There’s little doubt that Bad Rabbits are among the most influential and successful acts out of New England of the past decade. From regional accolades including several Boston Music Awards, to international tours, to major late-night talk show appearances, the “new crack swing” progenitors remain a point of local pride, not to mention endless entertainment.
While there are several elements of Bad Rabbits that stick out, the impossibly natural electric vocals of frontman Dua Boakye are legend around here. His appearances on projects and stages with anyone is cause for celebration, as has been the case following news of TiDES, his innovative collaboration with drum and synth maestro Christian Tremblay (sometimes known as Catman) and guitar innovator Ryan “Rvrsr” Garvey—even though they haven’t dropped so much as a single to date.
We suspect that this is just the first of many times the Dig will check in with TiDES, which is already rehearsing weekly and starting to do shows (they smashed Boston artist Oompa’s record release at the Sinclair last week—more on that in our next issue). But with Dua, Ryan, and Christian playing the Off The Record party we are hosting with Redefined and the Boston Music Awards at the Verb Hotel this Friday, we figured that an early check-in was in order.
How did this start? How did you all come to know each other?
DB: Me and Christian met through a mutual friend at the Boston Music Awards. Christian and Ryan were in bands together.
That’s how you met, but how does something like this actually become a band? When and how did the matrimony happen?
RG: It’s incestuous; we’ve all sort of played in different friends’ bands, in supporting and lead roles, and I was playing with Christian for two or three years before meeting Dua.
CT: I had been jamming on and off with Dua since right after we met in December 2017. I just had a crazy schedule that month, and I just booked two jams—one with Ryan, and one with Dua—and TiDES was basically born in the overlap of that. We were all jamming, and we were basically like, This is a band. Everything we jammed on could be a song; we still have really deep demos from our first six or seven rehearsals. That’s where it all started, but now we’re finalizing songs and working on arrangements and stuff like that.
Am I correct in that you are a three-piece by nature but your first couple of shows are with five people—you three plus a drummer and a bassist?
CT: With just the three of us, we have electronic drums and stuff, but this is kind of a chance for us to stretch out and take some stress off of our backs.
DB: When it’s stripped down it’s keys, guitar, and effects from Ryan, and drums and samplers and ambient sounds coming from me or Christian. I try to be the drummer.
Dua, how you singing? How hard are you going?
DB: It’s a lot of down tempo stuff, since Bad Rabbits is so upbeat. Bad Rabbits can do anything, but with TiDES I was trying to focus on me. I’m not trying to do a lot of the stuff I do with Bad Rabbits, like wailing. I have a lot of these weird vocal ideas. I kind of want to do more introspective stuff, less of a party vibe but that will still get you in the mood.
You have been increasingly outspoken politically, so I am imagining that the stuff you are writing now is aggressively progressive.
DB: One hundred percent. And my band rides along with it because they understand, and they feel the same way.
What are you writing about?
DB: For the intro that we do for our shows, I wrote about immigration, what’s happening at the border, and the border crisis. Internment camps, I’m talking about citizenship, what’s going on and how fucked up it is. But there are other things I’m trying to touch on, like the gospel side of it—there’s a connection between the struggle and gospel, and we’re trying to reach that outer realm of it where it’s right on the cusp of psychedelic and spiritual. The struggle comes out there.
RG: I don’t think a lot of it is about trying to achieve or sound like something. This group really has a transparent approach to its process—it’s definitely a very … genre-wise, there’s no predisposed idea of what we want to sound like. One of us just comes up with something; if Christian or I comes up with something, Dua always has things on his mind that we can just test out, and a lot of those end up being developed after.
What’s the ideal venue in the Boston area for the kind of music you’re making?
CT: I think Lizard Lounge would be dope.
I swear, for some reason, that’s exactly what I was thinking.
DB: It would be a great intimate show, even if there were four or five of us. But we can rock anywhere—our very first show was at Brighton Music Hall. We did the show in March and played in front of like 200 people, maybe more. It was a good crowd. We would like an intimate venue, though.
How do you pace yourselves? How do you make sure shit gets done? Is there an EP planned?
DB: Yeah, it’s recorded basically. I’m kind of the go-to guy, but everybody has their duties. We’re all trying to figure out how to package it in a sense.
CT: We all have our own role and responsibility. It’s an honest process. It’s easy to fool around with ideas, but we do have things finished.
RG: We’re sort of passing that honeymoon stage, we’re writing more efficiently, and we’re using our time more efficiently.
DB: I won’t even put a time frame on it right now. We did something for the 617 Sessions—that’s basically going to be our debut. But we have a lot of other music. I’m pretty sure we’ll just be dropping singles right now.
I obviously have to finish off by asking about the name, TiDES. Do I have to figure it out for myself?
DB: We are literally battling with changing the name. I don’t remember who came up with TiDES, but we tried to acronym—backronym it—and …
RG: I think the reason we’ve been comfortable with the name up until now is that it’s like the current, the way things go. It’s freedom of expression; TiDES is natural.
CT: We’re very direct with each other, it’s great.
DB: These are the two little brothers I always wanted.
OFF THE RECORD WITH TIDES AND MERCI D. HOJOKO, 1271 BOYLSTON ST., BOSTON. FRI 8.16, 5PM/ALL AGES/FREE.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.