Russians with Rabbits, comprised of two friends, Gibbons and Mateo Katsu, who are active musicians in three bands (four if it’s December), stays elusive 364 days a year. If you ask either of the boys about playing a show, they’ll tell you, “we broke up.”
I discovered Russians with Rabbits two years after their accidental conception (and spent the last year or so bugging Mateo to get the band back together or record their other songs) when they were a last minute addition to a Kick a Ten Year Old in the Head show at the Chapel of Amusement*.
At the Russians with Rabbits Bandcamp, I was greeted by a fantastic black and white photo of Gibbons dressed as a Russian soldier and Mateo in a rabbit suit holding a ukulele and their EP, RWREP. The first song, “Overjoyed”, opened with an apathetic count off into the first line - “overjoyed, now that we’re friends, I can’t believe I’m lonely again.” As the instruments joined the lo-fi sound, Gibbons’ saw playing swooned me back to the garages of the 1990’s. A minute in, the song false-ends with a drumstick count off before breaking into a higher tempo with lyrics like “I don’t believe it’s you, you were honest for too long”. Every adult having grown up in the 90’s has fond memories of dancing to a band like this at the punk house in their town.
Thirteen months later, and one day before their show at a 666 Hail Satan themed birthday party at the Olive Garden House*, a notification hits my inbox that Russians with Rabbits released a new song – “Home”. This track hits the heart with a sharp, rusty arrow from Cupid’s bow with a more raw sound and just as many layers, musically, as ever, but sang with a passionate desperation to whoever is on the listening end.
Being just after the Christmas season and people were returning from extended stays away from Los Angeles, one person listened to Gibbons sing, “you can leave if you want, but it won’t feel like you’re going home” and she delayed her return from New Orleans; a place she felt more at home in.
The night of the Hail Satan party was rainy and cold, but a necessary event after months of the community laying low after the Ghost Ship tragedy in December. Playful costumes involving intricate make-up and attachments gave a sense of demons and Satan worshipers, even Aleister Crowley, among the usual riff raff.
Having abandoned my black nail polish and pentagrams in my teenage-hood, I donned a black dress and yellow cardigan I’d found earlier at Goodwill with “Pray for Satan” pamphlets tucked in my bra.
When I arrived, set times were backed up, thankfully, so I hadn’t missed Gibbons’ current band with Robert Quijano, (Not) Nashville Brothers kicking off the night.
Somewhere around one a.m., the announcement was made – “Russians with Rabbits are about to play!”
In a spacious living room with the couches blocking the front door and a painted sign above the mantle declaring “Best House Ever”, Mateo sat shirtless behind the drums and Gibbons wore a hospital gown with his guitar.
No introduction was necessary, they got right to business playing, at first, to a small handful of people jumping out of sync with ear-to-ear grins, then to a living room sized mosh pit.
The excitement of hearing the songs, “My Sophia”, “Rabbits in the Field” (which sent the entire room into a rampage and every person in the pit falling over each other), and “Nancy Kerigan” had hearts bursting with joy.
(On a personal level, I have never had such a great time in a mosh pit, but that’s another story.)
When they began playing their self-titled song, people dropped to their knees with hands raised, singing “I am not a man, I’m part of an exclusive clan, wear rabbit suits and Santa boots to bed” to each other before hugging.
After each song, Mateo would yell out “Who wants a CD?” and reach into a bag and hand out a random CD. None were Russians with Rabbits, but all were from the Miedlena family.
The end of the set was bittersweet. That living room was hot and our older, not young punks anymore, bodies needed hydration, but this also meant the Russian and the Rabbit were going back into their hole to break up for another year.
*To protect spaces and homes, names were changed, but I do encourage you to go visit all Bandcamps and Soundclouds of the artists mentioned. Nashville Brothers can be found on Youtube or Dakota Hall Scott’s soundcloud.
I would also like to start a petition for Russians with Rabbits to play more often or to at least record the rest of their songs.