French For Rabbits @ Cafe Kino


Written by Melz Durston
20 Tuesday 20th May 2014

Recently being in the spotlight on the back of young singer songwriter Lorde's successes in the USA and UK, previous to this, the first band to come to mind is Crowded House.  Followed by Breaks Co-Op (a sort of Jack Johnson-esque outfit, bearing no relation to the fairtrading supermarket chain).

However, there are two people who you might not yet have heard of.  Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald.  The two of them write music together - and have released records under their intriguing name of French For Rabbits.  Based out of Wellington, and now signed to Lefse Records, their recent single Goat has a thoughtful video to accompany Brooke's vocals, directed by Misma Andrews.  Following last year's tour on the back of their EP Claimed by the Sea, they now return to play small venues across the UK and Europe.

Now: if your mind works in a peculiar way, you might (like me) be thinking along the lines of classes filled with eager rabbits, sitting at desks just waiting to lap(in) up all that intense French jargon and seductive accent.  Is this some sort of language programme or have we really turned too far down the rabbits hole and into a wonderland filled with cheshire cats and mad hatters.

No, none of the above.  French For Rabbits prefer to lace their vocal chords with tender melodies and crushing lyrics, as opposed to the feminine, masculine and past participle.  Now that we have that established, I shall begin.

French For Rabbits released their debut EP in 2012 - Claimed by the Sea which received critical praise from BBC 6 Music.  They followed this up with single Goat - "an ode to stubbornness and being sorry."

I spoke with Brooke, vocalist and guitarist.  She was generous enough to answer my ambiguously phrased questions mid-tour, en-route to her London show.  And tonight, she joins John Fitzgerald, to bring the sounds of French For Rabbits to Bristol's Cafe Kino.

Where are you right now...

We are currently sitting in the dimly lit insides of the Finsbury Pub in London before a show here - it is a beautiful sunny day outside, but we have decided to shun the sun momentarily in order to see the computer screen. They are playing some pretty weird funk music...

Can you describe the place you grew up, the place you know as home...

John and I both grew up in the countryside - in the south island. I spent a lot of time in a little place called Clarkville creeping about in long grass, making tunnels, huts, catching cockabillies in jars ( a type of little fish )...

Probably the place we most call home now (although we are quite nomadic) is a seaside village called Waikuku Beach which has a great community and only one shop.

Is New Zealand really as isolated, in the music world, as is generally assumed...

It really is isolated! I don't think we realized it entirely, until we left. It's such a long way to travel to get anywhere else. Because of this, we also don't have international bands and artists visiting every day of the week, so we still get a bit excited when overseas bands come to town. In London, I feel like I'm missing out on something great every single night!

We have a lovely community of musicians - we all know each other. Perhaps this means there is less competition and more freedom to be ourselves.

What records featured most dominantly in your own teenage listening, and how about as an adult...

I'm pretty transient with my musical listening...I went through a big Jeff Buckley phase in high school and now my current favourite album is one by Aldous Harding who is a songwriter from New Zealand.  John likes a band called Home Brew Crew and listens to a fair of bit jazz...

What is it about live performance that takes you in so much, and how do you focus emotionally...

I love seeing a band or songwriter than can take you on a journey -  when you can see the singer means every word. 

When we play - I tend to ramble a lot and John tends to be quite shy and ignores the audience completely! But this normally works for us. 

What are your thoughts on the notion that music and musicians must portray an image that will 'sell', based on appearance and iconisation of an artist...

It's a little bit rubbish isn't it? I think there are quite a few artists who want to make it so much that their music suffers. I really enjoy pairing imagery with music - like when we collaborate with our friend Misma Andrew on album artwork or a music video. I think it can be an integral part of the whole artistic process, but it's not about creating a sellable image. If it was, I'd go get a different job!

Anything about the music scene in the UK that you feel an affinity with, or anywhere in the world, for that matter...

It is actually quite different from the music scene back home...but we have enjoyed meeting other bands here & traveling through the smaller country towns. 

We are happy to be back in Bristol too, it seemed friendly, and I liked the river.

Is French For Rabbits your main purpose in life right now... 

We feel very lucky to be able to tour in Europe at the moment. We came over to play at The Great Escape, and we really hope we can just keep touring...until we go broke we will continue. So, please do come along and see us!

Tour continues:

20th May - Cafe Kino, Bristol

21st May - The Strongroom, London

Dates continue on to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia and other far-flung destinations.

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