By: Anna Baker
In 2009, when Fierce Bad Rabbit launched as a new indie rock band, its music had an immediate response. Sometimes dubbed a “supergroup” by the media – four experienced musicians from other known bands joining forces – Fierce Bad Rabbit quickly gained attention with their first EP, “Black and White.”
Followed by, “Spools of Thread,” in 2010, “Live and Learn,” in 2011, and multiple shows, tours, licensing a song to New Belgium for a national commercial, and a lineup change, the band is now releasing their second full-length album on New Year’s Eve. In a recent interview with the band, members, Chris Anderson, Alana Rolfe, Dayton Hicks and Max Barcelow, shared insight about their current status and where they’re headed with their new release, “The Maestro and the Elephant.”
AB: What is different about FBR on this new album?
CA: We did this album differently than before. We didn’t actually know details of the tracks when we got to the studio. On “Spools of Thread,” we did three weeks of preproduction; it was more rehearsed. This album came together organically and as a group effort, inside the studio, and much of it due to producer/engineer, Andrew Berlin, at The Blasting Room.
AB: How do you think this new approach affects what listeners will hear on the album?
MB: They’ll hear a more intentional, raw, and in-the-moment sound than the other releases. Since each of us wrote and sang on the album, that’s a change from before. There are original pieces that Alana and I wrote and performed, in addition to Chris’ pieces and the group working together on each part of every song.
AB: What role and significance did the producer/engineer play on your new album, “The Maestro and the Elephant?”
AR: Andrew Berlin is brilliant. We trust him implicitly and he knows our band, our sound, and what we’re striving for; he’s able to give honest comments that really make our songs better. His ideas click.
DH: He’s the “outside ears” for us – we are so attached to what we’re doing, how the songs go, etc., that Andrew gives that balance and objective voice we need so we can improve our work.
Artistically, Fierce Bad Rabbit has grown over the years in songwriting, mastery of live performances, touring, and thinking beyond album sales. As the music industry continues to shift away from the old days of chasing labels for representation, the band’s grassroots model of evolving as an organic business while expanding their national reach is working.
AB: What are your goals with this new album?
CA: We want this album to be a colorful canvas of ideas and music that’s a stamp in time. We want people to feel like they’re hanging out with the band when they listen to the album, that it’s real, accessible, and understandable.
DH: No artist is really ever 100 percent happy with their work, probably, but that’s what keeps it interesting. We want to keep improving, sounding better, and delivering new things to our fans. This keeps us growing as people and musicians.
AB: What have been the biggest changes you’ve dealt with as individuals and as a band this past year?
CA: We’ve had a lot of great things happen. Dayton and his fiancée will welcome their first baby this month, Max joined the band in January, we’ve toured successfully in several states, sold a song for a commercial, and have worked with some incredible industry professionals. I went to Nashville solo back in the spring and had the chance to write and record with recognized people from the industry.
AB: Do you see your band as a business now that it’s morphing into all of these new projects and goals?
AR: We are artists at the core and want to always be doing our art. Accepting that we need to also operate as a business isn’t necessarily natural to us, but we see the benefits of it. When other people take care of the business side, we get to concentrate on what we love and that’s creating music.
As the band moves toward their album release on New Year’s at Hodi’s, it’s enjoying some down time from touring while celebrating the end of a successful Kickstarter campaign. The campaign ended in November and raised $10,700 to use toward album production and promotion costs.
AB: What was it like doing a Kickstarter campaign for the first time?
CA: It was tough, wondering if we’d make our goal, but it was amazing to see the support of people surrounding the project. This money will keep us from having to be in debt due to album costs and puts us on a great path for the New Year.
AB: How do you balance four individuals’ ideas and opinions when it comes to band-related decisions?
DH: We genuinely like each other and that shows in our work. We work with the “unanimous vote” rule so we stay considerate of each other, even when maybe disagreeing about direction.
“The Maestro and the Elephant’s” 15 tracks are steadily building layers of melodies, lyrics, images, and ideas, different from previous releases. There is a maturity that has developed in Fierce Bad Rabbit in its sound and opening up contribution opportunities to each band member has played a fundamental role in creating this new, edgier, and grounded sound that will be heard on this album. On songs like, “Apple In Your Hand,” written and performed by drummer Max Barcelow, the band’s sound takes on a nineties-influenced feel and on Alana Rolfe’s “The Devil Smells Like Country,” the sound shifts into an ethereal tune infused with Rolfe’s recognizably haunting vocals.