Despite not having much formal education, White Rabbits bassist Adam Russell has long led a literary lifestyle. He dropped out of high school at sixteen because he was frustrated with teachers who regularly kicked him out of class for reading stuff like Moby-Dick, physics texts and Nietzsche when he was supposed to be paying attention.
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Russell, who is now 23 and lives in Brooklyn, says he felt less freakish once he struck up a friendship with classmate Alex Even. "I just realized that he read books, too," Russell recalls of the boy who became the Rabbits' guitarist. The pair's love for books evolved into a love for music, and after leaving their home town of Jefferson City, Missouri, they headed a few miles north to Columbia, where they helped form the White Rabbits in 2004, melding jagged rock with bits of calypso, ska and reggae.
The act quickly found a following but eventually moved east, into a bedbug-infested, railroad-style loft in Brooklyn. "The main reason we moved in was to rehearse together," Russell says of the close quarters. "It was like, 'I've got a song, let's do it right now.'" In New York, the Rabbits saw success almost immediately when the president of a small label signed them not long after their first show in town. Over the next two years, they played to packed houses throughout the city, performed on Letterman, toured with acts like The National, Say Hi to Your Mom and Peter, Bjorn and John, and released their debut album, Fort Nightly.
With Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and more, 9 p.m. Saturday, May 31, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, $11-$13, 303-830-8497.
All six members contributed to the songwriting on the CD, which embraces a frenzied, literary feel, evoking what Tennessee Williams might sound like with an ax in his hand. The album's critical success led to a contract with TBD Records, the current home of Radiohead. The one-album deal allows the members to afford new luxuries, like their own rooms. "We all have our own places now!" Russell imparts jubilantly, adding that they are also filming their first proper video, for the Fort Nightly track "While We Go Dancing."
"We are trying to get across the concept of guys playing cricket in a four-star hotel and just tearing the place up," he goes on, "but we're having a hard time finding real cricket players to star in it." The video was requested by music television stations in Germany, where the band recently toured and is apparently quite popular.