Rise of the Boston Bands: Bad Rabbits Rock City Hall
When I first saw the lineup for the Boston Calling music festival in City Hall Plaza, I admit my eye went straight to the headliners: fun. and The National. But then I stopped and looked at the openers, Bad Rabbits and Caspian — Boston bands, both of them. It’s only fitting that our hometown boys get to play alongside the big names in indie rock, since they’re on a similar trajectory to greatness. I was lucky enough to speak with soul/R&B group Bad Rabbits on Saturday, not long after their premiere appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live (where they promoted their new album, American Love) and not long before their next TV spot on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
Between impromptu photo shoots and sudden downpours (Memorial Day weekend was not kind to us poor attendees), I chatted with Fredua, Salim, Sheel, Santiago, and Graham about the importance of fostering a strong local base. Fredua spoke enthusiastically of Greg Selkoe, CEO of Boston street-wear powerhouse Karmaloop, and the influence he had in getting their music in the hands of the right people: “It takes a while, but he understands the power of time and investment. It’s really important for us to build with other Boston-based brands.” They also spoke of the amazing partnerships they have with Massachusetts-based companies Converse, the Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester, and 9tailors, who outfitted them for their television debut.
Home-based media has also played a huge part in boosting the exposure of Bad Rabbits. Sheel cited alternative weekly The Phoenix and alternative-rock radio station WFNX as key promoters of their sound, without which they might not have been able to gain traction on the national stage: “With our old band, we could barely get an article written. Local press has been super supportive of us.” [Author’s note: You’re welcome!] Surprisingly, they also credit other Boston bands in helping them steal the spotlight. According to Graham, “Gentlemen Hall and Caspian are good friends of ours. We bring each other up; it’s mutually beneficial.” After 10 years of playing together — from house parties to small local venues such as Paradise Rock Club and Brighton Music Hall to opening for hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar — the Bad Rabbits are scheduled to launch their first headlining tour in July. It was a pleasure to speak with them just as they are about to begin their biggest adventure.
After so much hard work and sacrifice, the band admitted to being curious whether their fan base in Boston would translate to the rest of the country. Based on Bad Rabbits’ powerhouse performance on Saturday afternoon, and with the whole city behind them, I’d say these guys don’t have much to worry about.