Chances are, if you saw Brother Rabbit in its early stages, you would barely recognize the group now. Singer Suzie McCombs is the one constant thread, and even she admits it's been a quite a musical journey.
Originally forming Brother Rabbit in 2009, McCombs recently shared that she started out playing with a couple of friends in what was essentially a folk group. Over time, membership shifted, and the group retained its folk edge, but once a drummer and electric guitars were brought into the equation, the band had a different intensity.
Eventually, the group started moving in more of a post-rock and shoegazing direction, and McCombs dove in headlong.
Although the band membership continued to shift, McCombs kept the drummer and bassist in the group, and the band continued down the shoegazing path.
"Every year we've gotten a little heavier," McCombs explained. "Every member we've had has added something, but I really think that the current lineup is the most unified. We've just got a more unified vision of what we want to do and we're all on the same page. Plus, this is the most fun I've had with any of the different versions of the band so far."
If it seems strange that the band has moved from a strictly folk sound into the more atmospheric and experimental nuances of post-rock, a conversation with McCombs can clear that up.
"I was always very influenced by music from other cultures," she explains. "When I started the group, I really wanted it to be more world music. It's just that when we played, it turned into folk."
Of the initial decision not only to change members, but start moving in a new direction, McCombs said, "At some point it just felt like we were limiting ourselves and I was ready to move forward. There's never been a set plan or design on where we go -- it just happened."
With the band settled into a current lineup that includes Caleb Demarais on drums, Gabriel Vasquez on bass, James Reza on rhythm guitar and keys, and Tye Slagle on lead guitar, McCombs has a calm confidence about the group and where it could be headed in the future.
"Actually, I hope to continue getting heavier," she said. "There's a very attentive intensity in post rock that makes people listen. And when you've got really strong lyrics paired with that, it makes you pay attention and really listen. Plus, that's even more powerful in the live show."
In turning our attention to the live show, McCombs explained the group's performances have evolved as well as the music.
"We really focus on the performance as a whole," she said. "It's not just the music -- we have a visual aspect and effects and there are a few new surprises we've come up with as well. We've really thought things out and are thinking about our audience -- how to keep them engaged and interested and interacting with the show."
Now, nearly four years after initially forming, Brother Rabbit is releasing its debut CD, Storybook, with a release party at The Vanguard on Friday night, September 6.
The eight-song disc isn't really so much a picture of where the band is right now as an encapsulation of its evolution to this point. The group's more melodic folk leaning are particularly pronounced on "The Great Adventure," while an acoustic rendering of "Deathtrap of a Crow" bridges the gap into the darker edge of post-rock while also incorporating McCombs world music influences with a Latin flair.
All of the band's stylistic elements are interwoven, however and "The Great Adventure" segues into "Id Lohur," a blast of post-rock that moves into the more ethereal shoegaze of "The Things We Dream Of." The disc closes with a dramatic reading of "House of the Rising Sun."
Obviously, as the sole original member and lead vocalist of the band, McCombs voice ties it all together for the listener. When asked what the true common thread between all the songs is, however, she said, "What ties it all together? A really big imagination, I think. We've always been really imaginative and creative and not limited in our creativity or what we can do -- that and a strong lyricism.
"This has always been a fun band," she continued. "It may seem a little strange because we've always had this heavy element come through, yet we're all incredibly happy people."
Above all else, however, McCombs attributes a childlike imagination the band members for tying everything together and giving the band's work its cohesion. That's part of the reason the band has titled its debut Storybook, in order to capture just a bit of that childlike element.
There's also an ulterior motive to the title as McCombs revealed "We plan on calling all of our albums Storybook. We'll have Storybook number one, number two, number three... we decided to do that because the band has evolved so much, it seems like part of a story. Also, it's something parallel to tie it all together and not have our fans lose interest."
So in essence, Storybook is merely the beginning -- of both the band's evolution and its ongoing story. Now that the band has gotten its debut complete, McCombs and here band mates have an eye on touring later in the year, stepping into Arkansas and Texas, but McCombs also revealed that "We're hoping to dive right into the second album because we've already got quite a bit of new material and we're really eager to display the sound we've evolved into. This album is really more of our transition album to show where we've been."
If you're a longtime fan who has watched Brother Rabbit evolve or simply a new fan that loves the group's current post-rock direction, you can find the group on stage at The Vanguard this Friday night, September 6 and pick up Storybook at the band's CD release party. Tickets are $5 in advance or $7 at the door and the night promises to be as eclectic as Brother Rabbit is, as the group has hand-picked its openers, gypsy folk act Autumn Shade and Flashpoint, an Irish/Celtic outfit from Texas. All in all, it should be an entertaining night for everyone involved.
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Now that Labor Day is behind us, we get a little breather of sorts. You'd better take advantage of it, though, because when Indian Summer hits, the concert calendar gets as hot as ever. If you're still needing your music fix, you need not worry: There's still plenty going on around town and you can find the highlights right here:
Thursday, September 5
Cain's Ballroom has the big show of the night, a rap showdown with Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, Mayday!, and more. If you're gearing up for a weekend of folk and indie rock in Guthrie, you can get a jump start with bluegrass stars in the making, The Hillbenders, at Mercury Lounge or go the jam route with Jeff Austin (of Yonder Mountain) and Danny Barnes at The Shrine.
Friday, September 6
Lucinda Williams returns to Cain's Ballroom with Kenneth Brian Band for her faithful fans while Green Corn Rebellion steps up at Soundpony a few doors down. It's a great night for local indie-rock at Vanguard as well as Brother Rabbit holds a CD release with Autumn Shade and Flashpoint opening. And if you love melodic pop-rock and soul, don't miss Eric Himan as he returns to Hunt Club for a Friday night homecoming.
Saturday, September 7
Vanguard has another great night of indie rock with a pop edge as Night Riots comes to town with Wright Brothers and Driver Friendly opening. Cain's Ballroom has a great show as well as Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors returns to headline with David Ramirez opening. You can also get your fix at Hunt Club and Jason Ferguson and Dante & the Hawks share the patio stage for the night.
Sunday, September 8
Guthrie Green continues its Sunday afternoon series with Joe West & Santa Fe Review, Plateros and Grupo Fantasmo for a great afternoon of world beat influenced music. Meanwhile, the Jazz Hall of Fame welcomes Luisza Cornelius for and early evening show to wrap your weekend.
The Vanguard has a full night of reggae-rock as Iration comes to town to with Through the Roots, Fortunate Youth and Micah Brown (who we bet will steal the show).
Wednesday, September 11
The week wraps up with Jars of Clay, Brooke Waggoner, Kye Kye, and Red Wood Rising at The Vanguard in a big show for the contemporary Christian crowd.
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