Sunday, September 21, 2008
So how did you guys all meet?
“Well I think I met Mary Jane first”.
“No, I already knew Chloe through Jesse”.
“But really, Brigette and I went to Cedar together so we met first”.
“But as far as Tunabunny went, I guess it started when you and I were working Saturday mornings together”.
“Or when we started going to sing Karaoke”.
“Okay. Really it started when me and Scott started dating”.
“When we moved in together, really, is when I think it started. Because then your dad starting bringing over his old gear”.
“And we started playing Devo and Pere Ubu songs together”.
“No, just say the band started when I met Chloe at that Pylon show and she told me she played drums. That’s when the four of us finally got together”.
“You know what’s messed up is I remember Chloe asking me if she could be in our band like, a year earlier. I remember having to tell her there was no band”.
Tunabunny has existed for anywhere from 5 months to a year, depending on how you look at it. They played their first show in April, and since then have gone from a ramshackle mess getting by on potential (and enthusiasm, and charisma) into something more purposeful and controlled. Which is not to say that they’ve lost any of their freedom, or that the songs are calmer or more tamed, it’s just that now you can actually hear the songs. Now, the band is in charge of their music, instead of the other way around.
“Well those first shows at the GoBar, we’d be sitting outside talking to people, and all of a sudden someone would say ‘you’re on’—”
“And we’d rush inside pick up our instruments and start playing”.
“Only it was so insanely dark in there that we couldn’t see a fucking thing”.
“I just remember looking down at my bass and going, ‘That’s funny, I can’t see the dots on my bass”.
“Yeah, we’d all be playing on the wrong frets for like the first three songs until our eyes adjusted”.
Tunabunny tends to finish each other’s sentences. Mary Jane and Brigette, the two singers and guitarists, went to high school together at Cedar Shoals. They’ve known each other for nearly ten years. Scott, the bass player, met Mary Jane working at Jittery Joe’s and they became quick friends though a shared love of The Breeders and Karaoke (“and beer,” adds Scott). When Scott started dating Brigette, he was shocked to find out that she already knew Mary Jane.
“Chloe was always kind of on the periphery”.
“I knew you from working at Five Points”.
“And I just knew you as Tay’s friend”.
"And that time at the old store when I asked you to turn up The Velvet Underground after that one asshole customer asked you to turn it down”.
“Oh yeah. That was totally awesome”.
So how did the four of you all start playing music together?
“Well at first it was just me and Scott, and we kept inviting people to come over and play with us. Mary Jane started coming regularly and that really clicked. But we still needed a drummer—because I didn’t want to be stuck behind the drum set. So once I met Chloe and found out she played drums, she came over and it just took off from there”.
Chloe, had you ever played drums in a band before?
It turns out that hardly anyone in Tunabunny had ever been in a band before. Mary Jane and Brigette had both been playing guitar for less than a year. Scott had played one show with Summer Hymns before quitting—“they wanted me to play guitar, I hate playing guitar. Besides, I was having more fun playing with these guys”.
I wanted to ask you about your sound.
“What about it?”
You don’t really sound like any other band. I’m wondering how you did that. How you got to sounding the way you do.
Four sets of shoulders shrugging at once. Then Brigette takes a shot at it.
“It’s just the way we sound when we play together. It’s always sounded like that. Maybe it’s because we have such cheap equipment. I really don’t know”.
Well what are your influences?
“I always tell people it sounds like Kim Deal singing for The Fall. Either that or Kylie Minogue singing for Pere Ubu”.
“I think Electrelane is a band we all like”.
“I was really interested in shamanism and transcendental states”.
You mean like in Native-American culture?
“Well partly that. But that’s also something that exists in Patti Smith, or gospel music, or Can. You find it in all kinds of places. These sort of incantations—like Little Richard, ‘a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop’, or speaking in tongues—I was interested in those sort of ideas of freedom and breaking into the spirit realm”.
“I just want people to have a good time, to maybe feel a little bit more freer after seeing us”.
What about the knocking stuff over? And using the mic stand to play your guitar?
“That’s just fun”.
And laying on top of the synthesizer and rolling around?
“That came from Sun Ra”.
“And besides, I have to keep playing the guitar”.
I’ve seen a lot of bands toss their equipment around onstage, and I’ve seen a lot of bands abuse their instruments, but I’ve never seen a band do so with such innocence and glee as Tunabunny. Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop, etc. always seemed to be in such anguish as their amps toppled over. Tunabunny seems more like elementary schoolkids whose parents left them in charge of the house. Hey, let’s put the toaster in the microwave. That’ll be fun!
So you’re recording an album now?
“Yeah, Jesse asked if he could record us, so he’s set up this old 8-track reel-to-reel out at our house”.
“It sounds pretty amazing”.
How many songs do you have written?
“Um, probably 13. Either 13 or 14”.
How do you write your songs?
More shrugging. “Someone just starts playing something, and then the rest of us follow”.
“Unless someone brings something in”.
“Or someone says something and we start singing it over what we’re playing”.
“Like, ‘You Can Stop If You Want To,’ We’d been playing that chord progression for like ten minutes and then Scott started singing that part over it as a joke, saying we could stop playing it whenever we wanted to. But I liked it so I wrote a bunch of words to go with it”.
What’s that song about anyway?
“Um. . . it’s about personal freedom, and how we all have the ability to make choices. But also about how scary that can be. Because when you allow others to tell you what to do then you’re not responsible for your behavior. But if you’re in control of your life, that you leaves you wide open to all kinds of self-questioning and risk. Which, you know can make life all the more glorious and beautiful”.
Tunabunny sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before. They say they have no plans to do anything with their album for now except give away CD-R’s of it to anyone who wants one. Find them.