HARE BRAINS? They may sound like quixotic wanderings, but the songs of Newman, Dubs, and Science are smartly charted out like secret missions, or scientific experiments.
"A guitar that goes doink can be as entertaining as someone singing la-la-la," insists Bunnies bassist Jack Science, on speakerphone with the rest of the band from their practice space, a desolate warehouse by the Connecticut River in Holyoke.
Science is speaking of Bunnies' ongoing affinity for what I call "interesting noises." But his observation also expresses Bunnies' æsthetic — it doesn't sound as if it made any sense, but deep down it does. Case in point: in Bunnies, guitars go doink.
Science and guitarist Jeremy Dubs, who also split vocal duties, uprooted themselves from Pennsylvania to move to Northampton five years ago, and they shifted the paradigm of their band in the process. The "e" in Bennies, their previous band, was swapped for a "u," and drummer Matt Newman was found on Craigslist. As for the conceptual modifications they made, Bunnies began penning cosmically inclined, lyrically abstract, structurally fluid stoner metal. Or maybe it's post-post-post-punk. Whatever it is, it sounds crazy.
"A lot of the noise sections of our songs are based on cues," Science explains. "There's a general idea of the sounds we're going to make, and then we move to those parts based on cues from one person or another."
"We know that they're choruses, but other people don't," adds Dubs.
"We felt like people weren't really thinking of the future," Science continues, "or there wasn't enough progress. So we did our future concept album." He says this in reference to Music for Dinosaurs by Dinosaurs. As for the next concept album: it's "about action — about doing."
Mission of Burma's Roger Miller produced Music for Dinosaurs in the summer of '08, and his crush on Bunnies is a matter of public record. Saturday's bill at the Paradise is only the most recent to include Bunnies and their envelope-pushing precursors. During their tenure as Bennies, they landed a handful of choice gigs opening for Burma and the Pixies — and as Bunnies, they played with Frank Black's Grand Duchy project this past summer. You'd think such illustrious associations would swell their heads — yet they get as animated when name-dropping barely known fringe acts like We Are the Seahorses as they do when mentioning Miller and Black Francis.
In fact, that last show they played with the Seahorses was a crucial turning point: caving in to misguided accusations of gimmickry, Bunnies resolved that no more would they perform dressed like pulp sci-fi characters. Dubs: "It's too much to worry about before a show. We'd rather focus on songs. But the last time I dressed up, I wore an inflatable dinosaur costume."
Of course, mere spectacle isn't what keeps a Bunnies show interesting (and least of all Dubs's confinement to a wheelchair, from osteogenesis imperfecta). The songs are their own distractions. Although they may sound like quixotic wanderings, Dubs has them smartly charted out like secret missions, or scientific experiments. Take the in-progress concept album — this Saturday, they'll unveil track one, which is dubbed "The Starting." "The album is breaking down the process of doing," says Dubs, "and when you're doing something, the first thing that happens is you start, and there's a process that you go through. We try to break it down and be scientific, sort of."