We talked to drummer Sheel Davé about playing the 311 cruise, bringing the power of booty-R&B to Inauguration Weekend, and their upcoming college tour with Kendrick Lamar and Steve Aoki.
Bad Rabbits exploded out of Boston with their 2009 EP Stick Up Kids, and the high-octane R&B-funk-rock quintet have been tearing up stages ever since. Armed to the teeth with an infectious, boundless energy, their live shows have been making impressions from Beantown down to the Caribbean and just about everywhere in between (one of their myriad sets at SXSW last year actually resulted in lead singer Dua Boakye falling off an amp and injuring his leg, only to hop back up and laughingly finish the show). The band is on the cusp of releasing their debut full-length, American Love, on May 14th, in the midst of an East Coast tour which took them out on the 311 Cruise last weekend (yes, that 311), and is about to hit the road with Kendrick Lamar and Steve Aoki on a tour put together by Karmaloop TV. Today they're releasing their third single from American Love, titled "Doin' It," right here on Noisey (the first two, "We Can Roll" and "Fall In Love," have accompanying videos as well), and drummer Sheel Davé took time out of the band's busy schedule to talk about the moves they're making.
Noisey: How's the tour going?
Sheel: The tour is awesome, pretty overwhelming. We didn't really know what to expect in terms of turn out. People have been screaming the words to our songs. It's been a really great experience so far.
Tell me a little bit about your new album.
We kind of tried to combine two different genres together. We come from a classic R&B—as well as a rock—background. We wanted to fuse those two things together. Some of us grew up listening to Deftones and Glassjaw, but at the same time listening to Sly Stone, Prince, Michael Jackson. That's kind of where we come from, and I think this album kind of portrays where we came from more so than anything we've written in the past. It's kind of R&B meets post-rock I guess.
How do you feel like it's different than Stick Up Kids?
It's more musical. The live band comes out way more than it does in Stick Up Kids. The songwriting got a little more aggressive. The synths are heavier, the vocals are more stacked; it's just way more musical. We just put more time into the actual songwriting and layering stuff. Some of the songs maybe it got a little too overboard, but at the end, we were really happy with the way it came out.
A lot of your music has this "epic"-type of feel. Do you feel that in any of it?
Yes, absolutely. We grew up with Deftones and Glassjaw and that kind of comes out in our live show, in that epic, post-rocky soaring guitars. The heavy, heavy drums definitely comes out on our new album as well. It's like epic R&B rock, I guess. [Laughs]
You guys have a pretty awesome live show in terms of raw energy. I saw you guys at SXSW last year and I'm pretty sure [lead singer] Dua [Boakye] fucked up his ankle or something jumping all over the amps.
Yeah, it's definitely a high energy show. One of our friends describe it as we're "an R&B band playing at a hardcore show." We all just stage dive, bring energy. The live show is definitely a lot like a hardcore show.
It's kind of balls-to-the-walls all the time.
I was on YouTube searching a bunch of Bad Brains videos and their shows are kind of similar to the way our shows have been recently, especially the one we just did in New York. You know, just mayhem.
Right. You guys were playing with World's Fair, right?
Yeah. Those are our really good friends. They are like our little brothers.
You guys also just played the 311 Cruise?
[Laughs] Yeah, that was insane. My voice is still gone from that; I'm still trying to recover. It was interesting, man. It was definitely an amazing experience. We didn't know exactly how it would be received because it's not the ideal situation as far as what bands we were being packaged with, but it turned out to be incredible. I think their fans are the next generation of, like, Deadheads. They just ate our stuff up and were so receptive to everything. We definitely went in not knowing what to expect because, well, it's 311. We're not used to playing with a band like that. They are kind of a nostalgia band at this point, but everybody in the band showed us crazy love. The bass player actually told us that he warms up to our music.
Wow. So 311 listens to you guys?
Yeah, that's what their bass player told us.
That's awesome. What was that whole experience just being on a boat for four days with all these fans and everything?
