For the past decade, Gram Rabbit has been putting Joshua Tree on the map in the music world. While Gram Rabbit has been on hiatus for the past couple of years and Jesika von Rabbit has been working as a solo artist, Gram Rabbit still comes together for their Halloween shows at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown.
This year, Gram Rabbit will be performing on Friday, October 30 with special guests Spindrift, and on Saturday, October 31 with special guests Astro Zombies. Spindrift is a Spaghetti western psychedelic band, and Astro Zombies are a Misfits cover band that includes local Palm Desert music icon, Brandon Henderson.
During a recent phone interview, Jesika von Rabbit talked about her recent tour with Eagles of Death Metal.
“It was amazing,” von Rabbit said. “Most every show was sold out and it was Midwest, a bunch of East Coast dates, and it ended in the South in Birmingham, Alabama. We actually had a show in Austin, Texas that I had to cancel because I was feeling under the weather.”
Some of the tour stops were places von Rabbit had played before and some were places where she hadn’t played before.
“I played Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and a handful of cities before. But there were a handful on this tour that I hadn’t played in before. I really enjoyed Cleveland. We had 2 days off there and I really needed it to recoup. I got some time by myself where I got to drive around. The show was cool and it was at a smaller place called the Grog Shop, and it was kind of a dingy more tavern venue and not as nice as some of the other ones, but I’m sure it was sold out and the crowd response was great there and in every city. The crowd seemed to love me wherever I went, and I wasn’t sure about that going out with a rock band while my stuff is more dance and performance art. It seemed to work just fine and I made a grip of new fans.”
The visual art that von Rabbit has shown in her solo act when it comes to performances and on album covers, as well as the stuff that has been featured in Gram Rabbit over the years,
“I like really loud and colorful things. I guess the Joshua Tree desert is an influence. It’s very whimsical, colorful, and trippy. I’ve never liked anything that is subtle, which is the best way I can put it. I like things that stand out and make me look twice. The back cover of my solo record where I have my head in the oven – that’s a replica of an old picture. I’m not sure if the original is Sylvia Plath inspired or not. I just did a new photo shoot with Marina Chavez where we replicated an old picture that I had found that I wanted to do, because I’m really into this. It’s a picture from the ‘50s and it’s Annette Funicello from the Mickey Mouse Club. I was trying to get ideas for the Pappy’s Halloween poster and I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do a hip ‘50s vintage pinup thing. So we found this image of Annette bobbing for apples with her hands tied behind her back. I loved it. I really like creating old images and bringing my own slant to them and it’s really fun. I’m going to keep building off doing stuff like that.”
On the subject of Gram Rabbit, von Rabbit has stated many times that Gram Rabbit has never officially broken up. She said that she’s uncertain of what will be, but didn’t say that Gram Rabbit is officially done, especially with the tradition of the Halloween shows and the possibilities of recording new music.
“Gram Rabbit hasn’t done anything since last Halloween. So we can’t unless I’m doing it. They are me and we’re all a group, so we have to do stuff together. I don’t really know and I really can’t say. This is the 11th annual Halloween ball that we’ve done at Pappy’s, and I can’t really say what will become of Gram Rabbit. There’s been talk of us making a new record, so I can’t say it’s completely out of the realm of possibilities. I’ve been enjoying my solo thing and either way, I will continue to keep performing whether it’s solo or with a group. I’m sure we’ll always do Halloween. I love it and I love playing at Pappy’s.”
While many of Gram Rabbit’s fans were skeptical at first about von Rabbit going solo, she has certainly won them over and feels more confidence in herself as a performer.
“It was scary at first. I do like being in a band but the band needed a break and I couldn’t stop. I recorded my own stuff and just carried on. It definitely gave me more confidence given I had to get up there and do it all myself and not having to rely on other people. I never run out of musical ideas, but just being able to get up there yourself and own it, and doing this tour with Eagles of Death Metal, it reinforced how I am able to do it, I pulled it off, and people loved it.”
I had to ask if von Rabbit has any other Halloween traditions besides playing at Pappy’s. It turns out that she does, and some very interesting ones.
“I love Halloween, and I just decorated my house yesterday with some pumpkins, a witch, some bats, and a black cat. I find myself lighting more candles and you just feel the change in the air. There’s something about October and it’s always a bit more magical to me. I always just smell and absorb, and of course the tradition is playing at Pappy’s. It’s always fun to make that setlist and decide which covers we’re going to play.”