Year of the Rabbit is Ken Andrews, Tim Dow, Solomon Snyder and Jeff Garber.
Everything about Year Of The Rabbit emanates from a muted kind of mystique that zigzags through their unforgettable debut with the deftness of...well...a rabbit. You'll never get the LA foursome to cough up the reason for the intriguing name, but don't despair, the reward is in the music itself, 11 bleary-eyed but soaring blasts of melody and mayhem that frontman/singer/songwriter Ken Andrews has fastened around a hail of blustery guitars - like on the frothy "Rabbit Hole" - or gouged to scruffed-up perfection, like on the groove-laden "Strange Eyes."
For multi-instrumentalist Andrews, late of a mis-fired project at Epic called On, and the much more well known, critically acclaimed mood-alt bloc of Failure, Year Of The Rabbit was a bit of a turning point for the talented musician, whose growing producer/mixer credits (Pete Yorn, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) didn't automatically dictate that his own band would be priority #1. "Making the album for On was more of a solo project and not the greatest experience for me," he remembers. "But I had been having a lot of producing success, so I wasn't sure I wanted to get right back into a band. The key for me was finding the right people. And doing it quickly. I knew if I waited a year I might never be able to make the commitment to a group. I knew I had to get right back on the horse."
Or the rabbit - as it turned out. The methodical and confident Andrews (he once covered the John Lennon 'untouchable,' "How Do You Sleep," with his one-off release of cover tunes via the Replicants) joined forces with the drummer he used for On's live shows - Tim Dow - and the two set out to launch YOTR. Dow pulled in an old friend from Chicago - lead guitarist Jeff Garber - and the three linked up on a two-day jam session testing Garber's licks as well as his mettle. "We didn't play any songs. Just jammed," says Garber. "After the two days I flew back to Chicago and didn't hear from Ken for two weeks. Finally he called and said do you want to move to LA. So I did. There was just a chemistry there that told me this thing was going to work."
Andrews says that one of his objectives for the new group was to be able to capture that indefinable X-factor that separates a flesh and blood rock band from a studio trick. One listen to the thundering, neo-psych anthem "Let It Go," for example, and you realize he's successfully tapped the soul of this group. "When we got Jeff in the band I felt like something really magical was happening. I think one of the keys to Year Of The Rabbit is the group is stronger than the sum of its parts. And that's saying a lot because each player is really an important contributor."
The fourth cog to this engine, and obviously ready to go was bassist Solomon Snyder. He also hails from the Midwest, and had heard about Year Of The Rabbit, insisting to Ken and the others that he was the right man for the job. "We had a hard time filling that slot," says Ken. "We had already written most of the songs. I have my own studio, so it was easy to work every day getting the album ready. We needed someone like Solomon to round out the group. He came right as we were ready to go in the studio and lay down the songs."
With the foursome intact and the group's self-made album about finished (with Ken producing) the band began playing a series of shows in LA to drum up some attention. It worked, of course, and the group was signed to Elektra last year, delivering their homemade record as pretty much a finished product. "I think the fact that we made our own album helped generate interest in us," says Andrews. "We're a pretty self-contained band, pretty stress free as bands go. We've all had enough experience to be comfortable with what we can do."
In fact, the members individual accomplishments read like a primer for a musicians' musician's manual. Garber has been playing guitar since he was 14, and has had success with bands like Mud Records' Castor, and a pairing off with Hum's Jeff Dimpsey in the group National Skyline. Tim Dow was born in Kansas City, and has graced work-a-day bands such as Season To Risk and Shiner before relocating to Los Angeles and hooking up with Andrews and On. Solomon Snyder was taught bass by his dad, and played bass with the Cupcakes on Dreamworks Records. The final member to join Year Of The Rabbit is also the first to boast about his 1977 Fender Jazz bass. Gotta' have the tools, dammit.
For Andrews, Year Of The Rabbit crowns a career that has seen the resourceful writer/producer carve his own notch in the post-grunge sweepstakes with the widely heralded Failure. The group cracked out three fine albums (their debut disc, Comfort, was produced by Steve Albini) to laudatory reviews, with Andrews gaining a growing amount of notoriety for his knob-turning skills, helming the subsequent two Failure albums to rave reviews. Andrews also manned the aforementioned side project The Replicants, as well as scoring a number of juicy production jobs for artists such as A Perfect Circle, Jimmy Eat World, Creeper Lagoon, and Tenacious D, among others.
Andrews also wrote most of the songs for Year Of The Rabbit. He was so prolific that Garber points out it sometimes seemed as if the songwriter had 'a back catalogue' of songs ready to fuel the burgeoning group. But Andrews is more philosophical about it. If you read between the lines, perhaps Failure was the greatest teacher. "I certainly know all the pros and cons of being in a group. You really have to be committed. That's why my expectations aren't so much to sell this much or that much. I learned it's really about the process. About being in a band that's really working. That's what excites me." Garber agrees. "Ken's a great songwriter. I was a fan of his even before I joined the group. But there was still quite a collaborative process going on here. He feeds off of that. He'd bring a song and we'd play and try to make it work. And we all wrote 'Strange Eyes'. It was one of the last songs we wrote for the album. For me, that song also foreshadows the places this band can go."