As the ridiculously tall and lanky Andrew Karasa sits behind his drum kit, something seems out of place. The normally well-dressed, well-groomed and humble guitarist of the cowpunk quartet The Clydesdale instead has traded in his cowboy boots, hat, vest and belt buckle for some ripped jeans, a dirty-looking sleeveless white T-shirt and an unkempt mop of curly blond hair. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think he was some transplant of bohemian chic. But as he wails on his custom drum kit, backing singer and friend Tonia Carlson’s yelps over her guitar and fellow Clydesdale Jason Aragon’s slick bass rhythms, it’s clear that Karasa & Co.’s new indie rock group, I’m the Rabbit, isn’t about bohemian chic at all. Like the festival hosting them, Neon Reverb, the band is trying to break from convention and all expectations.
As Thursday night begins, Downtown haunt the Beauty Bar is surprisingly well-packed for sets by locals The Novelty Act and the well-lauded, Interpol-loving neu-gloom rock group Close to Modern; that is until San Diego’s Qu’est-ce Que C’est, scheduled to perform at 10:15, takes more than 40 minutes to set up and sends the hordes of Thursday-night audiophiles to the Griffin to wait them out.
By 11:16, the Bunkhouse, located several blocks down from the Beauty Bar, has began to fill up. Vegas Japanopsychsters Shirt in the Jupon play a flawless drum machine-based set, while LA garage rockers Mere Mortals devastate the bar with howling guitars, dark vocals and one extremely energetic and efficient Mimi Star on bass.
After the pageantry and sonic domination of Mere Mortals, Rabbit—formed by Carlson two years ago as a way to bring her songwriting out of the acoustic world and into the indie-rock circuit—seems a little out of place at first. But as Carlson sings her songs about destroyed relationships, and the solid musicianship of Karasa and Argon gets the crowd’s attention and adoration, Rabbit begins to feel less like a break from convention and more like something we’ve all seen before. While Carlson’s songs are different from those sung by Clydesdale siren Paige Overton, and the exemplarily different styles executed by both Karasa and Aragon are clearly distinct, comparisons to the popular and musically superior Clydesdale are hard not to make.
But Carlson says that’s not a problem for the trio as they begin to play up their local profile and perform more shows. “I’m not really worried about being compared to The Clydesdale,” she says. Simply put: The music and lyrics, primarily guided by Carlson, deal with more macabre and personal issues than those of The Clydesdale. “Most of my songs are about people I hate. In that way alone, we’re very different.”