LOCAL RABBITS with Tigre Benvie at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), tonight (Thursday, July 18). $8. 416-532-1598.
You can tell where a band's at by their album titles. Take Montreal's Local Rabbits, for example. Their first indie EP, made while they were hyperactive punks trying to master their instruments, was breathlessly called Super Duper.
After gaining a cult following and winning fans like Sloan's Jay Ferguson, who helped get them signed to Murderecords in 1996, they whipped off a stripped-down, high-energy full-length disc called You Can't Touch This. The Rabbits followed this up two years later with Basic Concept, a too-ambitious multi-instrumental funk-fusion evolution for a band still trying to find its sea legs.
Now, after leaving Murderecords and floating in limbo, they're back with This Is It Here We Go, a definitive statement for a record that's by far the best the band's made.
"It's definitely more deliberate," insists bassist Ryan Myshrall over beers at Squirly's. "We were trying to capture our live sound, 'cause we've been really proud of that over the last couple of years. We tried to make it slammin' all-round, more hardcore."
Offers guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Ben Gunning, "Consistency was super-important with this record, whereas with Basic Concept I'd say we were reaching for something really far away but we weren't at that level musically yet."
This Is It Here We Go reflects a much older and wiser group of Rabbits. When the band, rounded out by co-songwriter/vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Peter Elkas and drummer Jason Tustin, started out, they were still in their teens. The press salivated over the cutie-pie tykes, playing up their hyper wackiness, says Gunning. "We were sorta trying to take the piss, but nobody got it."
Both boys agree that their earlier albums were rickety contraptions. The new disc has a super-solid structure, showcasing a band that's finally grown into its sound. The tunes are intricate assemblages of R&B soul, a hit of indie shoe-gazing and funked-up drums, topped off with well-played solos.
Gunning's current fascination with Thelonious Monk is front and centre on The Firey Wall, where a guitar riff starts off as arty jazz and morphs into a flamenco-inspired spiral.
Details like that make the album a fascinating listen.
"We're always gonna be a bit of a potpourri, 'cause we have two songwriters," explains Gunning. "But this time around we spent a really long time figuring out how to make the songs tie together."
The players say working with pal and producer Don Kerr helped to solidify their sound.
"He was really encouraging, as opposed to the guy who produced our last record (Roderick Shearer)," laughs Myshrall. "We love him to death and we're all good friends now, but we were younger then and probably really annoying. He was Australian, and he kept yelling at us to slow down when we played. He'd pretend to crack a whip like Crocodile Dundee. We got on his nerves and he'd try to kick our asses."
These days, the boys have dropped their hyperactive attitude in favour of a more laid-back approach. Not that they think you should care -- hence the record title. According to Gunning, folks shouldn't bother with anything other than the music. He doesn't care about media glorification and is floored by the celeb-bio phenomenon.
"Everybody gets sucked into it. It's just not that relevant if musicians are good people as long as you appreciate them artistically. Like, I've heard Van Morrison is a major jerk. I think he's super-talented, and some of his albums will never fade away.
"If Van Morrison came out now, nobody would know who he was -- he's ugly, he's not friendly and musically, he's just not du jour."firstname.lastname@example.org