Hometown hero's new album First Blood brings a glimpse at the man behind the mange
"Blow Dumb," First Blood's first single, has been described as "Velvet-y" sounding. Perhaps because the Velvet Underground is associated with New York's high-art scene by way of Warhol's Factory, Nobunny points out that the track is a love song to California. It gives a special nod to the Bay Area and hyphy, but also shows some love for SoCal, with a possible Burger Records shout out. The end result is ideal for a groovy road trip with friends, riding down Highway 1 with nothing better to do than smile in the sun.
Content-wise, not everything on First Blood is so buoyant. Elsewhere, Nobunny's lyrics confront sexual desire, unbalanced relationships, inner weakness, and the self improvements necessary to pull yourself out of the proverbial gutter and see the world. Plenty of lustful longings are laid out as he expresses exactly what he wants in the twangy-sounding "Pretty Please Me": a noncommittal fling, no questions asked, just as long as it feels right.
The blatant "(Do the) Fuck Yourself" conjures up perverse images straight from Nobunny's stage show, where his masked persona goes public, employing ball-gags while prancing around scantily-clad. When we finally meet in person, I ask him where these antics come from. His answer is quite simple, and makes sense coming from a rabbit, "I'm just horny," he says. All the while, in order to maintain a "shred of anonymity," he wears his favorite deranged-looking mask. It never seems to come off.
"I don't think I'd like to deal with being in an un-masked band at, say, Hunx's or Thee Oh Sees' comparable level of popularity." Nobunny says, when asked about the get-up. "Knowing eyes are on you when you are not on stage sounds maybe not always fun." Nonetheless, a fruitful creative partnership with Hunx has been vital to Nobunny's survival: "Seth [Bogart, a.k.a. Hunx] has been a very supportive friend, and, yes, in some ways I feel he saved me, or at the very least vastly improved my living situation."
Though Nobunny often expresses the wish to record and play alone, he's no stranger to collaboration, including a recent live session with Jack White at Nashville's Third Man Records. Not all dream teams come true, though — since childhood he'd hoped to work with another master of disguises, the famously introverted King of Pop. "Michael Jackson was my first obsession, " he says. "I wanted to be him. I still want to be him. According to Rocktober's History of Masked Rock 'n' Roll, MJ was a masked musician with all his surgeries and what not. We all wear masks, some are just easier to spot than others."
Speaking of costumed camouflage, First Blood's final track, "I Was On (The Bozo Show)" is a psyched-out, swirling down-tempo dirge with many levels of dedication. One could read it as homage to the late clown-god Larry Harmon (a.k.a. Bozo), as Nobunny hazily recalls his lost innocence and how he sat in the back row of a Chicago television with his little brother to meet the world-famous archetype on two separate occasions. Yes, Nobunny was on The Bozo Show — twice.
But behind its showbiz facade, "I Was On (The Bozo Show)" is also an agonizing confession from a former addict. "It's for my blood brother and sister as well as my friends who struggle with drug addiction," Nobunny says. "In another time, clowns made children happy and the circus was fun, but now they've become just another relic of past, tarnished by the more common association that their images are horrifying and that they are to be feared. I'm pretty sure no Juggalo ever went to clown school."