An Interview With the Acclaimed R&B Band, BAD RABBITS!
Meet the acclaimed R&B band Bad Rabbits! They are back with the perfect summer album (with a twist) – Mimi released earlier this month on August 10th.
While the upbeat R&B funk on Mimi will jump-start any summer party in true Bad Rabbits style (it’s their ‘summertime-palm-trees-Miami-Vice sound‘) the album introduces us to the character of Mimi, and is ultimately a celebration of women of all shapes, sizes, colors and walks of life. A fictional short-haired, dark-skinned, social media-obsessed, voluptuous vixen named Mimi, whose sexuality is ambiguous, stands at the center of the album, where she can be found somewhere in each scene and song as the subject or a bystander. Spontaneous and addictive, the mythical, larger-than-life Mimi represents the quintessential dream girl. But Bad Rabbits’ message is that women need to be respected and the band presents this message not through their own perspective, but with Mimi as the reference point and through line of the album – whether it be through lighthearted and innocent daydreams, or when things take an unacceptable turn for the worse into sexual harassment territory, like on “F on the J-O-B,” where justice is served in the end. PRESS HERE to watch the animated video for the song which was written well before the #Me Too/Time’s Up movement, but has taken on even more meaning for the band since.
Vocalist Fredua put it best himself: “The song and the video shame and mock the men who feel entitled to sex just because they are attracted to a woman. The narrator in this song is the guy that Mimi deals with every day at work. To the douchebags that sexually harass women, your time’s up. To women, we just want you to know that we support you.”
Learn more about Bad Rabbits in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
Salim: Just boarded a plane heading to Canada!
Sheel: Eating home-made Dosa from my mother’s kitchen.
All Access Music is currently compiling a list of our artist’s favorite songs this summer so what is YOUR song of the summer?
Sheel: “Errorzone” – Vein
Salim: “Summertime Magic” – Childish Gambino
How has 2018 been treating you all? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year?
Sheel: 2018 has been a good year for us as a band. We were able to take a step back from all of the political music industry BS that consumed our band for so many years and took things back into our own hands. We have been pretty much inactive in a live performance setting as we all needed a long break and I am personally trying to recover from a serious back injury. Regardless, we worked hard in the studio to get new music done. We have almost 3 albums worth of material ready to go whenever we see fit. One musical goal this year was to work with our longtime friend/producer: B. Lewis, and we met that goal. Wouldn’t have made the album without him.
Salim: I think the goal overall was to get back to whatever the least path of resistance is. The dynamic over the last few years has been healthy where everyone’s expectations are in line with where the band is. We are embracing how people consume music now vs 4-5 years ago when we were active. Like Sheel mentioned we have about 3 albums of music that we created with Brad (now that an album is 7 songs haha). He has always had the ability to get everyone on the same page creatively.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Has anything surprised you about this ride so far?
Sheel: I think the most surprising thing so far was getting the call from our US publicist, Carla Senft, letting us know that we got an offer to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live. That call was gut wrenching but in the most exciting way. It was sort of unheard of at the time for an independent band to get an offer like that. We are proud of that accomplishment.
Salim: The first few shows we played as Bad Rabbits I just remember all the energy. Merging that punk rock/vfw vibe with a house party but I think the American Love album cycle is what surprised me the most cause it was all done without doing it the traditional way. No label. No radio. It was done within the band and it allowed us travel all over the world and end up on national television 3 times during that campaign.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
Sheel: Boston is a breeding ground for punk, metal, and hardcore music. It’s what we grew up on, but at the same time we we’ve been bumpin’ R&B, funk, soul, pop records since day 1. It was kind of taboo growing up as brown/black kids in the punk/hardcore scene in Boston, but there was an acceptance for us in a different way, which we are grateful for. Without punk, hardcore and metal music, we would not be the band we are today. It also taught us how to do things ourselves, question authority, go against the grain and not follow the same “campaign” that everyone else does. There’s nothing “viral” about our band. We’ve had no label, radio or streaming hits to catapult us to “hit single” status. We just got in a van and hit the road with bands that sounded nothing like us, with barely any money in the bank. It helped us earn a trustworthy, genuine peer base and loyal fans that many artists don’t have the opportunity to earn, even with a major label backing them. This sort of unconventional, yet organic, DIY ethos, is in our musical DNA and we thank Boston for that.
