By: Thomas D. Mooney
Rence Liam must not remember his childhood as well as he thinks he does. As you’ll read later, he says he was raised in Kansas. I’m 99% positive he grew up in the Balkans (that, or I’m horrible at geography and Kansas actually a region of Bulgaria) learning and stealing traditional folk songs from late night bar crooners, desolate loners, and drunken hobos. Your traditional nighthawks.
Liam doesn’t have your traditional “beautiful” voice, but rather is a howl, which gels perfectly with the jangling piano, the alluring accordion, and occasional, yet filling, assortment of horns.
Liam’s been able to channel gypsy-folk such as Man Man, Neutral Milk Hotel, Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, and even Beirut.
I would challenge anyone to try and stay still while listening to any of his songs off the Dear Rabbit debut, “They Don’t Love the Songs.” You’ll at a minimum, tap your dominant foot, but very well could break into a traditional dance (The latter may or may now require intoxication, but you get the point).
I would be very disappointed if giant sing-a-longs don’t happen at local Dear Rabbit shows. The songs, especially “They Don’t Love the Songs” and “thatrattlesnakeyouphotographed” definitely have a pint-in-hand, giant sing-a-long feel.
Something, that should fit the die-hards of the Lubbock music scene, perfectly.
Dear Rabbit, along with Rattlesnake Milk, and Killroy, will be performing at The Prairie Fire Theatre tonight, Thursday Feb. 9.
New Slang: Where are you originally from and how did you start getting into playing music?
Dear Rabbit: Well I’m originally from Johnson, Kansas and I went to this school out in Florida. And there was a buddy of mine out there who was in a band, and at one point I was dabbling on guitar and he was like, “you know, I let you borrow my bass and you can learn to play it and back me up.” So that’s how it started. Then I moved up to Colorado and he eventually moved up as well so we could play. We did that for almost two years in Colorado with a project that we had. During the time, we had been in a few different bands and everything and it was at the very end, we had been in this one (The Dear Rabbit moniker), when he told me he was moving back to Florida. But he told me that I could do this. I really didn’t have the experience with songwriting or anything, but we still had a booked show, so I showed up without him [laughs], and that’s kind of how I got started.
NS: How has the music changed from when you first started out to this point right now?
DR: Yeah. Well, the show we were doing when I was backing him up, it was kind of in the same direction. I’m not sure what you’d call what I’m doing now, maybe dark-folk. I’m starting to get the songwriting to be a little different from that for this next record. I may have some new some stuff that’s more along the lines of singer-songwriter…I don’t know what you’d call it-indie rock, folk, whatever.
NS: Now you also play accordion. And to me, that sound adds another level of feeling and tone to the music. It’s very gritty. What made you want to add the accordion and when did you begin playing it?
DR: Yeah, the accordion, I started playing back when I was making music with my buddy. He was asking me to learn how to play trumpet and I told him I couldn’t…I’ll go buy an accordion. And it came naturally. I’m not really good on guitar, but I do have a background in piano. I’ve gradually become better at guitar, and that’s probably going to be part of the change (in the music sound). But, I’ll still bring the accordion too, because it just adds something else.
NS: Currently on this tour you’re on, are you traveling solo or do you have some people backing you up?
DR: I’m playing solo right now.
NS: Have you played any shows full-band? How have they gone?
DR: Yeah, that’s usually how we play locally. But I’ve not really brought them out on the road yet. It’s something that hopefully we’ll work up to.
NS: What are you currently listening to and reading?
DR: What am I listening to. Let me think here…I love David Bowie and I love Pinback. I just picked up a book about Townes Van Zandt. Looking forward to reading that.
NS: As far as your music goes, I think you really channel artists such as Tom Waits and Man Man. And it’s also a very “European Old-World” feel. I mean, when you hear it, you’re definitely not thinking that it sounds American. I think the accordion really brings that out. What are your thoughts on that?
DR: Yeah. It’s definitely what I’m going for in a way. When I was learning the accordion, I was really listening to and looking at old Russian folk songs. That’s really where I get a lot of my ideas from. But, I try and add something else with it where it’s more than just that. Just trying to make it interesting with different sounds.
NS: As far the album, where and when was it all recorded?
DR: Ok. So, I guess two years ago, that summer is when I wrote my first song. And after that, I started to record the record. I can’t remember how long it exactly took because we had to redo certain things on it. The producers, they were kind of in different places when it was recorded. And we recorded some stuff at my house. Playing the piano here. And the accordion here. So it was kind of recorded all over. And then you have to do the mastering and everything. The release date was August 6 and I went on my first tour in September. It’s really exciting when it happens. Now I just have to record the second album [laughs].