French for Rabbits

By Toby Blakey
12 May 2018, Sitting Room Session, Napier

I hadn’t heard the music of French For Rabbits before tonight, but I knew precisely four good things about them: 1. They have a fine name 2. Penelope Esplin from Grawlixes is a band member 3. They opened for Lorde and 4. Jesse Mulligan had them on his show. Having just recorded their latest album, The Weight of Melted Snow as a five-piece, they’re now on tour pared down to three, sharing their “ethereal music in pin-drop environments” around the country.

As Brooke, John and Ben took centre stage, they were introduced to a packed-out Napier, Sitting Room Session as a band whose music evokes deserted South Island beaches and the spirit of Te Wai Pounamu. Brooke introduced the set to come as one which will encompass the history of French For Rabbits, beginning with some of the older music and working up to their newest.

The show felt that it was in two clear halves. I sat pleasantly still and enjoyed the first half. The lead guitar and vocals were atmospheric, and accompanying piano and acoustic guitar created a dreamy vibe that floated over me.

I’m not sure if it was the coffee, cream and three ginger slices I had in the intermission, but the second half woke me up and had me hooked. The songs had drive and bucketloads of atmosphere. Each song had me entranced. Brooke’s acoustic guitar and keyboard felt more centre stage, driving the songs and adding more depth to the show. The songs they played from their new album, particularly the title track and ‘It Will Be Okay’ filled the room and showed off real musicianship and beautiful compositions and songwriting.

They were lovely people too. No matter how great the music, something always feels missing when musicians fail to make an attempt to connect with an audience, to tell a few jokes, a couple of stories, and Brooke and Ben did this with such ease that it brought the already physically close audience, enraptured by the music, that much closer.

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