American Dream: Exclusive Bad Rabbits Interview
Photos by Scott Stewart
Bad Rabbits is one of the most exciting bands out right now. In the aftermath of their successful EP Stick Up Kids, the Rabbits have been busy. They are hit the road with the Warped Tour, finishing a new album with super-producer Teddy Riley, and getting ready to open for Mos Def. Recently I sat down to talk with three of the Rabbits: Graham Masser (bass), Salim Akram (guitar), and Sheel Dave (drums). Here is part of our conversation (after the jump):
OKP: I love your EP Stick Up Kids because the sound of it reminds me of 1980s Minneapolis and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Which musical direction is Bad Rabbits headed in next?
Sheel: We have two albums that are almost done. One was with Teddy Riley and it was an amazing learning experience. We learned a lot about the business, but also creating songs that we always dreamed of creating with one of our idol producers. Then the other album is almost done with a really young producer from the Bay area named Brad Lewis.
Graham: I think in terms of comparison to Stick Up Kids it still has a lot of those elements, but in my opinion this album is more of a feel-good album. It’s positive, feel-good R&B.
Salim: The Brad Lewis-produced album is more musical all-around, you can hear a lot more of the band on this record.
Sh: The Teddy Riley project has it’s own sound to it. You definitely hear Teddy because he played a heavy, heavy role in it. The band is on it, but it’s nowhere near as present as it is on the EP.
OKP: I know that artists hate to describe the music they play–but how would you describe it?
Slm: American dream is what we’ve been going with because it’s real. Our story is that we’re so diverse musically and as a band in the way we look that the American Dream is the way we describe what we’re doing. Three of the members of the band are first generation Americans.
Grm: A lot of people have trouble pinpointing what we are because it’s all over the board. We don’t really look like any other band. We’re not five white dudes, or white black dudes, or five anything. We are who we are, we’re Bad Rabbits and we do what we do.
Shl: It’s definitely rooted in R&B, funk, pop, rock. There are so many different genres that you can call it, it’s just easier to call it the American Dream because its so diverse.
OKP: You all seem to really work well together, so how was it working with outside producers?
Shl: Jason Michael helped us produce Stick Up Kids. But with Teddy Riley, he came in with a bunch of tracks that he thought would work for us and then we took them into the live room and started creating something and put our minds together afterwards as opposed to starting from scratch. With Brad Lewis he came with some stuff that we really liked and we took that in the live room. It’s definitely been a challenge to work with outside producers, but I think we’ve definitely come out with some pretty amazing songs.
Grm: One thing Teddy said was, when he first started working with us is that he looked up videos of us on youtube to study up on the band. Then he put the videos on mute and composed beats for us just by watching videos of us and by thinking of how we should sound.
OKP: As independent artists, creating music is only half of your job. How do you handle your growing list of business responsibilities?
Slm: It is definitely difficult, but we have a good team around us that makes it easier. We don’t have “management” so we do all of our day-to-day stuff as a band. But I think we’re kind of content because we want to have our hands in it and be involved. It’s definitely been a struggle to find the balance.
Grm: A lot of our peers have taken a more traditional route and when you go that route, there are a lot of things that are great; you’re going to be exposed to a wider audience…but for the most part people have been giving us these horror stories of when they lose all creative control of their album. You don’t really have as much freedom to put the music out that you want and I think we have been fortunate in that we retained complete creative control and control of our own social media presence. There’s not as much red tape.
Shl: When you try to run a business and you have merchandise, touring, investors, and all of that stuff that’s when the whole DIY thing gets crazy and not having a label or manager backing you becomes very challenging. It’s definitely a blessing and a curse. We do have creative control and our eyes on our business at all times, but it’s a blessing and a curse.
Slm: We definitely have goals and know where we want to be. But managing your expectations is the strongest advice I would give to someone because when you look around there is no structure to the music business and to see a band come out of nowhere and get major success in one thing, but being the band that we are and the brand we’re trying to build doesn’t really warrant us getting that type of success that way. It’s definitely important to keep your goals and where you are in your career so that you’re not burning yourself out but also so that you’re not getting discouraged because you’re not where you want to be in the time you want to be there. We take a step back and realize we’ve done a lot of awesome shit in the past year and when you’re in it it’s kind of hard to remember that.
Grm: Just because you’re hot today doesn’t mean you’re going to be there tomorrow. I think what we’re doing really works for us in that we’re grabbing each fan one by one and developing more of a grassroots following.