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Local Rabbits



>From The Daily News Online, http://www.hfxnews.com/

Local Rabbits: Odd name suits quirky blues rockers

By ANDY PEDERSEN --The Daily News

[Photo available]

Even Pete Elkas, one of the singing guitarists in The Local Rabbits, 
admits to having second thoughts about the band's name.

"I guess it's not the best band name in the world," says the 19-year-
old during a brief burger stop in Truro.

He and the rest of the Rabbits were on their way to Halifax for a 
show tonight at the Birdland Cabaret. "We've thought about changing 
it a couple times, but ...."

But it's got both historical roots and a touch of the absurd - two 
things that carry lots of weight with this young bunch of West-
Montreal musicholics.

The name (and the band) were born five years ago when a junior high 
health class teacher asked Elkas, Ben Gunning and Johnny T. Starr to 
compose and play some songs about good nutrition.

"We thought, `Well, which animal eats the best food?'" Elkas 
explains. "We figured it must be rabbits because they like to chew on 
all that roughage. And local, well, we were all from the same 
neighborhood."

The name stuck when the threesome started gathering after class - 
with Elkas's dad sitting behind the drum kit - to jam out '80s rock 
covers and some of the old blues standards they took such a shine to.

Five years, two recordings and a couple drummers later (Jason Tustin 
now drums for the quartet), the Rabbits have made enough of a name 
for themselves with their wonky stage antics and ever-expanding 
repertoire that there doesn't seem much point in changing the name.

Besides, it fits nicely with the group's appreciation of things 
ridiculous. This is one band that takes itself seriously without 
taking itself too seriously.

Ask band members, for example, how they decide whether they like 
bands they share the stage with.

"There was this little test our old drummer Brian (Waters) used to 
do," says Elkas. "He'd go out onstage while the band was in the 
middle of their set and try to dance with them. If the band laughed 
about it and were good sports, we liked them.

"If they got upset about it ... well ... that says a lot."

In the studio, the Rabbits are just like kids in a candy store - 
fearless about trying things that might not work but have 
nevertheless caught their imagination.

Sloan's Jay Ferguson - who helped the Rabbits with their first full-
length record, You Can't Touch This - says he felt more like a 
referee than a producer during the sessions.

"Put it this way," Ferguson recalls, "if I hadn't been there, they'd 
have put a German comedy skit with this cheesy jazz background on 
the record."

But Ferguson's level head wasn't level enough to stop the Rabbits 
from venturing far beyond the standard guitar, bass and drum sounds. 
Steel guitars, clavinets, mandolins, autoharps, maracas, claves, 
guiros and even a glockenspiel were trotted out for You Can't Touch 
This. The album was released on Halifax-based murderecords.

They recorded these instruments, like the rest of the record, live 
from the floor. There wasn't much room to make mistakes without the 
luxury of overdubbing.

But as Elkas explains, the Rabbits wanted to maintain the spirit of 
the timeless blues stars like Muddy Waters and Ry Cooder they so 
admire.

"A lot of the stuff you hear these days is superslick," he says. 
"You just lose everything doing that. It just loses the spirit."

The Local Rabbits perform at Birdland Cabaret tonight with Thrush 
Hermit and Al Tuck. The show starts at about 10:30 p.m. Tickets are 
$4.