(Make Me a) TRISTE© Mixtape Episode 50: French For Rabbits

French For Rabbits (by Lily Paris West)

Aotearoa’s French for Rabbits create music that feels like it has been crafted from the fabric of the New Zealand landscape – all salty waves, isolated coastlines, grains of sands and expansive skies. It is intimate and expansive, welcoming and wary, poetic but piercing. Based on the creative vision of songwriter, producer and pianist Brooke Singer, the project came to life when she started working with guitarist John Fitzgerald in the small coastal township of Waikuku Beach back in 2012. His minimalist but shimmering guitar lines proved to be the backbone of their early work, and over the years the band has blossomed outwards to include the considerable talents of multi-instrumentalists Ben Lemi (Trinity Roots, Dawn Diver) and Penelope Esplin (Grawlixes) alongside drummer Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa. Together, they have released four records: the wonderful EP Claimed by the Sea in 2012, the debut album Spirits in 2014, The Weight of Melted Snow which was released in 2017 in New Zealand and in 2019 in the rest of the world, and The Overflow which was out in November via AAA records (NZ/AUS), Reckless Yes (UK) and A Modest Proposal (Italy).

What Brooke says: “The Overflow covers wide ground, but it does come back to anxiety and introversion on several occasions. Anxiety about the future, the climate and as a present state of being. For this album, I didn’t want there to be any filler. I wanted to be happy with every lyric and I wanted the production to be creative, bold and interesting. Inevitably it’ll be interpreted as melancholic and ethereal – but this album in my mind is the zaniest, most pop-forward, and focused thing we’ve made. The title has dual meaning. It refers to a tipping point, and a precipice. The dam that holds back the flood, or the point at which it spills over. A panic attack, bursting into tears at a party, overwhelming memories – are all types of overflows that I refer to in these songs. It also ties back in with our first EP Claimed by the Sea – the floods and rising tides of climate change.

Her Mixtape: “Here is a mixtape of old and new songs that have accompanied this past year, and others that were the soundtrack of French for Rabbits tours in those idyllic “before covid-19” times. It seems like an age since we last toured overseas, back in 2019 we visited the USA and I was writing songs for our new album The Overflow which we’ve just released. I’m really proud of this album and the whole band for all their amazing work on it. A dream team! The Overflow is both personal and creative and a lot of love and time went into the craft of these songs and the production. I hope that y’all enjoy it, and hopefully we can come to Italy to play these songs in person one day soon!

Hand Habits – Graves

Hand Habits was the last international artist I saw perform before the New Zealand borders shut in March 2020. They played new songs in an intimate living room concert, and it was haunting, humble and utterly beautiful. I was thrilled to receive the new album ‘Fun House’ in the post this week, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat. Graves and Aquamarine are my favourite songs at the moment.

Hannah Cohen – This is your Life

Hannah Cohen’s music has accompanied many road trips and tours for French for Rabbits. I’m pretty sure the whole band must know her records by heart. It reminds me of staring out over new landscapes as the whip by in the van. ‘This is your Life’ is one of my favourite songs from her latest release ‘Welcome Home’, the production and rhythm section is to die for, and the way her voice drifts through it is perfection. I often return to this record for inspiration.

Andy Shauf – Quite Like You

The drums in (our) This is your Life remind me a little of drums in Andy Shauf’s music. It is so in the pocket, and relaxed at the same time. I would love to write music like his, he is so good at inhabiting various characters in his music which is something I rarely do. ‘Quite Like You’ has this dinky wee piano part that makes me want to skip along the street. It’s also another French for Rabbits’ roadtrip staple.

Polo & Pan – Pays Imaginaire

This mixtape is turning into a road trip playlist – we do miss touring overseas so much! I can’t remember where I came across this song by Polo & Pan, but it seems to fit every occasion, and I often return to it. The harmonies and nostalgic, wistful strings.

Bess Atwell – Red Light Heaven

This is a song I came to find, as Bess Atwell is signed to the label of UK folk singer Lucy Rose. I find myself singing harmonies along every-time I hear it, and the single ‘Co-op’. There is something beautiful in the simplicity of her work and her vocal tone, which follows in the footsteps of singer-songwriters such as Nadia Reid, or Laura Marling.

Yebba – How Many Years (Tiny Desk Version) 

Is Yebba the best singer around at the moment? Potentially. I’ve played this Tiny Desk version of ‘How Many Years’, SO many times trying to learn how she sings. I am disgusted by how good it is, and the beautiful keys playing too. Highly recommend listening to her work.

Merk – H.N.Y.B

This is the last song of our playlist of something old and new – it all hangs together by the crispness of the drums, and a certain dreaminess which I am often drawn to. This song is about the world getting a year older by the wonderful Merk who is another New Zealand artist. 

The Overflow is out now on AAA Records (NZ/AUS), Reckless Yes (UK) and A Modest Proposal (Italy). Look HERE for more information on French For Rabbits.

 

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