Inspired from playing songs with his friend’s children and as a way to bond with his two-year-old son over the music he loved, Andy Walker’s project, Bunny Racket, is the newest, and frankly most needed, addition to the ever-growing collection of kids music. But with a twist. Described as being “AC/DC, KISS and The Ramones meets The Cat In The Hat” Bunny Racket is a online video-series that focuses on King Bunny, a rabbit looking for some good old rock ‘n’ roll, as he aims to teach and expand the type of music that children listen to with an EP, Rock ‘N Roll Animals, to alongside it. I’ve been fortunate enough to get an interview with Andy to talk about the inspirations behind the Bunny Racket, how it came together and what to expect in the future:
Ok so first question is where did King Bunny and Bunny Racket come from, like where did it all start?
It all started when friends of mine started having children and that would have been about fifteen or sixteen years ago. They would come around our house which was like an old hippy house in the hills behind Byron Bay and we would always make music as we had like a makeshift recording studio set up. It was always a bit of a place for musicians and friends to come and just plug in their instruments and have a jam and record stuff. Some of our friends started bringing kids along to that and instead of having the kids locked away in another room I’d always take the time to sit down and start trying to make songs with the children, like bring out the guitar and drums and teach them a few things and record little songs. So, that’s how the idea originated, but the idea of it being a band of bunnies that came when I had a chat with my friend’s son who’s 6-years-old. I said, “I’ve got a band I’m putting together, what’s the best band name that you can think of?” And he said, “Bunny Racket!” I rolled with that and all the imagery and the bunny and everything sort of came from that name just from chatting with my friend’s kid, Marlo.
You got Robby Krieger of The Doors and Brant Bjork of Kyuss involved, how did that happen?
Well I used to play in rock ‘n’ roll bands back in the 90s and one of my favourite bands was Kyuss, which was Brant Bjork’s band. I played with a lot of my favourite bands but I always wanted to play with Kyuss but the thing was that Kyuss had broken up years earlier, but they were my pick of bands if I could play with anyone. But I ended up playing some shows with Brant when he did his solo stuff and we became quite good mates. Then Kyuss reformed about five or six years ago and they asked my band to do the tour with them, so we did a heap of shows with them. From that I told Brant about my idea of doing hard rock for kids and he thought it was a really great idea because he had just had his first son at that stage, so we talked about it and threw the idea around. He’s based in Los Angeles and I was based in Australia so we would just get on the phone or email each other ideas and concepts for the songs and I put them together. I then flew over to California for a couple of weeks and we got into the studio and started recording. Our engineer was a guy called Harper Hug and he is a bit of a legend, a bit of a wizard, when it comes to analogue recording and he was working at Robby Krieger’s studio. On the weekend, we were recording he said, “I really would like to take some of these songs and play them to Robby”, so he did that and Robby said, “I would love to play on this record”. So, Harper came back and said, “Oh, Robby Krieger from The Doors wants to play on your record”. So, it happened like that, it was a stroke of luck really.
You mentioned that you were in other bands before, what other bands were you involved in?
I played in lots of different bands in Australia, one in particular called Fort and while we didn’t get a lot of success out of it we played a lot of shows, I think we played about 150 shows. But what I did get to do was play with all of my favourite bands so whenever a great band would be coming to tour Australia from the US or UK I’d often get asked to do the tour. I didn’t make a lot of money out of it but just enough so that I got to play with my favourite musicians.
From my understanding Bunny Racket is a series of videos with the EP being a soundtrack to it, my question is what made you decide to write songs aimed for children?
Well I think just being around heaps of kids, and seeing what is actually available for the children and it’s not great. I’ve got a son now, I really want to do something that I’m passionate about that I can share with him, I didn’t just want to stick music on and Wolfgang goes and sits in another room so I can carry on with my own stuff I wanted him to get excited about the same things. So, I thought introducing him to the music that I’m really passionate about, but introducing into a way that he can comprehend it, understand it and get excited about, I thought it was a really great idea and it has been. It’s been really bonding for me and my son and it’s been really great for me interacting with my friends’ children as well.
As you were saying about kids music in that it’s not great, like it tends to be something between Disney, nursery rhymes or cheesy pop music, would you say that you want to expand the types of genres that children listen to?
Yeah, I want to expand genres but I also want to expand the listenership. I don’t want it to just be little kids listening to the music I want the parents, and the grandparents, anyone to find relevance in it. Something that will suit their interests as well, but I think the more variation the music and culture that the kids can soak up the better because they’re like sponges, so if you can give them cool stuff then you’re doing yourself a favour down the track I think. It means that kids will be listening to good music and, hopefully, they’ll have an understanding of the good music anyway whether they like it or not as much as we do. That’s yet to be seen I guess, but I think the visuals aspect that I’m bringing into it, you were saying the video side of it, that’s a way of introducing the music to kids because a lot of kids listening to music now it’s different from when I was a kid. We would have to buy records or listen to the radio, now it’s YouTube and its television and its MTV. Mainly YouTube and online stuff. So, if the music can be introduced with a really cool visual element that’s just as strong as the sound I think that that’s the best way to make it stick.
What’s the reaction to it been like so far?
It’s been amazing. It’s so fresh and new, I’ve only done four live shows, but yeah I’ve sort of kick-started it in Australia and a little bit in California, but in Australia the reaction’s been really cool. The last show I did before I left Australia was a sold-out show and it was like a hard rock show with kids from wall to wall going crazy and throwing themselves on beanbags and jumping on top and dancing around. It was so much fun. So, the reaction’s been great, I did a crowdfunding campaign and got a lot of people behind that. I think everyone’s just waiting to see what comes of these videos that we’re about to start making.
Slightly cliché question, but what did you listen to as a kid?
