Psychedelic rock became the soundtrack of the wider cultural exploration of the hippie movement. Considering it was widely dismissed at the time as merely another momentary fad, and erroneously presumed to be pretty much dead in the water by the middle of 1968, the influence of psychedelic rock runs long and deep, and because of its links to the hippie movement many bands having psychedelic elements get a modern hippie imprint all over their image, just like Hamburg’s My Little White Rabbit.
Starting out in 2014 when the band members met up at a dry river bed in the Mojave Desert, My Little White Rabbit bring the hippie movement into the 2010s, both musically and visually.
Messed!Up continue their Hamburg Crib Sessions and met up with Rike, Jan and Lasse at Rike’s place, grabbed some coffees and talked about their debut album, having the freedom of doing music they like it and feeling contented of living in 2010s, not the sixties.
Changing pathways and a debut album
A lot has happened since you started. Today My Little White Rabbit are five members but you started out in 2014 just as a three-piece.
Rike: Yes, we’ve had some changes in the band. It wasn’t that clear who was and who wasn’t a band member because of how much time people had, so we played with different people. That’s why there was just the three of us on band pictures.
Jan: It was also a question of style, we needed some time to find our own identity. In the beginning we made kind of different music compared to what we do now. We just started by putting all our ideas together to see what direction to take it and some people wasn’t that super interested in that. Not that it was a huge thing but some people left the band.
But the three of us still wanted to be in this band and liked whatever direction we went, and decided that we’re the core of the band because we support the direction and the style of it. With that we had to find people who were as experimental as us.
About your debut album that just came out; does it relate to your EP from 2015 or is it something completely new?
Rike: It was released on the June 7th. We really wanted it to be released in March but as usual you need to deal with the label and other stuff. There are still some songs from the EP on the album because we released the EP ourselves without a label. That’s why the cover design is similar to the EP, to get a kind of fluid transition.
Jan: It’s kind of easy with the whole design thing. We stayed with our designer because we always like his stuff. The collages, the weird stuff, we all find that it fits very well with our music. Why change the design as long as we all like it? He always comes up with new ideas on designs.
Rike: He is great with implementing our weird and unprofessional ideas (laugh), a great man!
Jan: And for the album it’s great because we also want to show our fans how varied we are and that we have old songs we’re very proud of. Of course the old songs don’t sound like our new but that is how it has to be.
In 2014 someone people claimed that you played “absurdo pop” and I just had to laugh a bit about it. Let’s say your style now is lots of sixties psychedelic guitars and that people compare or describe you as hippies.
Rike: Someone started with this old hippie thing and it has followed us ever since. But we really aren’t that kind of hippies who dance around naked on meadows. I have nothing against people who like to do that (laugh), but we’re not really a one-genre band. Everything is moving around the psychedelic frame, sometimes more blues, sometimes more guitars, and some songs which are more psychedelic pop.
Lasse: It’s always difficult with the terminology because everybody has their own opinion about it. Is it more an aspect of life or is it a direction of music?
In the late sixties it was rather a kind of collective name. There was everything you would imagine in terms of music and people who were different compared to what was normal, that’s why they came up with terms like “weltmusik”. Everything not like what’s the usual stuff belongs to “weltmusik”.
Jan: But if you use “hippie” as somebody who wants to be without social limitations and relate that to our music, I would say we are hippies because we want to make our music just as we feel and like. If it means freedom and self-expression, I can deal with it.
Rike: That’s exactly what we want to represent. You don’t have to follow certain rules just because you want to belong to one style.
Jan: A modern phenomenon in revival rock bands is that they get on stage in what looks like uniforms. Old leather boots, beards, slim shirts and all that stuff. The whole image has to fit the style, not just the music. That’s something we don’t want to. It is important that everyone of us still stays an individual, that’s how our music comes to life.
But I still like the fact that you stay with the psychedelic thing. It starts with your band story, meeting in Mojave at a riverbed while picking mushrooms. Your whole image looks really psychedelic just like your videos.
Rike: We have a designer who does all the stuff for us and we’re really happy with him.
How did you end up on your label Sweepland Records? If I’m right it’s based in the “Ruhrpott”, and is a merger of musicians who didn’t find a label they wanted to work with that decided to set up their own label?
