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Interview: Philadelphia’s Trap Rabbit Talks Weird Time Signatures, Instrumental Music, and Creative Process

David Haynes September 18, 2019 Interviews No Comments

Trap Rabbit

Sometimes, it’s easy to think of a city’s music scene based on what gets massive media attention. Indie rock bands like Hop Along, Kississippi, and Sheer Mag have generated a lot of buzz in the past few years, and have helped identify Philadelphia as a music city. But, there are always hidden gems in every city’s music scene.

Trap Rabbit, comprised of Arjun Dube and Logan Roth, doesn’t have any of the trappings of indie rock. With just keyboards and drums, the duo creates layers of seventh chords and syncopated rhythms that are perfect for staying indoors on rainy days and taking long, slow breaths. It’s easy to forget that music without words provides a different sort of emotional respite; one that is not always aware of your darkest secrets. Trap Rabbit is only here to comfort you, not to reveal your sins.

I recently had the privilege of speaking to Dube and Roth about their new EP, Songs About Worms. Listen to the EP below while reading our interview below:

As someone who writes songs primarily in 4/4, the idea of writing beats in weirder time signatures is baffling to me. How did you start writing in odd time signatures, or what prompted you to be curious about time signatures in the first place?

Roth: I’ve had an interest in odd time stuff ever since I heard Dave Brubeck’s Take Five as a preteen. I had a piano teacher who was similarly interested in that kind stuff, too. He wrote a piece in 19/8 that was pretty inspiring. Later on I was pretty into pianists like Brad Mehldau and bands like The Bad Plus, especially when they used odd time signatures in their covers of pop tunes.

Dube: Logan really started experimenting with odd times during his senior year of college. He had one section of his thesis composition that was scripted for only drum set and keyboards, and a lot of it was in 7/8. We had a blast rehearsing and playing this piece, and I like to think that project got us very interested in how we can manipulate time.

The songs are dense, with a lot of layers coming in and out. Songs like “Chunnel Through The Garden” come to mind, where there’s sort of dissonant organ lines coexisting with really pretty synth pads. How do you approach creating atmosphere and texture within your songs?

Dube: Experimentation! We layer sounds, throw out things that don’t sound good, and keep repeating that process. On top of that, Logan layers a lot of sounds live using his Nord, which can easily and quickly stack 2-3 keyboard sounds simultaneously. It’s common to hear him break out organs + rhodes + synth, often with even another keyboard at the same time for bigger, louder, or more textured sections.

Who are some bands and artists that have impacted how you create music in Trap Rabbit?

On the beat side- Exmag, Karriem Riggins, Flying Lotus, Mndsgn, and all of their friends. Yussef Dayes and Kamaal Williams have also been quite influential these days in addition to other modern jazz like Mark Guiliana Makaya McCraven, and BadBadNotGood. We also go for proggier stuff too in Emerson Lake and Palmer, Chon, and Bent Knee.

A lot of underground music is often very lyric driven. What is it like to exist in underground scenes as an instrumental band?

It’s tough to make a real connection with people without words sometimes, but our music is frenetic enough that nobody really gets bored at our shows. We play with lyric-driven bands all the time, and it never feels like we’re too out of place. Then again, we might just be used to it at this point. Philly is a big scene, and there are a lot of smaller close-knit communities that never interact. When we first moved to Philly, we didn’t really fit anywhere, not even “the underground.” We still don’t, but now we’re ok with it, and folks know who we are and support us so it’s not really a problem.

You have been playing shows since 2015. How has playing live impacted the writing over the past few years?

Dube: We have learned that writing music for the studio vs the stage are two completely different animals. I think we originally wanted to keep these two realms as close as possible, but it just doesn’t translate. Our live shows are our bread and butter, and we really love the freedom we have to just go nuts. In the studio, we have had to think a lot about how to translate that energy onto a record.

Roth: We used to write our music over long periods of time, testing them out at several months worth of shows. This record is actually a complete departure from that, as most of it was improvised. We had to figure out how to play these pieces live, which I think is what most musicians do. Maybe it’s a better workflow?

Which moments are you are really proud of on Songs About Worms?

Dube: I would say the bass solo on “Segmented” – it’s dope.

Roth: I like how the samples on “Graboids” were manipulated to sound just a little uncomfortable.

What’s next for Trap Rabbit?

Logan is touring with Chris Bullock of Snarky Puppy in October, and once he gets back we’re jumping back into the studio with Phil Nicolo to finish our next record. We’ve got some cool shows coming up too that we’re excited to announce.

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