Gram Rabbit & Bodies of Water | Two Alternative Duos from California

Jesika von Rabbit, of Gram Rabbit

Of the many creative regional duos, two that travel the California music scene especially deserve your attention—Gram Rabbit and Bodies of Water. Both of these male-female, duo-based bands are gaining increasing attention by music critics, TV producers, and filmmakers.

Gram Rabbit

Based in the small community of Joshua Tree, in the Mojave Desert, Gram Rabbit consists of Jesika von Rabbit (vocals, guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards) and Todd Rutherford (guitar, vocals). The band’s name is an amalgam of Gram Parsons (an inspiration for Rutherford) and Jesika’s name. Their music has been labeled psych-rock and electro-pop. Ron Garmon of LA City Beat describes them thus: “Dry and tough as mule jerky, sexy as a swayed hip, the music weaves elements of electro-dance, Byrd’s-era country rock, inner-space jazz, and gnomic meditations in the manner of Spiritualized and Pink Floyd into a sound that’s unaffectedly homey . . . and frankly revolutionary.” The band’s website is dedicated to “the intelligent, the enlightened, the hopeful, and the lost.”

Gram Rabbit possesses the rare talent of fusing various music styles into one dreamlike experience. As I listened to one track with a friend, we heard elements of the Searchers, the Ronettes, Moody Blues, OMD, and romantic ballads from the early 60s. Yet the whole experience seemed so contemporary.

So where should one begin with Gram Rabbit? My favorite track is “Angel Song” (Cultivation, 2006). The song begins with piano and mellotron-like keyboards. You may feel that you are joining a Moody Blues soiree into inner space:

To save the last tomorrow
To right where we’ve gone wrong
With hope we stand before you
To sing the angel song

The instrumental arrangements and vocal harmonies create a joyful and hopeful mood.

“New Delite” (Rare Bits, 2008) stands confidently as an electronic music composition against the likes of Sweden’s Velours Perfect or Germany’s Ror-shak.  In the impassioned “Falling Debris” (Miracles & Metaphors, 2010), the band takes a synth-pop direction twisting and turning to “look what you’ve done,” a commentary on personal relationships with ecological symbolism. Another track from the same CD, “Another Long Day,” surrounds us with beautiful harmonies and harmonic guitars ringing ghostlike in the background. The chorus plaintively echoes the song title, “another long day with the night to recover.” 

And finally, from the soundtrack to the recent film Crazy, Stupid Love, Gram Rabbit swings with its hip, down-tempo “Lost in Place,” (recorded in 2004), a song that is as “cool as the river because you’re not that far behind.”

Bodies of Water

This Indie-rock LA-based band is the brainchild of married couple David and Meredith Metcalf. They are known for their beautiful harmonies and melodies.   On the recently released CD Twist Again (2011), the duo explores themes of religion, music, and marriage. Stephen Deusner ( describes these charismatic performers as producing “confident, nuanced songs that incorporate elements of showtunes, disco, and folk, plus mariachi fanfares and hallelujah choruses . . . that harken back to that open-minded 70s heyday. . . .”  

Twist Again, “Lights Out Forever” featuries a solo performance by Meredith, “You Knew Me So Well” showcases David’s slightly graveled vocals, and “Open Rhythms” gradually transports us “to the autumn breeze” while continuously reminding us of Neil Young with its instrumental backdrop.

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