Salim: The music scene in Boston is self-policing. So you have to earn the respect of your peers and that mentality and hustle kinda sticks with you. Bostonians generally have a competitive chip on their shoulder or an underdog mentality. We are all shit talkers and don’t take ourselves too seriously and most of the bands/friends we have pretty much operate on that same frequency…
Where did your band name first come from? How did you go about picking it? Was it a hard decision to make?
Sheel: “Bad Rabbits” is a song by one of our favorite musicians and friends: Gavin Castleton (who co-wrote “F on the J-O-B” and “Mimi”). We used to be in a 10 piece band called “The Eclectic Collective” and decided to start something new with less band members. We came up with a list of band names and “Bad Rabbits” was on the list. It happened to be the only name we all didn’t absolutely hate. So we rolled with it.
Let’s talk about your soon-to-be released album “Mimi.” What was it like putting this collection together? Where did the idea for it stem from originally? Did anything surprise you about the overall process?
Sheel: Some of these songs have been written for years. We just never had the opportunity to cohesively finish the productions, till we got back in the studio with B. Lewis. Some of the process was a nightmare (before we got into the studio with B. Lewis). We had been working with a few A-list songwriters and producers, some of who didn’t truly understand the dynamic and evolution of our band. Our love for creating music was compromised and it created so much internal turmoil, without getting into too much detail. We smartened up and learned what works for us and what doesn’t. Going back to working with B. Lewis to head the overall production of the album was a sigh of relief because he’s essentially one of us. He, along with Gavin Castleton understand us deeply on a personal and musical level. They are both musical geniuses in our eyes and we are blessed to have them touch this album. Of course, having Teddy Riley and Sam Barsh touch the album was a musical blessing as well. In general, the concept of the album stemmed from the song “Mimi” that our friend Gavin Castleton wrote – Mimi is a fictional vixen that everyone just can’t quite figure out, until you wrap your head around the album. Even then, it’s a bit difficult to get in her head.
Salim: I don’t think surprised is the word I’d use. Reassuring is a bit better. Circling back to the least path of resistance topic. The two producers Sheel mentioned are the ones who understand the band dynamic the most. Every time we work with either of them the connection to the music is always the strong. We know that this is a “formula” that works for us.
How did you come up with the video for your track “F on the J-O-B”? How creatively involved were you with it? What about the video for “Dollars & Change”?
Sheel: The videos were conceptualized after the songs were made. The main idea was to make “Mimi” the focal point character. The illustrations and story-line sort of created itself, from there with the help of longtime friend, tattoo artist and designer: Jimmy Lazer. We wanted to get in “Mimi’s” head but it’s not an easy thing to do, because the story is being mainly told from her admirer’s perspective, over a course of time from being harassed on the job, to being courted on a Miami Beach. Jimmy and I spit ideas back and forth throughout the process and were able to remain inspired throughout the process. Jimmy’s visual storytelling is something that we all admire. We kind of just let him do his thing and run with the main idea. He actually learned how to animate for the first time, while doing these videos which is insane. He’s a beast of an illustrator, animator, tattoo artist, as well as an amazing visual creative director. He and I worked very closely on the visual presentation of the album.
How do you think this group has grown as a band since your 2013 critically acclaimed debut album, “American Love”?
Sheel: Hand’s down, most challenging growth period for the band. We were on national TV, working on albums with our favorite writers and producers which had to be shelved because of money, politics, egos and miscommunications. We had record labels scouting us and then bailing for reasons like “this sound is outdated,” (which is now ironic) and other unknown reasons. We thought the next step was radio hits, tour buses, sold out shows, making a living off of doing what we love to do. It didn’t happen for whatever reason. It took a toll on us personally and musically. It forced us to question what we were doing at the time and made me personally want to create music in-house, as friends and just enjoy being home. To make a long story short: “American Nightmare” was a result of that. It wasn’t the easiest thing to accomplish and there was certainly internal turmoil involved in some of that process, but we made an album that the three of us are proud of. It wasn’t a typical “Bad Rabbits” album – but again – we are proud of it and grew up a lot as a result of it. Santi and Graham left the band, which was tough, but all part of the growing process even though we shrunk in band member size. We all still remain friends and wish each other the best. In conclusion: we almost got beaten to death by the music industry, but we survived. The three of us, still standing, originally started this collective, and “Mimi” is a result of feeling “home” again.