Oh my god, man. It was like wake up, get absolutely obliterated, play a show, and do the same thing each night, nonstop. We ate pounds and pounds of food. We kind of just trolled around the boat for five days straight, meeting so many people, stumbling into people's rooms, our guitar player had a DJ set, and we started mosh pits everywhere. We pretty much made our mark on that cruise. Most of the stuff I don't even remember, to be honest.
That's probably the mark of a good time then.
Oh, yeah. It was great.
The other thing about this roll out with all the singles you've all been releasing is that all of the single artwork is dedicated to the love of the booty. Can you tell me about that a little bit?
[Laughs] I mean, we all love booties and that's basically how to describe that. We've caught some slack from people—especially the females—in the comments because they were a little bit upset about it, but you got your handful of females who really love it. It's kind of a joke, but at the same time we really do all love booties. Female booties.
What are some of the bigger takeaways for the past few years on the road from the build up to this album going back to the release of Stick Up Kids?
I would say probably opening up for Deftones in May. They are one of our biggest inspirations as a band and looked up to them for so many years. We also opened up for GlassJaw. We just played the Inauguration in D.C. opening up for T-Pain, Common, and John Legend. I think those were the most memorable touring experiences.
What was it like bringing the power of booty-R&B to the Inauguration Weekend?
[Laughs] Oh man. Everybody loved it! We got the crowd moving. At first they were all sitting, but by the end of the set, they were all boogieing.
So you loosened the booties of Washington is what you're saying?
You guys are announcing that you'll be going on tour with Kendrick Lamar and Steve Aoki, is that correct? How did that whole thing come together?
Karmaloop.com is one of the sponsors. We've had a good relationship with them for a long time, so they put us on the tour. It's probably going to be the biggest tour we've done so far... [We're playing] colleges, arenas, and we might have one amphitheater in there somewhere.
That'll be pretty huge.
Yeah, it's going to be crazy. We're all huge fans of Kendrick Lamar. It's all we've been listening to on this tour. Can't wait to hear those songs live every night.
Are you going to try to get him on a track?
That would be a dream come true, but you know the politics of stuff like that. He'll have to hear our music, that's the first step.
Anything else you want to say on the impending release on the first album?
I could speak about the single ["Doin' It"]. I describe that song as a pretty aggressive boogie joint. That song gives me this personal envision of a fresh-off-the-boat couple from Africa or India meeting for the first time at Studio 54 in the '70s and then going on to procreating the first generation American babies. That's basically how our parents met. They met at Studio 54 in the late '70s. That's kind of what that song reminds me of.
So, it's almost telling the story of your parents in a certain way?
Yeah, at least Dua's parents; they were fresh-off-the-boat from Africa. They met at Studio 54, and every time I hear that song, I envision that.
Karmaloop Presents Verge Campus Tour:
with Bad Rabbits, Kendrick Lamar, Steve Aoki and 5 & A Dime
April 9, 2013 - Orlando, FL @ UCF Arena, University of Central Florida
April 11, 2013 - Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall, Ohio State University
April 12, 2013 - Rochester Hills, MI @ Meadow Brook Music Festival, Oakland University
April 13, 2013 - Athens, OH @ University of Ohio
April 14, 2013 - Buffalo, NY @ Baird Point, University of Buffalo
April 17, 2013 - St Louis, MO @ Chaifetz Arena, St Louis University
April 18, 2013 - Kent, OH @ MAC Center, Kent State University
April 19, 2013 - Storrs, CT @ Gampel Pavilion, University of Connecticut
April 21, 2013 - Lowell, MA @ Tsongas Arena, U Mass Lowell
April 24, 2013 - Durham, NC @ Duke University
April 25, 2013 - Williamsburg, VA @ Kaplan Arena, William & Mary
April 26, 2013 - New Britain, CT @ Kaiser Gymnasium, Central CT State
April 27, 2013 - Cortland, NY @ SUNY Cortland
Dan Rys could best be described as a frozen coffee with whiskey in it. He's on Twitter - @danrys