy Stupid Love and Long Way Round to Sons of Anarchy and Grace and Frankie. The woman even has a menu item named after her, at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown. Nachos von Rabbit anyone?
On the eve of her local appearance, von Rabbit shares more with Palm Springs Life.
What can we expect from this live performance?
I'm happy to perform because it’s been on the down low the last couple years. So, I’m very excited to play back in Palm Springs. I love Palm Springs. And, of course, opening for the legendary '80s band Missing Persons is quite a thrill. We're going to have two strong females up there on stage that night and it will be an evening of powerful females and full of great energy.
Your range of styles is vast. For instance, “Bombay Beach Bunny” is a fun romp, while “Desert Dream Center” is deeper and brooding
Yes. “Bombay Beach Bunny” was a dance pop song that was shot in Palm Springs. It received quite a lot of plays, and it was in heavy rotation on radio up here in the High Desert, and in some other cities. “Desert Dream Center” was a little darker, a more esoteric dreamy song. We shot that out here in the Landers and I loved that I could go a little more goth. I l really like variety.
What is it about the High Desert, even just the desert, that inspires you? Or artists for that matter?
After I scoured my thoughts of whether I should ever move somewhere else in the country—I’ve traveled all around—I always come back to, “no, this place is pretty great, and it has everything that I need.” I first moved here 20 years ago. Joshua Tree looks like no other place I've ever been. Joshua Trees are exquisitely bizarre, and the rock formations here look like Mars—medieval Mars. So, just aesthetically, it's a very different and unique place. That’s going to attract artists who want a special kind of backdrop to create their art. When you have more artists in an area, it attracts even more artists because it's fun to be around the same kind of people.
When did you first feel those inner creative stirrings?
I was 5 years old.
Tell me more.
I knew I wanted to be a singer. I remember telling myself that. My mom was a singer in bands, and she'd sing jingles for local commercials, too. Her band rehearsed in the basement, and I'd go out and watch her on the weekends at places like Ramada Inn. So, I was around it growing up, but I just knew I loved music like—straight out of the womb. I was always constructing a plan of where I was going to go. My mom started me on piano lessons in first grade. I sang in choir and as soon as I could, I moved to Minneapolis and started my first band, an all-female, punk rock band called The Porn Flakes. [Laughs.]
Brilliant. What do you love most about what you do?
I love having the freedom to wake up and come up with any crazy idea inside my head and be able to bring it to fruition. It's not always easy. Is everyone always going to love what you do? No. That's the downside of it but having a lifestyle that allows me to just create is wonderful. It's freeing just to live on this planet and create because it can be kind of a dark place. But I love being able to entertain people and put smiles on their face. And maybe push the envelope and make people a little uncomfortable; think about stuff differently. I really love my stage show and having my dancers. And bringing in theatrics to give people something to look at beyond just having something to listen to.
What’s it like having a menu item named after yourself?
I came up with it. But I have to stop myself from trying it too much. It's not always on my diet plan. But yeah, it's delicious.
What are you most excited about for the year ahead?
I'm releasing a video this spring — a duet with Jesse Hughes from Eagles of Death Metal. We'll be doing some shows with them. It’s like a black-and-white western movie and a cover of the '80s classic “I Wanna Be A Cowboy.” I'm really excited about that. I also got involved with this company called Downwrite (downwrite.com). Now people can hire me to write and record a personal song for them. Or a song about their pet, a birthday song for them or their friend. The sky's the limit. You could have me write a song about, oh, donuts and lollipops and unicorns if you wanted. Or even a theme song.
Very fun. So, tell me: What would the title of your own theme song be?
Wow. Good question. Let’s see… Well, it would be “Magick Tricks and Carrot Sticks.”