Try as you might, describing Jesika von Rabbit’s music/performance is not an easy task. She’s been referred to as everything from a “postmodern, intergalactic pop provocateur” to “part pop princess parody, part desert gypsy.” When this writer saw her perform at Soda Bar with bassist Lee Joseph, my thoughts fell on Lady Gaga meets David Lynch.
Von Rabbit formed Joshua Tree–based synth-pop band Gram Rabbit with partner Todd Rutherford in 2000. She says they “met under spooky and magical circumstances.” The group released six albums together, played the main stage at Coachella, and landed their music in TV shows (CSI, The Real World, Sons of Anarchy) and commercials.
"Looking for a Weirdo"
...by Jesika von Rabbit
Last year, von Rabbit ventured out to release her solo debut, Journey Mitchell. For the album, produced by Rutherford, von Rabbit wrote all the songs (save one cover) and handled all the vocals, keyboards, and beats. It’s an eclectic mix of music that’s as quirky as it is danceable. At times evocative of ’80s new-wave bands like Missing Persons (“Spooky Action”) or contemporary advocates of electro-dance à la Gaga (“Gaydar”), Journey Mitchell feels both comfortably familiar and entirely fresh.
Thus far, von Rabbit has released three entrancing videos for singles stemming from the album. “Psychic Spice” starts with a Spice Girls spoof before morphing into a psychedelic mind-warp, while “Glamorous Misery” takes us inside a desert shack to reveal a goth sex den. While debuting the video for “Looking for a Weirdo” — which features full frontal — von Rabbit sat down to address why she has an affinity for Willy Wonka, how living in the desert influences her music, and what she likes to do on weekends.
Your music has elements of electronica, New Wave, goth/industrial, ’80s pop, psychedelia, dance... Given all that influence, which artists inspire you?
All kinds, from classical composers to punk rock to pop artists.
How did you come to be known as Jesika von Rabbit?
My stage name came from people frequently calling me Jesika Rabbit, and one of my favorite songs — Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”
You once said that you’re channeling a modern-day, female Willy Wonka. What did you mean by that?
It means I relate to his character very much. I like his style. He is cunning, whimsical, and colorful. I appreciate those attributes, they influence me.
You recently released the “Looking for a Weirdo” video. You’re pretty unique yourself, so I’m wondering, How do you define “weird”?
Weird for me is more about being interesting and wise and someone who finds joy in the absurd.
Jessica Janos directed all three of your videos from Journey Mitchell. What is it about her style that makes you want to work with her?
We see eye-to-eye. She’s a hard worker with an open mind. We have another video coming out in the next couple months for a new song I wrote called “I’m a Dog at a Human Party.” Really looking forward to this one!
What prompted you to cover Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop” on the album?
I grew up a big fan of her album She’s So Unusual. I wanted to introduce a new cover into my repertoire, something from my past that I could slow down and do a ballad of in juxtaposition of the dancy, electro songs I was recording. I tried a few songs out until that one just came easy. Incidentally, I just played the keyboard player in the new Cyndi Lauper video “Funnel of Love.”
What are your plans for a follow-up to Journey Mitchell?
I’m working on new music. I may release singles/videos instead of waiting for an entire record to become finished.
Your performances can get pretty wild. How would you describe a typical Jesika von Rabbit show for someone who hasn’t experienced one yet?
It’s like an organized children’s tea party.
Given you’re riding the wave of your solo career, what’s the status of Gram Rabbit?
I plan on riding any wave that comes my way and my solo career isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. At this point, Gram Rabbit only performs on Halloween at Pappy & Harriet’s [a roadhouse bar in Pioneertown] and other special occasions.
How does living in the high desert influence your music and what do you do for fun out there?
It’s a vast, bizarre, tough, and beautiful place...can’t help but let those qualities soak into your music. For fun I like to hang out at Pappy’s, talk to my kitty cats, hold séances, and go exploring.
Your Joshua Tree residence is referred to as “The Rabbit Ranch.” It’s nothing like Nevada’s Bunny Ranch, is it?
Only on the weekends.