Photo Credit: Bob Sweeney
First Look Friday: Trap Rabbit Is Extremely Dope And Doesn’t Make Trap Music [Interview]
Photo Credit: Bob Sweeney
Trap Rabbit consists of Arjun Dube and Logan Roth, an alt-jazz key/drums duo from out of Philadelphia, who write unique and powerful music for your eardrums.
First hearing the name Trap Rabbit had me thinking at first that Young Thug, Tay K, and Gucci Mane had linked up to form a new group that had the A bunkin’. When it was disclosed to me that it was really this dope duo of Arjun Dube (drums) and Logan Roth (keys) from Philadelphia who made some intricate, yet captivating music — I had to tune in to find out more.
Upon hearing the group who is self-proclaimed “not good with words,” Trap Rabbit has a DNA of dopeness. With influences such as J Dilla, fellow First Look Friday subject Xenia Rubinos, and Tame Impala — Arjun and Logan have combined their love of hip-hop grooves with their penchant for for infectious songwriting to create a wealth of sound for all to enjoy.
With that said, we here at Okayplayer are ecstatic to share the life, melodies, and impact that Trap Rabbit has created thus far. In our interview with them, we speak about their deep history of influences, the obstacles that they’ve overcome since becoming a duo, and premiere the video for their song, “Empress,” which you can see for yourself below.
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in music game are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?
Logan: Well, we have fans that are in quite disparate scenes, so I think there’s something to bite into for everyone. This is probably our best strength, actually; that we are able to combine a huge amount of influences into this raw, authentic, cohesive sound. Also, our shows are fun.
Arjun: People always tell us that we sound like we’ve been playing together for a while. I think we both click really well onstage and gel as a unit, and that stands out.
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
A: I’ve always been inspired by drummers with a lot of weird (but musical) limb movements. Brian Blade and Keith Carlock come to mind for stuff like that. With Blade especially — there’s something beautiful about the raucous “messiness” in his playing, especially on his louder side. I dig theatrics — I think it supports our music really well. The other side of my current influences stem from drummers with very deep pockets: Nate Smith, Benny Greb, and Daru Jones all come to mind here. Putting all this stuff together, I also really dig Sput, Mark Guiliana, and Nathaniel Townsley.
L: My dad showed me Emerson, Lake, and Palmer when I was really young, and after that I discovered jazz pianists like Gene Harris, Oscar Peterson, and Brad Mehldau. Throw into the mix some classic blues players like Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins, and that’s kinda who I am as a player, or at least who I aspire to play like.
OKP: Can you talk about how your life was while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?
L: We moved to Philly after college and didn’t really know what we were getting into. We dove into the scene here with a band that quickly dissolved, and we were left with just a duo. We frequently struggled with the fact that we didn’t really fit neatly into any of the genre-cliques that exist in the city. But through Philly we still found our sound. Needless to say, when we started to get real praise from folks that had nothing to gain from praising us, we were a little surprised! But we were thrilled and grateful as well.
OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racism occurring almost on a daily basis around the globe — how can your music help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?
L: It’s a little hard, I think, for me specifically to try and project some kind of activist message through our music. I am a privileged, hetero white male who was raised middle class and went to college. There is no struggle that I’ve had that could possibly legitimize an activist message. Instead, we try our best to act within the industry as examples for how artists can work. This city, like most cities, is segregated, and the music scene is no exception. But we work hard to try and attract a diverse crowd to our shows as well as work with artists from a wide variety of backgrounds. We’ve worked closely with white indie-rockers, Japanese-American songwriters, black MCs, Dominican rappers, men, women, and everything in between.
A: Music is healing, and at the very least, I hope that our shows are safe places for people of different backgrounds to coalesce. We don’t set out to communicate any explicit messages or activist sentiments in our music – that’s not really how we’ve written our songs thus far. That could change in the future, though.
OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you’ve overcome in your career thus far?
L: I think the struggle of being a musician is ongoing for me. I do what I love, and that’s why I do it, but also being an artist is not for the faint of heart. You must constantly summon the courage to present yourself for the world to judge. This is a hard thing to do when, like us in the beginning, we didn’t even really know what we were. There’s a reason so many artists struggle with mental illness — we fasten our art to our very essence and being. When it doesn’t work out exactly as we hope, it’s not just a failure of our artistic abilities, it’s a failure of our very existence in the world as people.
A: Balancing music and life. I had to figure out just how much work I needed to put into music and how much work I needed to put in myself. I still haven’t figured it out. It’s very romantic to think that music alone will carry you [and] for some people, it works out that way. But being a happy musician is different for everyone. For me, I needed to focus my brain on other pursuits in order for me to truly enjoy playing music. That might change in the future. At the moment, I am having loads of fun just being a drummer in whatever capacity I desire.
OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene as how you’ve experienced it? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?
Photo Credit: Skyler Jenkins
L: The music industry is fascinating. I believe it is one of the truest embodiments of the American dream. In terms of its evolution, I think that as automation continues to replace people as workers, our society is going to shift towards a media-based economy. Music (and art in general) is one of the only mass-produced commodities that is often better the more unique it is. Even if AI and robots do start composing as well as human beings, there will always be a desire for human voices and creations. So, especially as the tools become more accessible, more and more people from more and more backgrounds are going to seriously make music, which can only serve to elevate the standard of what music is and can be.
