"WHEN I FIRST got my guitar when I was 16, I didn't even know how to tune it for a year," says Josh Hughes. "And I would play all the time. I would just tune it to stuff that I thought sounded good."
Hughes, along with fellow guitarist/vocalist Seth Montfort and drummer Kevin Garrison, still plays music with a similar disregard for convention. Their band, Rabbits, make a shrieking, distortion-drenched sound that's at distinct odds with its cuddly sounding name. With hardcore screaming and deeply quaking crust-punk riffs, Rabbits' first full-length record Lower Forms is a blisteringly hard record that's packed with fury, energy, and balls-out rock. As Hughes says, "This band is as close to us being ourselves as we can possibly get while jumping around and screaming onstage."
Hughes did eventually learn how to conventionally tune his guitar, but not before absorbing the drone-friendly tunings of one of his favorite bands, Sonic Youth, who'd often tune their six-strings in three-note pairings. After a move to Portland, Hughes began playing music with Garrison, a longtime friend from growing up in Pennsylvania. "Our idea originally was, [Kevin] really wanted to play stuff like Man Is the Bastard and I really wanted to play Spacemen 3, so we were gonna be like Spacemen Is the Bastard—really droney, but with blastbeats and stuff."
After Montfort filled out the trio, Rabbits took some time to find their sound, toying for a long while with the idea of having a bassist. That idea was eventually dropped. "I borrowed my cousin's octave pedal and started playing that," says Hughes. "And realized it was filling in where the bass needs to go. And then when we wrote 'Lungs,' that was when we went, 'Ohhhh, okay. This is what we do.' It just had all the elements of the things that we still do. I mean, we've expanded on those things, but it had these droney parts, and these weird, loopy, sing-songy parts, and then some kind of half-step mathy repetitive things. That was kind of the moment where we went, you know what? I think we can do this on our own. I mean, we get along so well."
The chemistry between the three members is the key to their focus, which has seen them practice at full volume twice a week for years. Hughes typically writes the lyrics, and Montfort often comes up with guitar parts. "Seth is kind of a little riff machine," Hughes says. "And Kevin's great, because he's been practicing the drums since he was real young, but never wanted to be in any bands, because he's very particular about what he wants to do." Hughes' lyrics, in the meantime, are intended to be simple and symbolic. "The first half [of Lower Forms] is about the development of man, and the next half is the inevitable crush of nature," he explains.
Lower Forms was recorded for esteemed metal label Relapse Records at Type Foundry Studio. Many of its songs have been around for years, going steadily through Rabbits' painstaking process. "We've been a band for seven years, and we have about 20 songs," says Hughes. "Some of the songs on the new record are five years old, and they went through many different forms—parts are different lengths, lyrics are in different spots. The end result of that is that we still like to play all these songs."