R&B band Bad Rabbits is back with their seven-track album Mimi, out August 10. The musical trio – vocalist Fredua Boakye, drummer Sheel Davé and guitarist Salim Akram – have worked hard on this latest album alongside so many longtime friends (whom they shout out in our interview below) and they’re ready for everyone to have a listen. It’s time to get familiar with Mimi, the fictitious primary character that each song is based on, someway, somehow.
No doubt this is the perfect type of ~summer vibes~ album you were looking for with the synths and swaggering basslines. Boakye even mentions, “I hope you automatically want to dance or find your special person and have a good time. It’s a trigger for the party.” We knew we had to chat with the members of Bad Rabbits to hear how they came together, how their music evolved, and learn more about Mimi.
The Young Folks: When I first heard Mimi, I was hooked! First off, for people like me who don’t know yet, how did you guys all come about forming Bad Rabbits?
Sheel Davé: Thank you. I’ve known Salim Akram (guitarist) since I was 12 years old. We went to summer camp in the ‘burbs together. We were among the only few “colored” skin people in the camp. One day, I was walking back to our bunk after swimming and I see him arguing a fellow camper who was not of “colored” skin. The camper stole Salim’s lunch or something from his bunk area. He then called Salim a “n—-r,” and then Salim proceeded to physically defend himself and won against a camper that was twice his size. To make a long story short – it was my first experience with racism and we’ve remained friends since. Music came later… Salim introduced me to Fredua Boakye (singer) in 2003-ish and we started making songs in my college dorm room in Boston. We then brought on additional members and started a band, which eventually became Slick Rick the Ruler’s backing band for quite some time. To make a long story short – the three of us are still standing.
TYF: Bad Rabbits have been putting out music since 2009. With your last album being in 2016, how has your music evolved over the past couple of years?
SD: Our music is a product of our brotherhood. We’ve been thrown through the ringer of the music industry for almost 10 years, and it took a toll on the band. We started as a DIY band and at one point, we lost that spirit and lost the emotional connection to the process. Since we self-made “American Nightmare” in 2016 with the help of a few select friends/collaborators, we’ve gained this connection back as friends and musicians. It has opened our eyes to how easy it was to make music together, dating back to when it was just us three in my dorm room. We call our own shots on everything now. Not just leading the evolution of our music, but also the evolution of our overall presentation.
For our upcoming album Mimi, we went back to working with our longtime friends and producers: B. Lewis & Gavin Castleton. I also brought on board one of my favorite illustrators/creatives/friends: Jimmy Lazer (Lazers Lab), whom I met over 15 years ago, in the DIY metal/hardcore scene in Massachusetts. We also re-involved longtime friend Austin Kihn (Mind over Matter Records) who is handling the handmade vinyl production in conjunction with Jimmy Lazer and Justin Beck (MerchDirect). All of these players played a significant role in the evolution of who we are as a band now so it is important to mention our teammates who helped us put this new music and presentation, together.
Salim Akram: Too build off of what Sheel said, it’s just been at a healthier pace for the band dynamic because we took the least path of resistance for all the creative processes. After too many attempts at “playing ball” and trying to figure out this industry formula which seems to be a free-for-all at this point, we just minimized all the noise and trusted our gut and went back to what has worked for us and not try to force things musically and branding wise.
TYF: Where did the idea of creating an album centered around a fictitious character, Mimi, come from?
SD: The music and the songwriting on the album helped us put together this concept. I sat down with Jimmy Lazer one day with the music along with the idea of “Mimi” being the focal point character. The illustrations and story-line sort of created itself from there. We wanted to get in “Mimi’s” head but it’s not an easy thing to do because the story is being mainly told from her admirers perspective over a course of time. From a young teen to a grown-ass woman. People are looking at her like they know her or they want to know her. The songs are pieces of this complex person from an outside vantage point. One can know a little bit about her but even then she’s still a bit of a mystery because this isn’t necessarily her voice. It’s mainly someone else’s voice. We continue to try to figure her out.
SA: A lot of the content from Mimi is from her admirer’s perspective like Sheel mentioned. But, a lot of the storylines are experiences we all have individually had at one point or another. We felt everyone could relate to them but we were self-aware that we had to find a narrative that didn’t alienate the listener.
TYF: How did you make sure that each song continued to tie in with this character someway, somehow?
SD: The songs weren’t necessarily written with a character and story-line in mind. We took the songs and then created the story with the artwork and the visuals.
TYF: How long has Mimi been in the works and what was it like putting it together?
SD: We’ve had some of the songs for over five years now, but we never quite finished them and came up with a proper presentation ‘til now. Like I mentioned earlier – we lost the connection to the music at some point and now it’s back with a much more painless creative process.
TYF: Have to ask about the video for “F on the J-O-B.”Will future videos be sort of similar to this one? Was the idea/look of the video more of the band’s idea or was it more of a collaborative effort with Lazers Lab?
SD: The idea came about when Jimmy (Lazers Lab) and I ate Sriracha Edamame sitting at a pub in Providence, RI. Jimmy is a creative genius and has been a friend before “Bad Rabbits” was a band. He has taken the songs and our general ideas and expanded the ideas to a point where we couldn’t have ever imagined.
TYF: When your album drops in August, what do you hope the listener reaction to be like?
SD: Moving, laughing, smiling & crying.