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400 Rabbits (CD Release) | The Savage Oms | ByJr

  • Shakespeare's Kalamazoo, MI (map)

400 Rabbits releases their self-titled debut album with support from The Savage Oms and ByJr at this free, April Fool's Day event at Shakespeare's Lower Level.

About 400 Rabbits...

Saying that the path to a band's debut album is long and fraught with adversity is not only cliché, but also undeniably true. And it's no different for Kalamazoo-area garage punk duo 400 Rabbits who have been working toward this moment for close to a decade.

Vocalist and guitarist Dwayne Hoover and drummer Lance Wedge met and began playing together in the punk band Sex Chocolate in 2007 while Hoover was also playing as a multi-instrumentalist for, and original member of, local string band The Alabama Spanking Machines. But neither endeavor was a good long-term fit, and eventually Hoover and Wedge went their own direction and formed the punk blues two-piece known as Spoofed.

After immersing themselves in the Kalamazoo music scene for a couple of years, building relationships and notoriety with each performance, life happened in 2012, and Spoofed went on an indefinite hiatus. But after pursuing other, ultimately unfulfilling musical projects, they returned to the scene in 2015 with renewed enthusiasm, new material and a new name.

The two have always shared a love of the straight-up punk sound, what Tommy Ramone once described as “pure, stripped-down, no bullshit rock n' roll,” as well as the 70s garage rock scene and its revival in the early 2000s. But they've also shared a heartfelt appreciation for roots music, and there is no mistaking the blues and folk influences in their sound.

“There's just this incomparable passion and energy with traditional music,” explained Hoover. “That's not to say that sincerity is nonexistent today, but there's a lot of modern music that feels manufactured and forced, so sometimes you feel like you really have to wade through all the sell-friendly stuff to find the gems. And the music that actually is genuine, at least emotionally, exists because of all the brilliant minds who have paved the way.”

This nod to the sounds that helped shape 400 Rabbits' music is very apparent in the band's debut, self-titled album. The 11 tracks are a hodgepodge of material, including not only their original tunes like the old school country-inspired “Fool” and the angry punk song “Insanity,” but also covers from the likes of Irish-folk artist Christy Moore and the late Piedmont blues legend Blind Willie McTell.

That the additional tunes found their way to this album, or that a full-length album even happened at all, was kind of a happy accident. Hoover and Wedge hit the studio looking to record a couple of songs for a single, or maybe an EP. But once the music started flowing, they just kept playing.

“It was funny,” recalls Hoover of their studio time. “We had only booked one day in the studio, and we felt confident enough in our material that we could lay down a few tracks with minimal takes. But once we started going, we'd nail a song in a take or two, so we just decided that, 'Hey, we're here. What else do we have?' Next thing we know it's an LP.”

400 Rabbits recorded at McDonald Productions in Otsego, MI, where owner Brent McDonald provided an ideal blend of experience, expertise and flexibility.

“Working with Brent was awesome,” said Hoover. “Going back over the tracks individually, he would say, 'If it were me, I'd do this,' and offer some insight or perspective that we hadn't thought of. Some advice we'd take, some we wouldn't. In the end, what he did was help us achieve the sound we were going for.”

Specifically, what they wanted to capture was the essence of their live performance. Hoover and Wedge have had experience recording one instrument at a time and doing the whole thing live. And both feel most confident when performing together, feeding off each other in the studio.

“I was talking to G. Love once about recording, and he was saying how they had the most success doing things live,” explained Hoover. “He wondered what the point of isolating all the sounds was if you were just bringing them all back together anyway, especially if you lose that energy you get from playing together. I have to say I agree. I mean, neither way is right or wrong, it's what works for you. And for us, just doing what we do and capturing that moment is what works best.”

The result attempts to be something on par with the likes of punk blues bands The Immortal Lee County Killers or The Soledad Brothers, a love of the more traditional genres but with an in-your-face punk energy and an insatiable desire to simply rock the hell out.

“Two members strong, this Kalamazoo-area group puts a bluesy spin on garage and punk rock standards. But don’t expect them meticulously picking away at a blues bar any time soon. [400 Rabbits] has a punk rock, damn-the-man soul.” -West Michigan NOISE! Magazine