A: I think that the digital music landscape needs to recreate the brick-and-mortar record store a little better. Spotify doesn’t always reward cult followings. $7 of my $10 is still being handed out to the artists that gather the most streams overall, even though I didn’t listen to any of them that month. I want to be able to open up a streaming program and “tip” artists I like. I want to be able to search for artists by city or region, not just by genre, so I can check out local scenes across the world. Genres are a waste of time these days — I’d like to stop creating boxes and categories in which to shove multifaceted bands.
We as a people need to be conscious consumers of media. Don’t get stuck in a hole listening to only the music that makes you comfortable. It’s a never-ending cycle. Haven’t you ever been on Spotify with millions and millions of songs at your fingertips, wondering how you somehow got bored of all of them? You didn’t. You’ve just been caught in the cycle. I bring up the record store analogy, because at least at the record store, you can easily be confronted with something unknown. On the internet, you have to force yourself to check out the unknown — you have to break free of being served the same meal day after day.
OKP: What are some things that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?
L: We get bored really easily. It’s hard for us to perform a piece the same every time we do it, and even if we’ve written a piece we love, we will inevitably change it at some point. For example, our EP was recorded roughly a year ago, and almost all of those songs have morphed and sound different now.
A: Our personal setup prompted us to create very active songs. At the end of the day, I think we discovered that we want people to pay attention to us without them losing focus. We want the audience to be latched on to our performances. We’re still figuring out how to tastefully create this urgency. We’re not always so tasteful. But I think that’s why we have so much fun. Being tasteful can be quite dull sometimes. We try not to be too serious.
OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?
L: I went on tour with a band in Europe recently and there were a few small personal tragedies, one of which was my keyboard breaking just before one of our shows. What shocked me most was how kind people in the industry were to me. I wasn’t playing with a famous band with a serious following or anything, but everyone was so kind. I remember there was a point when I was renting a replacement keyboard I kept thinking it was too easy, and the guy I was renting from was being too nice and I’m suddenly thinking that I was going to get robbed or something when I went to pick it up. I wasn’t — people were just nice! I want to go back to Europe with Trap Rabbit ASAP.
OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered into the professional life?
A: The first song we ever wrote is entitled “R U Real” which is coincidentally on our EP. The mere fact that we still play this song (although it’s become kind of a fan favorite) is a testament to how much we like to work on our songs. They’re never really “done.” I think some artists frown upon not walking away from finished projects, but we’ve been tinkering with “R U Real” since we wrote it, and even when we perform it now, it’s already a little different than the version on the EP.
OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?
L: Power seeks to standardize us, turn us into numbers, and make us dull and quiet so that we work for it without protest. Our music, I hope, makes you feel raw emotion. It is not standard, and it certainly is not quiet. It’s also kind of hard to digest so quickly. “Empress” is based off of an individual that is, objectively, evil. But we aren’t trying to condone her actions. Rather, we want the listener to experience what I might feel like to be in her shoes — to feel strong, strange, multifaceted, and maybe even morally questionable emotions. Our music is meant to inspire people towards powerful feelings and idiosyncrasy.
A: In an age where attention spans are at an all-time low, we’re pretty much just hoping that we sound different enough to capture anyone for more than 10 seconds.
OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year going into the next and why?
L: We had a show opening for Taylor McFerrin recently, and he seemed to really like our sound. He’s a busy dude, so it’s unlikely for us to work together any time soon, but I would love to work with him at some point in our career. His music has been super inspirational. Plus, he’s the reason I know who Hiatus Kaiyote is.
A: I’ve always wanted to add a bass player to our mix, even on a song-by-song basis. Who, you ask? I don’t know. Nobody famous, yet. We’re still picking through the endless talent in Philadelphia.
OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind a song that you created but never put out?
Photo Credit: Skyler Jenkins
A: One song we wrote, “Party Trix,” was solely written because we wanted to have a punk song for basement house shows. The goal was to get people jumping up and down — it didn’t matter as much what we actually played. That changed pretty quickly though, because we really liked what we ended up writing. It’s not really a punk song — more progressive metal or something like that. But it’s loud, and it’s fast, and it involves a lot of screaming. We put it out early on as a music video, but we never recorded it or included it on the EP. It’s a great tune that people love, so maybe one day we’ll actually put out a recording of it. It just needs some electric guitar and crazy sound effects. That’s probably why we held off on it.
OKP: How do you get over any anxiety before hitting the stage to perform live? What are some lessons or tips that you’ve learned from others about doing a stage show?
L: I used to get really nervous performing, but at this point it’s just a normal thing. I still get nervous, but it doesn’t manifest itself quite as badly as it it did when I was younger. For big shows I definitely try to mediate a little bit, and in the days leading up to the show I try and focus on how we’re going to kick ass and kill it on stage. Envisioning success definitely helps with nerves.
A: I try creating a hierarchy of things. I need my drums to feel comfortable and tuned up, I need to be wearing a short sleeve shirt if I can help it, and I definitely need to be clear-minded. I do breathing exercises, stretching, stuff like that. Above all of it though, I just remind myself to have fun. The more I think, the more I am going to screw something up. I play my best when I am able to completely separate my mind from my body.
OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Trap Rabbit — what would it be?
L: Trap Rabbit doesn’t make trap music.