1 Mar 2021

Remember Me? | Join | Recover
Click here to sign in via social networking

French For Rabbits - Gig Review: French for Rabbits @ Bark, Dunedin - 27/11/2020

28 Nov 2020 // A review by Darryl Baser

Port Chalmers songwriter Lucy Hunter opened up the evening with Please Just Break My Heart and Let Me Go. Announcing to the rapidly filling Bark space at Dunedin’s Dog With Two Tails "this is my first [piano] gig standing up".

One of the pals I was with suggested we all sit in the front row, literally less than a meter from Lucy’s keyboard, it was excellent placement. Not only could I see her fantastic black velveteen boots as her right foot operated the keyboard’s pedal, but also saw her phenomenal handy-work on the electric piano.

Hunter is one of the most gifted songwriters I’ve seen in years. She writes lyrically dark songs, but they leave you feeling ok, and are not at all indulgent or morose.

My Lips Are Red But My Heart Is Blue, is a great example of this, she tells the crowd it was written about the day she bought the dazzling red lippy which she’s wearing tonight; "but it didn't cheer me up, though I’m happy now", she quips. This song features the line: "love is a fish hook in my mouth".

Lucy Hunter played an awesome set, closing it with “a longer song, Owls Do Cry”.

She says, as the title suggests, it’s a song about one of New Zealand’s greatest writers, Janet Frame.

Hunter is a great storyteller and Owls Do Cry really highlights this, featuring the line "I'll be licking up my soul off the floor when you go".

I love seeing Lucy Hunter standing up to play, watching the grace of her hands is a huge gift, especially in Owls Do Cry, as there are parts where her hands cross over like she's playing a Domenico Scarlatti piece.

After a 15 minute changeover French For Rabbits take to the stage, the band’s expanded to a 5-piece with home-town Dunedin-born multi-instrumentalist Penelope Esplin being the most recent addition to the band. Esplin is so local, her mum’s doing the door for the evening, and rumour has it, the band stayed at her place.

Front woman Brooke Singer says Hi, and tells the polite and quiet crowd: "we're going to play some old songs and some new ones," before opening with Goat which features the fabulous, if a little brutal, lyric: "I won't be the first to say I'm sorry, even if it's my fault."

Right from the first few songs you can see there's clearly a good feeling between band members.

They follow with Claimed By The Sea, which Singer describes as their oldest song, written about 2010/2011. Singer and Esplin's voices harmonise really beautifully, then add in bass player Ben Lemi’s warm tones as well, and you have beautiful three-part harmonies.

The band has been writing recently following 2017’s The Weight of Melted Snow LP, and the first of a few new songs for the evening is The Dark Arts, which Singer says is “due to be released soon", my immediate thoughts are damn what a song, track it down when they release it, I'm putting my name down for the review now.

The overflow follows, with Singer describing it as "a song about anxiety," it’s probably the happiest song about mental illness I've ever heard.

I’ve mentioned the band’s on-stage chemistry before, and the smiles between band members, and band and the crowd, continue through the set.

While listening I try to look at all band members, but my eyes were drawn to drummer Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa. I love watching expressive really great drummers, and Hikurangi is a stunner. He makes complicated look and sound easy and fun.

Nothing says Kiwi music like referencing classic NZ telly, Brooke Singer kicks it really old school with another new song, Money or The Bag, which she says is based on the 1970's/80's game show.

Home town woman Penelope Esplin has played keys, and bass while singing harmonies during the show, then swaps to her third instrument of the night, electric guitar, for what Singer says is "a love song called The other side". The song proves to be a stunner, warm and anthemic, like some of their other songs it builds up, ebbing and flowing like high tide at Lyall Bay or on Petone foreshore.

The band leaves stage, some easier than others (Hikurangi almost seeing the humour in getting tangled up in his cables).

After the shortest of breaks they return, to play The Outsider which is another new song, and features Hikurangi triggering a reversed sample on a Roland Octopad which adds another depth to French For Rabbits’ lush sound.

