Fronted by Brooke Singer, French for Rabbits have burst back into view on the local folk scene this year, drawing in listeners with boho, dreamy singles from their third album ‘The Overflow’.
Each band member has established themselves as a multi-talented instrumentalist but here Brooke Singer takes lead on vocals, Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa accompanies on drums, John Fitzgerald plays electric guitar, and Ben Lemi and Penelope Esplin support more generally with vocals, guitars, bass, synth and keys.
Hailing from Te Whanganui-a-tara, Wellington, the band has infused the capital’s quirk with the long-established sound of Aotearoa’s indie-folk. What distinguishes French for Rabbits from the many other NZ folk releases is their consistent stretching of the boundaries of their genre.
With the aid of Jol Mulholland in production, ‘The Overflow’ relinquishes an entirely new sense of their version of dream-pop. Giving parallel to the likes of Laura Jean, the album achieves an intimate, lush and oftentimes dark ambience with each of the 10 tracks.
Particularly in Ouija Board and The Dark Arts, French for Rabbits seem to take on the more groovy facets of what Aotearoa’s indie music scene has previously looked like, and the use of percussive patterns and samples work as a musical hook to capture interest right from the get-go. Production mastery is especially flaunted in The Dark Arts which gestures a manipulated guitar instrumental riding a line similar to that of John Mayer.
While social commentary and reflection aren’t unheard of in dream folk music, French for Rabbits takes this idea to a new level in the introspective anthem The Outsider, an introvert’s anthem of finding joy in the act of being alone. As Singer describes it, “The song distils the feeling of being an awkward introvert at a party – staring at your phone on the edges of a crowd.” Written in LA back in 2019, it was a co-write with Dropkick Murphys’ Marc Orrell and songwriter Brooke Johnson, and the video features her as a shy ghost attending a party. Similar thought-provoking expressions are scattered elsewhere with the band’s persistent use of metaphor with the wind, sea and earth. The album’s title track and first song, The Overflow, paints a vivid picture of the sea, as does Walk The Desert which links the image of a rough desert to social reflection on deep topics such as love and loss.
French for Rabbits take us to a new world with their delicately laid lyrics, groovy tracks and a new dark ambience to what otherwise would be considered dreamful charm.