"When I first got my guitar when I was 16, I didn't even know how to tune it for a year," says Josh Hughes. "And I would play all the time. I would just tune it to stuff that I thought sounded good."
Hughes, along with fellow guitarist/vocalist Seth Montfort and drummer Kevin Garrison, still plays music with a disregard for convention. Their band, Rabbits, makes a shrieking, distortion-drenched sound that's at distinct odds with its cuddly-sounding name.
With hardcore screaming and deeply quaking crust-punk riffs, Rabbits' first full-length, Lower Forms, is a blisteringly hard record that's packed with fury, energy, and balls-out rock. "This band is as close to us being ourselves as we can possibly get while jumping around and screaming onstage," says Hughes.
Hughes did eventually learn how to tune his guitar, but not before absorbing the drone-friendly tunings of one of his favorite bands, Sonic Youth, who'd often tune their six-strings in three-note pairings. After a move to Portland, Hughes began playing music with Garrison, a longtime friend he knew while growing up in Pennsylvania. "Our idea originally was [Garrison] really wanted to play stuff like Man Is the Bastard and I really wanted to play Spacemen 3, so we were gonna be like Spacemen Is the Bastard—really droney, but with blast beats and stuff. But oddly enough, I think the arrangements are more 1960s pop than they are anything else. Like the Beatles or the Beach Boys, we'll just splice different parts together to make up a song."
After Montfort filled out the trio, Rabbits took some time to find their sound, toying with the idea of having a bassist. That idea was eventually dropped. "I borrowed my cousin's octave pedal and started playing that," says Hughes, "and realized it was filling in where the bass needs to go. And then when we wrote 'Lungs,' that was when we went, 'Ooohhh, okay. This is what we do.'"
The chemistry among the three members is the key to their focus, which has seen them practice at full volume twice a week for years. "We play at practice the same volume we do at shows," says Hughes. "My friend came by the other day to our practice space. He was waiting outside to pick me up and he was like, 'People are just walking by going like, "What the fuck?"' He's like, 'I love that you guys play that loud.' You know, every once in a while we'll stop, and we hear somebody go, 'Yeahhhh!'—just screaming from outside. One time I came out and some punk kid had his bedroll and he was sitting there listening. He looked up and was like, 'Oh, you guys done?'"