Ahead of their debut Belfast show at the Pavilion on Thursday, November 7 – supported by Sons of Caliber, no less – Brian Coney chats to Brooke and John from New Zealand dream-folk duo French For Rabbits about recent touring, sonic influence and their joint love of the sea.
Hi guys. So, how did the band first come together?
John: Hello! It all came about when we uprooted our lives in Christchurch in between earthquakes and moved to Wellington. The real reason for the move was because Brooke had decided she needed to start singing – in her previous bands she had written songs but had shied away from the microphone. She was too terrified to sing to her friends in Christchurch so we moved to Wellington where we didn’t know anyone and played at this wonderful, supportive open mic night. We’ve been playing together ever sinc
What artists or bands do you think have had any indelible influence on your sound?
Brooke: I’ve always found this to be a tricky question. For me, I am definitely influenced by songwriters who are brilliant lyricists like Leonard Cohen, however I am also a sucker for a beautiful melody, so I listen to a lot of contemporary folk artists like Laura Marling, Hannah Cohen, Daughter and also Beach House…
John has had a musical upbringing based in jazz and blues, so this undeniably influences his guitar playing. His favourite guitar players are Wes Montgomery and Jimi Hendrix.
One assumes a whole range of different things – nature, images, concepts – inspire the music that you make. What stands out?
Nature is definitely a major aspect to our music – maybe it just comes from growing up in the countryside and by the beaches in New Zealand. Perhaps it does not come through lyrically, but definitely in the textures of the music. We don’t really create ‘urban’ music that is for sure. Lyrically, stories, concepts, tragedy, loneliness, and the things we see and feel in everyday life inspire us.
Not unlike the likes of Beach House and Candy Claws, you align yourselves with the nautical, both in terms of music and words. Where do you think this allegiance or love of the sea stem?
Brooke: Both John and I have our own affinities with the sea. John is a surfer, and he is completely and utterly obsessed with it (so much so, that he never seems to be happy unless he is within a few kilometres of a beach with waves). I grew up in Waikuku beach so it seems to have seeped deep into my consciousness and no matter how hard I try, lyrics with nautical themes seem to creep into nearly every song!
Your sound falls under what many have called, to varying degrees, dream pop. Are you adverse to that title?
Brooke: We actually think it is a great title, and are inclined to use this or ‘dream-folk’ to describe our music. It always helps to try and give people at least a general idea of what your music sounds like, and our music has a pretty dream-like quality and fits somewhere between the realms of folk music and indie-pop.
In terms of recent touring experience, what have you found to be the main differences between playing Wellington or Christchurch back home and further afield – say England?
Brooke: The audiences have been lovely everywhere, which is nice. I think the main difference is that New Zealand’s population is so small; you tend to see the same people in the audiences all the time. It is also easier to be more DIY in New Zealand in comparison to the UK. In New Zealand we contact the newspapers, radio stations and venues ourselves. Where-as in the UK we wouldn’t know where to start!
The sublime ‘Goat’ is your most recent single. As a standalone release, how accurately do you think it reflects the sound you are going for and how far you’ve come over the last couple of years?
Brooke: Goat is a precursor to a debut album that we are working on. It is definitely a song that balances between the guitar based approach of our ‘Claimed by the Sea’ EP, and our newer songs which are more dynamic and perhaps less folk-based.
In terms of recording, do you have another EP or perhaps even full-length record in the pipeline?
Brooke: Full length hopefully! We would like to release it in the first half of next year although we don’t want to release it until we are absolutely ready.
Finally, I’m sure you’ve been asked these a few times before but… French For Rabbits: great name for a band. How did you come up with it?
Brooke: Haha! We do get asked this question all the time. The problem is we don’t have a very good answer…it comes from back when I didn’t sing, and shared a song on a secret Bandcamp, which happened to be called ‘frenchforrabbits’ for no particular reason but that I couldn’t remember the word for rabbit in French, and liked the sound. Also, I like the idea of a rabbit in a Beatrice Potter story, learning how to speak French by reading a book titled ‘French for Rabbits’.