As Bunny began, Jessica Viscius had just started writing music and learning guitar about a year and-a-half ago in her Chicago apartment in hopes of starting a solo project.
But then she brought in her sister Alexa to play bass. Tim Makowski on guitar helped Viscius and Alexa get connected with drummer Shane Prewitt (of Oxford bands Reels and Unwed Teenage Mothers) just a few days before Christmas last year to form the current outfit. They played together for about two weeks before heading into Minbal Studio with engineer Dave Vettraino (NE-HI, Lala lala, Melkbelly) to record nine songs. Of those songs, “Not Even You” and “Promises” will be released as a 7-inch through Chicago DIY label Dumpster Tapes— the cassette label’s first vinyl release.
Prewitt said Bunny sets itself apart with a certain intimate softness in its live performances. Viscius’ lyrics are also topically universal.
“I recently went through a long, f—-d up breakup so the songs have kind of been writing themselves. They’re all love songs. Most people can relate,” Viscius said, laughing.
In the first stages of Bunny’s conceptualization, Viscius said she wanted the venture to be a post-punk band. After the fast-paced songs she was experimenting with didn’t seem to fit, Viscius let Bunny become something all its own.
“When I first started playing music… I was really pained over what the band, what the music should sound like,” Viscius said. “I would end up sitting in my apartment— I used to live alone— and it was kind of just a stream of consciousness when I was writing. I would play a melody and sing whatever came to me. I noticed that the songs were always better when I didn’t sit around thinking about the lyrics or what they should sound like. To this day I don’t think I’ve ever written a lyric down. They usually just come to me at practice or something. I figure if I can’t remember it the next day, it probably wasn’t a good song.”
Viscius’ love songs are darkly romantic, with frank lines like one from “I Like You”: “In the morning I did the walk of shame, but I skipped all the way home. I’ve never been so happy and I’ve never been so alone.”
Viscius’ output consists of some sad love songs, but don’t get confused and peg the music for ‘sad girl lyrics.’
“Just because I’m a girl writing love songs it’s like, ‘oh sad girl,’ yet so many dudes write love songs and don’t get pegged as a ‘sad boy’ for it. Also, I’m not a girl, I’m a woman.” Viscius said.
In spite of a male-dominated music industry, Viscius said Bunny has been welcomed into Chicago’s scene.
“We were newcomers. Bunny is my first band, so I had to figure things out. A lot of friends helped show me the ropes. There have been some instances, but mostly I haven’t felt disadvantaged by being a woman in the music scene here,” Viscius said.
Alexa and Viscius, who are both graphic designers, say their knack for design has helped Bunny stick with listeners. They designed Bunny’s website (which is an of-the-moment-shade called millennial pink), graphics and merchandise. Most recently, they screen-printed tees to sell on their weekend-long tour, which will take them to Oxford on Saturday.
Viscius said she is still surprised Bunny has taken off among blogs and venues in Chicago, considering she nearly canceled her first ever solo show because of her fear of public speaking. But Bunny has played consistently around Chicago, with more shows lined-up, including a special birthday bash in June for Viscius, Alexa and Prewitt. And in case you were wondering, yes, they are all Geminis.
“We’re twins, and we’re Geminis,” Alexa said. “We have like, a million personalities.”
Catch the many sides of Bunny with local act Swear Tapes at Proud Larry’s Saturday at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5.