In recent years, Jesika von Rabbit has focused on her solo career—but her popular band, Gram Rabbit, reunites every year around Halloween for a celebration at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
The queen of the High Desert and her Gram Rabbit bandmates—Ethan Allen (guitar) and Todd Rutherford (guitar, bass, programmer)—will be performing on Friday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Oct. 29, at Pappy and Harriet’s.
If you can’t wait to get a dose of JVR, she’ll be performing a free show with the Sunday Band at Pappy’s this Sunday, Sept. 18.
During a recent phone interview, von Rabbit explained why she and her busy bandmates can’t quite walk away from Gram Rabbit. Rutherford works as a music producer, while von Rabbit and Allen have their own music projects.
“I think we’re very dynamic, versatile and a bit of a spectacle,” von Rabbit said. “We mix up our sound a lot, which keeps our sound fresh, and you never know what you’re going to get. Our musical style isn’t just one thing, and I think it keeps people on their toes. We’ve been genre-jumpers, and I think people like to see what comes out of our mouths and our guitars next.”
Gram Rabbit formed in 2004, when the High Desert wasn’t quite the destination that it is for music and arts today. The group quickly won over the locals; both Gram Rabbit and von Rabbit on her own have sold out Pappy and Harriet’s, something that few local acts have accomplished.
“I think our success is attributed to the fact we’ve been doing it up here for so long, before this area was gaining any popularity. We originated up here, and we were this fun band among country acts and folk music,” von Rabbit said. “We were this band from outer space that was more rock ’n’ roll, electronic and dance. It was the perfect spot to have under-the-moon dance parties with whatever costumes, hula-hoops and glow sticks. All those felt like vibes you’d want to do out here, and I don’t think there was anyone doing anything like that at the time. … We were more animated and brought a little city life to the desert. We were also nice kids and liked to hang out in the community and got to know a lot of the locals.”
Gram Rabbit found success beyond the desert. The band played at Coachella in the early years, and the band’s tracks have been used on television shows on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, STARZ and MTV, as well as at least three movie soundtracks. Still, Gram Rabbit never abandoned the desert to make a home Los Angeles or anywhere else—and always included the high-desert in music videos and its repertoire.
“Our sound was influenced by our surroundings. Our music was desert-soaked,” von Rabbit said.
As is usually the case, the members are bringing in some friends to play with Gram Rabbit at the Halloween shows. Last year, Spindrift and local band Astro Zombies played with Gram Rabbit.
“I’ve been trying harder to have bands that have creepy names to go along with the Halloween themes,” von Rabbit said. “The first night (this year), we invited a band from San Diego called the Creepy Creeps to open for us. They’re pretty wild and dress up in Mexican skull masks and have go-go dancers. They’ve been rocking it in the San Diego scene and have opened for some big acts. They opened for Robert Plant not too long ago.
“The second night, we’ve asked the Death Valley Girls to open for us, because they rock, and their singer is really sweet. They’re doing really great right now, and they have a perfect Halloween name.”
A couple of months ago, Death Valley Girls frontwoman Bonnie Bloomgarden told the Independent about her encounter with a mummy that was trying to get into a gas station in Los Angeles—an incident that she swears really happened.
“We’ll have to get a mummy to get onstage with us during our show with them that night,” von Rabbit said with a laugh. “Or maybe I’ll be a mummy, or a rabbit mummy. I’ll have to figure out my costume and put that on my list.”
Von Rabbit said she’s in the process of releasing two new songs on her own, one of which is called “Dog at a Human Party.”
“I’m sitting on two new videos right now,” she said. “One should be out soon, and as far as another full album, I have a collection of songs. I’m not sure how well they fit together for an album, which has always sort of been my problem. Right now, I’m unsure about putting out an entire album, and I’m more interested in releasing singles and videos.”
In recent years, Gram Rabbit fans have had only the Halloween shows and perhaps an occasional show here or there to look forward to. However, that’s about to change.
“Gram Rabbit is in the studio a little bit right now, working on a couple new songs, so I have that on the burner and we’ll see how it goes,” von Rabbit said. “Probably not a record, but I’m thinking we’ll release a single or two, or a three-song EP.”
I asked von Rabbit about her favorite memories from the Gram Rabbit Halloween shows.
“Last year was great and probably my favorite so far. It was so cool to have Exene Cervenka at the show both nights and loving it,” von Rabbit said about the X frontwoman, who was in attendance. “… It was cool to hang out with her, and she loved me and loved our music. That’s pretty awesome. The shows are always so crazy, and I’m always involved in the chaotic blur of what they are, but last year was great. I loved the opening acts; I loved our set; and our costumes were great.
“We’ll have to see if we can top that this year.”
Gram Rabbit will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, with the Creepy Creeps, and 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29, with Death Valley Girls at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15 each night. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.