The first time I saw Bad Rabbits live was when the band played at the Warped Tour a few years back. In the hours before the Bad Rabbits played their allotted 30 minutes on a small stage set up in what is normally a parking lot at Mansfield's Comcast Center, two music buddies I ran into told me I had to catch the band's set. The weird thing is that the advice came from disparate sources: an impresario of the New England metal scene and a manager of indie-rock bands. And when the Bad Rabbits did hit the stage, the band served up a funky, R&B maelstrom _ something that sounded nothing like anything else going on at the Warped Tour that day nor remotely within the musical orbits of the guys who said, "Be there."
The Bad Rabbits caused a traffic jam at their stage site, as their blend of infectious energy and musical depth leaped over genre hurdles and grabbed listeners. In other words, a normal day at work for the band.
Tomorrow, Boston's Bad Rabbits release "American Love," an album that equals the power of its live show and will very likely boost the band's national profile.
"It's unnerving putting out an album, waiting to see what people think," says Bad Rabbits bassist Graham Masser. "We did take our time and put a lot of work into the songs. We were not just going to turn out songs, and I think our fan base understands we want to focus on quality rather than quantity."
Bad Rabbits struck a chord in 2009 when it released the E.P. "Stick Up Kids." While on tour in 2010, the band met famed producer Teddy Riley whom signed on to work on a Bad Rabbits album that came to be known as "American Dream." In 2011, Oakland producer B. Lewis had Bad Rabbits jam at a house party and that led to a collaboration resulting in "American Love."
"We just felt this was the better next step," Masser says of releasing "American Love" ahead of "American Dream."
"American Love" is a great summertime release, full of party vibes and thick with romantic escapades. The 10 songs move from "love ya" shout-outs to bump 'n' grind jams, to raw break ups. It's not a concept album, Masser says, but "American Love" certainly has the methodical flow of a Bad Rabbits live set.
"American Love" is also a huge step forward from "Stick Up Kids" in terms of being a more progressive sounding brand of rocking R&B while not giving up the band's connection to old-school funk and soul.
"Our influences are still P-Funk, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and Morris Day, but we wanted a more contemporary sound," says Masser of the pronounced keys, filthy bass lines, and intricate vocal arrangements on "American Love."
To get the picture, Bad Rabbits is allowing Boston by Beat to exclusively stream "American Love" in its entirety one day ahead of the release date. Crank this for full effect, but be forewarned that there are explicit lyrics in a few spots:
The arrival of "American Love" is just the start of a busy season for Bad Rabbits. The band makes its national television debut Friday, performing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Bad Rabbits then participate in the inaugural Boston Calling Music Festival happening at Boston's City Hall Plaza on May 25 and 26. Then the band tours the country through July and August.
Bad Rabbits got together in 2007, with vocalist Fredua "Dua" Boakye, guitarists Santi Araujo and Salim Akram, drummer Sheel Davé, and Masser. The band's blend of rock and rhythm paved the way for it to play shows with an array of performers spanning Deftones to Wu Tang Clan. Bad Rabbits also backed Slick Rick and toured with Foxy Shazam.
"We listen to tons of (stuff). The people who like us are like us. They listen to hip-hop and metal, and all kinds of music," Masser says.
This independent spirit also feeds the band's business model, as the group releases its music on its own Bad Records imprint in conjunction with Karmaloop Music and handles its own affairs.
"Record labels were never sure what to call us. Was it 'rock band with soul'? 'Hip-hop with rock'? No one knew how to describe us. That's fine," Masser says. "We don't need a name."
Masser was reached by phone in Kansas where the group was wrapping up a run of shows before heading back to Boston to prep for its Kimmel appearance and work on new songs in its studio.
Bad Rabbits are also anxious to play the inaugural Boston Calling.
"It's an incredible honor to be chosen to play," Masser says of being one of the two Boston bands (Caspian is the other) selected to be part of the festival that also includes Fun. The Shins, The National, Of Monster and Men, and others. "It's important to us because Boston is the reason we exist. It's informed our experiences. And especially now, after what happened at the Boston Marathon, opening this festival carries a lot more weight. It shows Boston's spirit is not broken."
Bad Rabbits has been rolling out singles and videos leading up to tomorrow's "American Love" release. In case you missed any, here's a recap:
The author is solely responsible for the content.