When Rabbits Fly By Steven Rieman & Lisa Morgan

After 22 years as a performer in the greater Joshua Tree area, Jesika Von Rabbit has legitimately earned the title of “Desert Icon.” She may even be in the running for state bird, if the trajectory of her music continues. Von Rabbit has performed to sold out crowds while touring with Eagles of Death Metal, performing in videos with Cindy Lauper and Billy Gibbons, and landing songs on television and film (Crazy Stupid Love, CSI Las Vegas, Better Things, War Inc., Grace & Frankie, not to forget, the Fruit of the Loom Olympics Spot). Perhaps most honorably, she is the only musician to have a delicious plate of nachos named after there at the worldrenowned Pappy & Harriet’s. To give a frame of reference, Paul McCartney played there and doesn’t even have that. Von Rabbit, a former Palm Springs waitress, transplanted from Green Bay, is a rare breed of DIY artist whose work ethic pushes her to fearlessly take risks through experimental creativity, with the stubborn will to grow her own voice and image in the face of adversity, and at times, understated recognition. Today, her music streams and video views are soaring.

Von Rabbit’s first musical footprints in the desert were as lead vocalist, songwriter and keyboardist for Gram Rabbit, a legendary western psychedelic rock/electronica indie band. A consummate collaborator, Von Rabbit flies most comfortably and distinctively under her own well-branded moniker. Her onstage performances are as abstract as some of her lyrics, with theatrically costumed dancers in the background, supporting the playful collection of sounds from her keys, all of which underscore her unique vocal signature. Like the beloved Cindy Lauper, Von Rabbit can sing anything she wants to, any way she wants to.

The Covid pandemic affected people from all professions, and Von Rabbit was no exception. She contracted the virus last March and described it as, “flu-like with interesting symptoms.” While sympathetic to those who have encountered it, as well as to those who have yet to experience it, Von Rabbit shared, “I choose not to live in fear. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and encourage others to do the same.” Like many other musicians during the live music lockdown, Rabbit focused her attention on creating new music.

Many of Rabbit’s song lyrics are satirically poetic and at times, light heartedly obscure. For example, “Psychic Spice,” as she describes it, “is a song centered around heartbreak, coupled with a bit of obsession, that served as a cathartic release in gaining closure to a personal situation.” As she recalled how the song was born, she added, “I love it. I love being silly. I remember being in my studio, my cat Beazley was on my shoulder, and the lyrics were just starting to pour out of me.”

Jesse Hughes (of Eagles of Death Metal) co-stars in her upcoming western- themed music video, an updated cover of the ‘80s pop hit, “I Want to Be a Cowboy,” featuring Rancho de la Luna’s Dave Catching on guitar, set for release soon. Her newest song, hopefully out in October, came to her in a dream where, upon waking, she found herself scrambling to recall the bassline which had reverberated profoundly. “It’s not a traditional song. It’s not verse/chorus, verse/chorus, bridge, you know? It’s just a weird, abstract, artsy, dreamy song.” Plans to shoot a music video for this song, “Desert Dream Center,” are in the making at a secret desert location.

The days of lockdown and understated recognition are far behind this Rabbit, and her music is beginning to take flight. Her single, “Bombay Beach Bunny,” is currently in heavy rotation on broadcast radio throughout the Coachella Valley, and her Spotify numbers have tripled. The accompanying video has exceeded 85,000 views, only two months after its release, and was also featured on CBS San Francisco’s Eye on the Bay. It seems all of California is beginning to catch on to something the magic desert has always known: our Rabbit can fly.

Von Rabbit will be playing for the Grand Opening of Awe (the former Gadi’s), October 1. You can catch the newest evolution of the soaring Jesika Von Rabbit, October 15 at Four Twenty Bank in Palm Springs, performing Americana as Rabbit Country, and October 30, at Corazon in Topanga Canyon. If you want to see her on Halloween night, you’ll need to email her at desertvonrabbit@gmail.com or message her on Instagram to get the address as it’s “invite only.” November 20, you can find her at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach with the Crystal Method.

Background photo by: Brandon Walsh Center photo by: Giuseppe Asaro

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