A top shelf evening of quality music. My only regret: I didn’t buy an LP or shirt.

Photos courtesy of Andrew Mackay / Kea Photos


About French For Rabbits

Hailing from New Zealand, haunting dream-folk duo French For Rabbits have been quietly building a reputation for their sad yet brave songs. Since releasing their debut EP Claimed By The Sea in March 2012, they have gathered a dedicated fan-base around the globe with handwritten letters and home-assembled albums.

The authenticity of their songs and their engaging live shows has resulted in student radio play in New Zealand, support in the UK from BBC 6 presenters Gideon Coe, Tom Ravenscroft and The Shed’s Mark Coles, and a nomination for Best Folk Album of 2013 for the New Zealand music awards. They have also received funding from NZ On Air for a single and video due out later this year.

Brooke Singer, who is the fragile voiced songstress and writer for the duo, began performing with guitarist John Fitzgerald in 2011. Determined to overcome an acute fear of singing in public, the pair shifted to Wellington from their hometown of Christchurch and set about tentatively performing at an intimate open mic at a local café. They have since toured nationally in New Zealand, and played alongside the likes of Jess Chambers, Darren Hanlon and Tiny Ruins.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for French For Rabbits


The Weight of Melted Snow
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Claimed By The Sea
Year: 2012
Type: EP

Other Reviews By Darryl Baser

Big Scout - Single Review: Mr. Slice
27 Feb 2021 // by Darryl Baser
Straight Outta Blenheim, noisy angular post-punk band Big Scout have released an addictive new song, Mr. Slice.
Loud Ghost - Album Review: All In A Day
06 Feb 2021 // by Darryl Baser
Loud Ghost are a self-described "Rock n Roll trio from Auckland, New Zealand." It’s been 4 years since the first Loud Ghost record, and band members say they’re looking forward to getting All In A Day out and available to the public.
James Hunter - EP Review: You
21 Jan 2021 // by Darryl Baser
There are tough days and good days in all aspects of life. In music reviewing there are recording which don’t grab you and professionalism is necessary.
The Big Lawn - Album Review: Silverspoon
10 Dec 2020 // by Darryl Baser
Dunedin band The Big Lawn have just released their first album, Silverspoon. The album following on from the success of their debut EP Help Myself.
Single Review: Viices: Double Denim 7”
01 Dec 2020 // by Darryl Baser
Viices, known to his mum as Jake McComb, has been making music for a number of years, releasing the Toxic EP in 2017. Double Denim is released on a grey marble 7", which was lovingly packed well in a box.
Jolandi Ford - Single Review: You Ain’t In The Picture
28 Nov 2020 // by Darryl Baser
I love me a good break up song, and You Ain’t In The Picture is such a song with a good dose of ‘don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out’. The joy in the subject of the song comes across in the lyrics; it's in the way you can hear the smile on her face as she delivers the lines, and also in the song’s composition, especially in the lift to the leading note of the chord, when Jolandi sings; "…will I cry a million tears?
Gabriel Bond - Single Review: History
12 Nov 2020 // by Darryl Baser
First thing; wow what a voice. Gabriel Bond has a stunning voice, I would frankly amazed if he hasn’t had a bunch of formal vocal training.
Single Review: Redwoods
11 Nov 2020 // by Darryl Baser
In their brief blurb, Redwoods describe themselves as "a Kiwi band formed on the Jurassic lake of Tarawera, featuring members of Fire at Will and Dead Favours". The band comprising of members Josh Dillner, Will Kearney and Hannah Kearney have recently released their debut single, which is self-titled.
View All Articles By Darryl Baser

NZ Top 10 Singles

    Olivia Rodrigo
    Lil Tjay feat. 6LACK
    Glass Animals
    Niko Walters
    Dua Lipa feat. DaBaby
    The Kid LAROI
View the Full NZ Top 40...
muzic.net.nz Logo
100% New Zealand Music
All content on this website is copyright to muzic.net.nz and other respective rights holders. Redistribution of any material presented here without permission is prohibited.
Report a ProblemReport A Problem