In The Know...Interview With Pepper Rabbit

>> Monday, 25 October 2010



Sometimes it can be a challenge to label a sound.

Meet Pepper Rabbit, a Los Angeles-based duo whose musical stylings have been dubbed, amongst other sub-genres, avant-folk, chamber-folk, and psych-pop.

And while their sound is certainly skewed and amorphous, the songs themselves are still rooted in traditional pop structures and highly accessible, as evinced throughout their debut album, Beauregard (in stores tomorrow).

Yesterday, I spoke with band founder Xander Singh over the phone from New Hampshire where he and bandmate Luc Laurent were catching up on some z’s and loading up on new tunes for the long trek from New Hampshire to Manitoba. Here’s what he had to say:


PoS: First off, I want to ask about Pepper Rabbit’s origins, specifically how you and Luc got together to play music.

XS: I grew up around the Boston area, and I met Luke in Boston. He was in College there. His roommate was one of my best friends, and so we started hanging out. I had been involved in some solo music, doing some shows here and there, and Luke would play drums. I got a chance to do a week tour in India and so I brought Luke along and another one of our friends who introduced us. It was a great time, and it’s where Luke and I discovered we work really well together. Then I had the chance to record with a friend of mine in New Orleans; I had written a bunch of songs and I invited Luke down to play drums and after working together it was very clear that he was much more than a drummer. We just really clicked musically.

After we did those recordings, I called him up and asked him if he wanted to start a band since I never really wanted to be a solo artist. I always wanted to be a part of a band, but I never found someone I clicked really well with musically. Those recordings are now the album Beauregard.

PoS: But you’re currently based in L.A.?

XS: Yeah, I moved to L.A. three years ago, because growing up in Boston I didn’t really like the cold or the snow. I didn’t ski or snowboard or anything, so as soon as I graduated high school I moved out there. Luke just finished up school about a year ago, and moved out to L.A. Ever since there we’ve kinda hit the ground running. Writing new stuff, playing shows, and keeping busy.

PoS: So Pepper Rabbit is happy being a duo?

XS: Yeah! I think it works out really well. For the live show we have a friend of ours who actually played bass with us on the record; he tours with us and plays bass, keyboards, and vocals. Just to round out the live set. But yeah, the band is basically the two of us – we’re always working on news songs, writing, recording together. We even live together in L.A. and have a home studio and so whenever we have no ideas we’re always able to bounce them back and forth between each other.

PoS: I was listening to the record last night and it is surfeit with various instruments (drums, guitars, clarinets, banjos, trumpets). Is it a challenge to reproduce your sound live?

XS: It definitely is. It’s a really fun challenge. When we were recording we weren’t thinking about playing the songs live because it would just stress us out and probably change the music, like maybe we shouldn’t put a trumpet line in there since we won’t be able to do it live. We always just focus on making the recording something big and grand; something we love. And worry about the live show later. It was definitely a challenge and we spent a lot of time trying different things because we really want to recreate that big sound. That’s half the fun. A few of the song we had to rearrange, just for the live show, so the version we play live is very different from the recordings.

One of the biggest things about the band is we really try to separate the live show from the actual recording and try to make things new and interesting. Add new melody lines, change up arrangements, always try to keep it fresh. Personally, when I go see a live show I love it when the band changes things up and makes things interesting.

PoS: The title of the record is Beauregard. What’s the story behind the title?

XS: The title we pulled from one of the songs “In the Spirit of Beauregard.” The story behind that was when we were recording in New Orleans I had brought a piano with me from LA. We had to get the piano tuned after the drive; it was bumping around in the back of the van and fell out of tune. The piano tuner came by and our friend Adam, who was recording us, has this dog and the piano tuner thought our friend Adam’s dog was the reincarnation of his dog that had died ten years ago. His dog’s name was Beauregard. He started freaking out and talking to our friend’s dog as if it was his own dog, Beauregard. It took us by surprise and was one of the weirder experiences we’ve been through. We liked the name and felt it summed things up.

PoS: In regard to your influences, I’m curious: which records had a significant impact on you as a songwriter and helped shaped the band’s stylings?

XS: I’m a big fan of pop music in general, especially stuff from the 70s. I really love David Bowie’s early stuff. And Chicago. Anything that’s really big and orchestral, I’ve sorta gravitated toward. I also really love a lot of new music that’s coming out nowadays; (this has) definitely influenced our recordings and live show. One album that Luke and I really freaked out over this year is the new Spoon album.

PoS: Transference?

XS: Yeah, Transference. That’s one of my favourite records from the past few years. It’s such a smart record. It’s another one of those things with great pop songs, and they just put their own spin on it. I really like that about the record. But I grew up listening mostly to top 40 radio. So as far as influences for our music, it’s just pop music in general.

PoS: Finally, you’re about to tour through Western Canada with the Rural Alberta Advantage. How did this upcoming tour come about? Have you played with the RAA before?

XS: We actually opened for one of their shows out in LA about a year ago. They really blew us away. It was definitely one of our favourite shows that we’ve played. Then, two months ago we got the offer to open up for them in Canada, and we jumped at it. We really love playing in Canada, and Canada in general, but we’ve only ever played Toronto and Montreal. So, we’re really excited to see the rest of Canada and see parts of the country we’ve never been to before. We’ve been looking forward to it awhile. And it’s up on the horizon now.

See and hear Pepper Rabbit on Wednesday night at the West End Cultural Centre w/ The Rural Alberta Advantage, and Imaginary Cities. 

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