Rike: We ended up on Sweepland because of an old band member who used to be our guitarist. He comes from Dortmund, therefore we had a connection. The label people also have a band called Pick Hounds and we may tour with them in the fall. We know them since way back because of their old band Fitches and did some gigs together.
Jan: And yes, they’re a merger. It’s great to know that all of them are musicians too, that’s really helpful! People who are more into business than music are not that easy to deal with in the long run, but the Sweepland people have a more arty perspective on things and a better understanding. Quite an advantage for us.
Labels in general have hard times with the whole digitalisation process and have a tough time to justify their existence.
Jan: They’re still the distribution channels we know best, for like selling records, organize tours or get us on radio, and we still use them. But in the long run you have to look how you position yourself and how to find your way onto the market.
Back in the days it was the same of course, but the channels were fewer. Today, with streaming and all the stuff online, there’s a massive change which may be really confusing, and you just have to deal with that. I’m really interested in that and of course I listen to lots of music on my own.
Rike: Really? (laugh)
Jan: I listen to fabric sounds and whale songs. (laugh)
So called noise.
Jan: Everybody says you only earn money from touring and selling merch and not from selling records, and you shouldn’t even consider earning any money from streaming. That’s why labels and also musicians have to find new ways to market themselves and find a way to deal with it if they want to live off it.
Not living in the past
You said you like to listen to music on your own. Which era is your favourite that you would love to live in?
Lasse: Awesome question! You always think about the sixties because there were bands like the Beatles. But I would say today anyway because there has been so much fun stuff happening after the sixties and we would have missed all of it then.
Jan: I would say the same. If you’ve asked me a few years ago I would also have said the sixties, to see Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix play live, which would have been really cool. But it’s actually awesome today. I listen to very much new and interesting music on Spotify; it’s insane how many new artists I’ve found there just in the past four to five years. I’m in there every day.
It would have been great to be a bit younger today and listen to all that stuff without thinking “I already know it” and be more open to it; being twenty years younger and skip the nineties would have been great (laugh). For music listeners it’s really great to be able to listen to music wherever you are. Maybe not for the bands.
Rike: Back then it was kind a hard to find new music. When I was like fifteen I always watched VIVA2 or MTV to find new music and to stay up to date. That was the channel we had and you wrote it down and got the record at the store or just listened to it there. It would have been great to have the channels we have today back then. Very easy access and a wide range of new bands and stuff.
Lasse: But it was more mystic back then. You were not able to listen to new bands every day, and you didn’t get to know what Uriah Heep had for breakfast (laugh).
If I talk to my parents how they consumed music when they were young it’s really interesting. We were at Jethro Tull last Friday which was really awesome, and I asked them how they listened to that music back then and they were like “Somebody had the record or you had to go to a club and just hope the DJ would play it”.
Jan: You dealt with music differently. You bought an album and if you found it really awesome you sat with your CD player and listen to it over and over again. Today, I mostly listen to music when I’m on the road, back then I sat in front of my stereo and listened to one album like five hundred times because I was so thrilled about it. Not playing video games, not meeting up with friends, only listen to music. A complete spare time activity. Today it is more on the side. I’m still into it but I also have more time to listen to new music.
Positive and negative, two sides as usual. Rike, one last question for you. You started your career in the classical field?
Rike: I started to play piano as a kid, at the age of six. At nine I started with violin and I played lots of the classical stuff until the end of my teenage years, years I don’t regret at all.
At some point I started to play guitar because I wanted to do something new without having to take lessons. After the whole classical stuff it was important for me to do something without knowing exactly what I was doing, just have an open mind. It’s really good, both sides are really good. And classic music isn’t always just something you need to think about when doing.
Lasse: But you have to read notes (laugh).
What about singing? Did you start that as well as a kid or did it come later?
Rike: I’ve had singing lessons but really late. I sang in a choir as a kid and somebody said I had to get some singing lessons, but I didn’t want to sing the way people told me to. In the end I got lessons and tried out much stuff, but really late, ironically.
But you are good anyway.
Lasse: Well, yes. (laugh)
Some last statements from you guys?
Rike: We have a little tour in the fall and we have some nice gigs in the summer! Check it out!
My Little White Rabbit pages