To thrive is to flourish, prosper, bloom and develop vigorously. The Bunny Gang’s upcoming album titled Thrive is evidence that the band is doing just that! Front man Nathen Maxwell found time to nurture The Bunny Gang and the band’s second album while maintaining a full schedule on bass for Flogging Molly. Thrive listenerswill be treated to Nathen’s smooth vocals and blend of genres including reggae, alternative, punk and rock. His diverse musical talents are showcased on the album as he manages to simultaneously relax and lift the listener while calling them to action. Nathen Maxwell took some time out to talk to By the Barricade about the album, his influences and thoughts behind the lyrics. Learn all about Thrive in the interview transcripts that follow.
By the Barricade: You shortened your name from your previous album and signed with Hardline Entertainment this summer. How did that come about?
Nathen Maxwell: Our name on the first album was due to Bill Armstrong of Side One Dummy who gave me the record deal. He said, “Nate I want, and kind of insist that your name is part of the band.” I had to have Nathen Maxwell in there and named it The Original Bunny Gang because that was the name of a punk rock group that I grew up with. When I started touring and playing with the band it just naturally shortened itself to The Bunny Gang. One day on a marquee had our name on three different lines: Nathen Maxwell and The Original Bunny Gang. I saw Bunny Gang and thought that was good. I like that.
By the Barricade: Switching over to Hardline, was that a preference or something you wanted to try?
Nathen Maxwell: I like Hardline. Authority Zero is on the roster and I am a fan of them. I’ve known Ken (Seaton) who runs the label for several years and I am a fan of his work. They are based out of Hermosa Beach,CA and I grew up in the South Bay and The Bunny Gang has its roots in the South Bay and in LA. For me it seemed like a pretty cool fit. Ken loves the record and is super motivated to get it out there. I’m excited! It’s not out yet and I’m excited to see how it works out!
By the Barricade: The Bunny Gang has a different sound than your other band Flogging Molly, it has a combination of Reggae, folk, punk, alternative. You have a pretty diverse range within the bands, what inspired you to get into music and specifically into these different genres?
Nathen Maxwell: Music has always been around. My mom always tells me that she went to see Bob Marley was in her belly and my father is a musician. All of my family and friends love music. Everything in my life revolves around music. The punk rock culture, my bands, great friends and great times all around had something to do with it.
I’ve always listened to all kinds of music. When I am creating music I don’t have a particular notion of what style or genre specific thing I am trying to do. All those influences just come out. Listening to David Bowie records to whatever else you might hear in there, maybe The Clash. It’s hard to pinpoint, but that is rock ‘n’ roll.
When I was younger I wanted to play genre specific. I wanted to play in a street punk band and to sound like that. After being able to meet members of Flogging Molly I had this wonderful experience of playing organic music that is really a mix of the seven individuals. There is no way I could make Flogging Molly on my own. It wouldn’t work like that, but together we create the sound. I don’t have a need to make a specific style of music. I want to make the best music I can make. I’m really proud of the way it came out on this new Bunny Gang record.
By the Barricade: Getting into the album, Thrive is due out Sept 23 and there is also a track called “Thrive” – is this based on the movie?
By the Barricade: In reference to some of the tracks, was there a particular incident that was the catalyst for the song “The Reckoning?”
Nathen Maxwell: The beginning of it was years back when our last president, George W. (Bush) had the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner on the side of the battleship. With the months and years following that I realized we were still at war. Being a pacifist when it comes to international affairs, that is where the thought is coming from. Another victory? Really? What have we gained from these wars especially when you start thinking about our internal problems and problems around the world dealing with humanity? We don’t need to be fighting these wars for oil and without going into all of that, it is basically what “The Reckoning” is about.
By the Barricade: You did a great job of expressing that in a really non-judgmental kind of way through the song. I’ve enjoyed listening to the album and the way that you prompt people to think. Switching gears, I read that you wrote “Sirens through the City” while living in Harbor City where you heard sirens at night, yet this is a very upbeat song of hope. What led to this song?
Nathen Maxwell: When you are writing songs, you don’t always just sit down to write a song, they come when they want to and you are always looking for metaphors. I have something in my heart that I want to get across to people that no matter how bad it seems, it can always be worse so live in the moment and seize the day. You are connected to all of the other people on this planet and your thoughts manifest reality and you have so much more power than most people think or they want you to think. I hope that message is going to be an undercurrent of every song I write. On top of that, what is going on around you? What do you see? While I was sitting there I saw a lot of police activity and that created a story in my head of blurring what you see on the news and movements of powerful people to maybe what some of your friends or relatives are going through.