I listened to everything as a kid and I sort of went through different waves of what I loved at the time. Most of the stuff that I loved as a kid I still love now, I went through a punk-rock stage where I was only listening to The Ramones, The Misfits, The Damned, The Sex Pistols and all that. And then I went through a stage where I only listened to classic-rock, I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Doors, all that stuff which I still love just as much. I listened to a lot of bad music as well because I listened to the radio in the car with my parents, I still have a soft-spot for cringeworthy, bad eighties pop music as well, so a bit of everything. But the stuff that’s really stuck and the stuff that I’m drawing up now is fast, exciting, energy driven rock ‘n’ roll, that’s what I’m writing for kids because that’s the stuff that grabbed me and has always stuck with me.
Would you have wanted something like Bunny Racket as a kid?
I think I would have, I think that’s exactly why I’m making it. I’m thinking, “What did I love, what were the best elements of my childhood?” It was the music, like I was saying with The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Misfits, all that stuff that I loved so much. I also loved eighties TV, when I was little I loved Sesame Street, The Muppets, The Fraggles and The A Team. I loved all of this great stuff and I’m trying to bring all of these elements of all of that stuff that I loved and just condense into this one thing that kids can get onto, whether they just want to buy the record, they might get into the show, it might really excite them to play music. So yeah, all of my favourite things, that’s what it is so I would definitely have loved Bunny Racket when I was a kid.
I have to ask, what does Wolf (Andy’s son) think of it?
He loves it, he’s like my biggest fan! He calls me “Fruit”, because of that first single Chicken Is Not A Fruit, whenever he sees the bunny ears he gets really pumped. He just knows that it’s something fun so it’s kind of like I get to show my kid what I love and he gets to be involved, it’s a total win-win situation, it’s really fun. So, most of our trips when we go away these days it’s really driven by Bunny Racket. If we’re going to America on a trip where we go to shoot some footage or going over there to meet this musician or we’re going there to record some stuff he gets to come along for the journey and it’s always good fun. He’s at that stage, around two-years-old, where he’ll start remembering everything and he’ll have really funny memories of his dad dressed as a giant rabbit in a rock ‘n’ roll studio.
Going back to it being a web-series what films have you made for it so far and what plans do you have for films?
So far, on the last trip we did to California, we shot a lot of stuff to get an idea of what it will look like. We’ve shot one music video for Chicken Is Not A Fruit and we also shot a lot of stuff in the desert and around LA that we put together for our crowdfunding videos to show people, “This is what our series is going to look like”, but now we’ve got a much stronger idea of each episode. The idea is that for every song there’s a seven or eight-minute episode and part of that will be a film clip that will be around two, two and a half minutes long, so there’ll be a little introduction and the story about the creation of the song and an outro. It’ll all be on the stories around the songs so the idea is at the end of the release of this record there will be eighteen short films that could be edited together or stand-alone but every song will have its own little story.
You mentioned earlier (before the interview started) that you’re going to do a David Attenborough-type film, can I ask about that?
That’s just for laughs because I’m a massive David Attenborough fan. We kept going to all of these beautiful places to film, we were in Thailand a couple of weeks ago, now in the UK, we’re going to be in California next week and I thought as a little off-shoot to what we’re doing, so people can see what we’re up to and where we are, we do like a little short nature series that goes along with it. It’s a different aspect on what we’re doing so it’ll be like David Attenborough saying, well actually David Lascelles (Andy’s uncle-in-law) saying, *puts on David Attenborough voice*, “Here we are in the jungles of Thailand on the beach, not somewhere where you’d often find a rabbit but it’s a different time indeed. He’s searching for some rock ‘n’ roll”. Just a funny little thing to have alongside it, it’s something to do because we like being creative and making things.
As I know your wife Poppy does filming and photography for a living, is she involved with the films?
She is. Unfortunately, because Wolfgang’s two, whenever the camera comes out one of us has to be keeping an eye on him, so Poppy won’t be so much behind the camera but she’s very much involved in the direction of what’s happening. Poppy and I talk about everything Bunny Racket before we enter into doing things and we share our ideas. When it comes to filming the stuff we’ll all be there but until we can afford to have people helping out with the kids we’ll have a cinematographer shooting and Poppy will be keeping an eye on things and giving her ideas as it goes along. But yeah she’s been very instrumental in all of this, the whole visual element in filming it and doing a live-action series came about from me watching Poppy as a film-maker.
Where do you want Bunny Racket to go from here?
The ideal scenario?
Bunny Racket creates a record a year and along with that record a music video for each song in that record. So, that will take up half of my year writing and recording and filming, and the other half of the year will be touring. So, it’ll be like a band, like a working rock ‘n’ roll band, but obviously when I play music festivals it’ll be early in the afternoon so I can play and then go and watch bands that I like in the evenings. I just want to bring good music to lots of people and introduce kids to the style of music that I love and keep busy doing it. That’s what I want.
Is there anything else you want to say about King Bunny and Bunny Racket?
I think King Bunny is, as is Bunny Racket, constantly evolving and the more I put into it, the more music I write, the more ideas I have for filming, the more places I visit, the more people I talk to, the more interviews I do, the stronger the idea gets in my head, so it’s really good for me to do all of this stuff. It’s really good to talk to people because they all bring something into what Bunny Racket is too. I’m as excited to see what happens with Bunny Racket as my family and friends are. I do have a strong vision but that vision is constantly changing, so yeah it’s exciting.
If you fancy checking out Bunny Racket feel free to check out their website: http://www.bunnyracket.com/
I also wrote a story on Bunny Racket for the Yorkshire Voice: http://www.yorkshire-voice.com/king-bunny-hops-over-from-australia-to-teach-kids-about-rock-music/