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SONIC REDUCER Short-timers rave about the natural beauty surrounding this fair city, but few testify to the pleasures of urban wildlife right smack in the center. Sightings occur regularly and in the darnedest places: don't blink or you'll miss that fat, sassy raccoon rumbling across Divisadero. Look fast to catch those plump, posh rats wrassling in the grass in front of the Old Mint. Buck up and face the naked guy dancing outside your office window. But you never expect to see wild creatures at hipster-infested dive bars like the Uptown, because frankly, furry freaks would have a tough time here — there's not enough to gnaw and there was far too much to drink last night.
Yet behold, here they were: 7 Year Rabbit Cycle, that fine SF band of critters making evocative "thrash, ambient, indie" (according to their MySpace page) music. They have a beautiful, sometimes stately, sometimes cacophonous third album out, Ache Hornes, on guitarist (and Deerhoof and Badgerlore cofounder) Rob Fisk and vocalist (and ex-Deerhoofer) Kelly Goode's label, Free Porcupine Society. And boy, do they have tales to tell — so much has happened in the past two years since the married Fisk and Goode moved back to the Bay from Alaska and the band, which includes ex-Chinkees bassist Miya Osaki, was joined by Xiu Xiu guitarist-vocalist Jamie Stewart, Good for Cows and Ceramic Dog drummer Ches Smith, and guitarist (and Guardian contributor) George Chen. The highlight has to be the time last year, while on tour with Warbler and KIT, when 7YRC almost cycled abruptly to an end as the wheel rim snapped off their van's axle at full speed, sending the vehicle sliding down an overpass outside Gallup, N.M.
"We were looking out the front window, and we see our tire rolling, and we were just like, 'Holy shit, there goes the tire! What the fuck happened?'” recalls Goode, tucked in a booth by the bar door last week.
"We should be dead right now," Fisk declares.
"If hell is anything like three days in Gallup, New Mexico, then we are dead," adds Chen, who was driving. They missed a few shows, but, he adds, "There was a lot of heroism involved. Handlebar moustaches. Shirtlessness."
The otherwise sedate-looking musicmakers shed their mild-mannered coats and turned into, well, rock stars. "The hotel security had to call and tell us to be quiet a few times," says Chen, counting eight people jammed into a two-bed room. Stewart and Smith got naked in the pool (an initiation, perhaps, into the world of Xiu Xiu, which Smith has joined). And who could forget the Wiccan stripper in the hot tub?
Such are the unpredictable habits and hygienic activities of 7YRC, which Fisk and Goode started four years ago, after they left Deerhoof in 1999. Do they ever regret leaving the band that recently toured Europe with Radiohead? "I dunno, was it my fault?" Fisk asks Goode. He has maintained his relationship with the group, creating the artwork for 2003's Apple O' (5RC) and enlisting Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich as an engineer when 7YRC recorded Ache Hornes at Eli Crews's New and Improved Recordings in Oakland. "I have a love-hate relationship with San Francisco and I get burned out and freaked out really quickly. It's just so much stimulation all of the time, and it's really empty stimulation for the stuff that matters to me," continues Fisk, who now works at Revolver. "I had been going to Alaska for a couple years and I had this brilliant scheme that we should move there."
The pair relocated to Alaska, built a cabin, began the label and 7YRC, and weathered their share of adventures. "I was watering my garden with fish emulsion and water," says Goode, "and I accidentally left my watering can out overnight and we woke up in the morning to the sound of a bear, and then when we actually got out of bed and went downstairs, my watering can was torn up with teeth marks and spit from the bear on it."
But even as Fisk and Goode reembraced urban life, 7YRC threatened to scamper out of their control: the couple are now amicably divorcing, Ozaki and Smith are currently living in Los Angeles, and Fisk is considering studying wildlife biology in Alaska and in fact is about to return to the 49th freak state to build another cabin, during which he'll film a how-to DVD (he hopes to have it edited at top speed and shown behind Badgerlore when that band plays the Wire festival in Chicago next month). And after a seemingly endless hibernation period, partly because Dieterich was off touring with Deerhoof, Ache Hornes is finally out, in all its alternately ungainly and tumultuous, contemplative and spacious beauty.
"This is sort of a conscious move to do a rock record," says Chen.
"Not a rock record but a clean record," Fisk counters. "Clean ideas. I think the other two records have a lot of gut thrusting on it — they're like superphysical, Kelly screams a lot; Steve [Gigante of Tiny Bird Mouths], the drummer back then, was superbombastic. It was very cathartic, and it was recorded lo-fi — everybody gets away with everything. This time we were, like, OK, we're gonna go in and do a real recording and the catharsis is gonna be really controlled."
"I'd say with adding Ches to the band," interjects Chen, "you kind of want to hear everything he does, because he's an insane drummer."
Life looks good — the food source is clear and Free Porcupine is doing fab with the reception accorded releases by, say, Grouper and Christine Carter (as Bastard Wing), Tom Carter (who is also in Badgerlore along with Ben Chasny, Pete Swanson, and Glenn Donaldson), Current 93, and other friends. It looks like Fisk and company — all present are onetime rabbit owners — are set for a genuine seven-year rabbit-cycle-style boom, wherein the cottontails flourish before they're decimated by predators.
"It's funny, because you quit Deerhoof in ’99 and now it's seven years later," says Chen as we all utter a group oooh! "I did the math."
"So this could be my year," marvels Fisk with a little smile. "It's been busting for so many years, so maybe it'll boom now." SFBG
7 YEAR RABBIT CYCLE
With XBXRX, Murder Murder,
and David Copperfuck
Fri/25, 9:30 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
$8, all ages