Salim: I think Sheel said it best. We just all had to manage our expectations of what “success” was. It was tough seeing all of these things that were out of our control take place and having no real reason why or closure. Once we stopped trying to control the uncontrollable and chasing the “dragon” of you need hits to be successful it just made us all happier and at piece with how everything has ended up. Our success is relative to us now.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Sheel: When it comes to music, I was the happiest I’ve been in a long time while being in B. Lewis’ San Jose studio putting this album “Mimi” together. I really miss performing but don’t really miss “being on the road.” We have loyalty from our small tight-knit fan base and we are itching to get back in front of people, but our appearances will be selective, so we don’t lose our minds on the road, again. I’m happy just being home, and close to my loved ones.
Salim: I enjoy a balance of both personally. It usually takes doing it to trigger the “damn I miss this”
Do you have any upcoming tour dates this summer that you would like to tell our readers about? What about in the fall?
Sheel: No full tour dates. Just carefully selected dates in carefully selected areas of the world. We have two London dates announced but more dates will be added to www.badrabbits.com as they come.
How do you think being musicians and in this band gives you all the most joy in life today?
Sheel: It’s a gift that a lot of people are not given. I’m just happy to remain close friends with Salim and Dua and still make music together. Whatever happens as a result of that – I’ll take it.
Salim: I just know that I’ve accomplished all of my musical goals and dreams at this point and with 4 of my best friends to boot. So anything at this point is a just a bonus. As long as people still care and support the band we’ll keep it moving.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period. If you don’t think it is, why is that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
Sheel: Our most recent album “American Nightmare” is politically charged and angry. As I said earlier – it wasn’t a “typical” Bad Rabbits album – but we put blood, sweat and tears into it. Some people may not understand it from a Bad Rabbits musical history perspective, but it’s our first “soul” album. Our new album “Mimi” is not so much politically charged, but it ironically touches upon some very sensitive topics like sexual harassment in the work place. Plenty of musicians are making music influenced by this current climate, but I question the genuineness of it. We’ve each personally dealt with racism in this country. If you haven’t experienced that and are speaking upon it just because it’s the right climate for it – then I don’t see the soul in it. There’s a lot of that going on right now in the music world, but whatever – people can do whatever they want to do. It’s a complete free for all and everyone is questioning authority. It’s all good.
Salim: We wrote The Wire on American Nightmare while watching the CNN news coverage of the Baltimore and Chicago police shootings. So the anger and emotion of how everyone felt pretty much got recorded right to tape. I agree with Sheel that people are making music that reflects the topics but a lot of people are on this fake woke shit. Its “cool” to be paying attention the topics now.
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this group?
Sheel: Working with people outside of our “in house” team has been fun and exciting, but has caused too many problems in the past and continues to haunt us. My mind is sticking with that and not really thinking about collaborating with anyone outside of our comfort zone, at this point, even if it would be a dream collaboration. It’s a dream to continue to work with B. Lewis and Gavin Castleton. My favorite band right now is Vein. They are a hardcore band from Boston. I think they are the sharpest heavy band I’ve heard in years. I also love the new Leon Bridges record. I was really looking forward to seeing what would become of XXXtentacion as an artist and person. I love his album “?” His death really saddened me. I understand that he is accused of doing some horrible things in his past that will haunt him forever, even without him being on earth. Whether these accusations are true or false: It really seemed as if he was just starting to crack the whip on his own actions and creating music, outside the box of a million other artists afraid to push the musical envelope, in his world. I thought he deserved a chance of undoing some of the wrong and flourishing as an artist. Maybe I’m wrong? Either way, he’s up there for me as a favorite artist. New Hopesfall album is sick, too.
Salim: Louie Futon, Louie Lastic and Kaytranada. Those are some producers I’m personally inspired by but I don’t think any organic dots have been connected. As much as I would love to work with any of them I’m just as skeptical as Sheel at this point of changing up the process that we know has worked. I’m a big fan of Goldlink and Kaytranada and the Soulection movement. I think they are capturing this energy to that is inspiring people to think outside of their musical comfort zone.
If you guys were all going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you want to take with you and why?
Sheel: I probably wouldn’t take a musical item. But if I did – I would take the harmonium and learn how to play that. But I would probably just take a massage therapist instead.
Salim: My guitar which is mad cliché…..
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
Sheel: Keep a light heart, but take life seriously when the time is right. Songs that can make you smile, laugh, cry, mosh, and boogie.
(Photography provided by Press Here Productions)