By the Barricade:How did you become optimistic and what led you to see beyond situations to move ahead?
Nathen Maxwell: A part of it is growing up, surviving all of the darkness and tribulation of being younger. Maybe not for everyone, but for a lot of people it’s a hard knock life out there. You sift through it and you get turned on to things. The big thing for me was Bob Marley. He was talking about serious heavyweight issues that are still necessary to talk about right now. When I play his music for my two year old daughter, she dances and sings and as adults we listen to it and can feel lighthearted and positive like you have the power to do something. Bob was a huge influence in my life and also when you grow up you realize what a beautiful world there is out there. You go for walks, you go surfing, you go for a hike and you go to a concert here and there. If you can’t get your head out of your ass, then go hang out with people who are less fortunate than you.
By the Barricade: It is all perspective. The two tracks “We are the Ones” and “Uprise Underground” are powerful, motivational calls to action. I also read that you have the word revolution tattooed on your wrist. Is there one revolutionary thing people can do right now?
Nathen Maxwell: It is open ended, there are lots of things they can do. This sounds generic, but the first thing they can do is think for themselves. As Jim(Lindberg) from Pennywise says, “Fuck Authority,” but you can make love to authority. *Laughing. As Bob Marley says, “Bend the Law.” Think for yourselves. Don’t take anyone’s word for it, especially powerful people. I just recommend thinking for yourself.
By the Barricade:Your songs do encourage people to be aware of what is going on. How should a person stay informed and positive with so many negative events occurring?
Nathen Maxwell: There are some good think-tanks out there. It is hard to know especially when it has become more and more clear that big media groups are not telling us the whole truth and specific information is being kept from us. There are some, you asked about the Thrive movie, I do find the thrive.com website has a lot of positive insights and developments on what is happening around the world. It’s a good place to start, I take a lot of inspiration from there and it’s part of the reason that I named the album Thrive. There is also AVAAZ.org which is a pretty crucial anonymous group that is bringing voices together and that has helped push the people’s agenda. There is a lot out there and where to start is a great question. I think you should talk to people, find people you respect, find people who resonate and sound like they are speaking the truth, follow what they do. Read both sides and realize that there sometimes more than two sides.
By the Barricade:Is there a cause or project you are passionate about right now?
Nathen Maxwell: My passion is for the ending of the military industrial complex and abolishing the war system. The cool thing for me is that human beings are all brothers and sisters. Once you realize that, war becomes so absurd. To me that is the biggest cause and waking people up to it. Let’s take a hard look at a system that perpetuates this kind of never-ending war. It’s like these are not real humans that are being killed. The whole thing that is going on in Gaza, regardless of what people’s stance is, there are bombs being detonated and humans being ripped apart. Those bombs are made by humans. They are made by first world humans like those in the U.S. and other first world European countries. People have to take a hard look at that and realize that is us building weapons of mass destruction to rip us apart. That is insane.
By the Barricade: It is ridiculous that we as humans cannot resolve things without resorting to that.
Nathen Maxwell: We do have great examples of that. Look at apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandella. He was in prison as a terrorist, but was able to come out of prison, communicate with leaders of the time and eventually through nonviolence, boycotts and sanctions the old power structure of apartheid crumbled and came to its knees. No one dropped a bomb. It wouldn’t have worked anyway. We have many examples of nonviolence such as Ghandi in India where goodness and righteousness is the way forward. We have to stop building those bombs. I live in Colorado with all of these gun shootings and I’m not anti-guns at all, but we need to take a hard look at the manufacturers of these bullets. Are there that many deer?
By the Barricade: Switching gears back to the album, is there a particular track you want to highlight or anything you want to share about it that I haven’t asked you?
Nathen Maxwell: One special event happened during the recording of the album. We were recording the third track on the record, “Illegal Market” and it has a bit of a cumbia feel. I had in my mind an accordion part and that day while we were tracking it, this band from Juarez comes over to check out the studio. They had an accordion player, Luis Pinon, and when he came in I said, “Hey, would you like to play accordion on the track?” He didn’t speak much English and I don’t really speak Spanish but through translation he was able to listen to the track and jumped right into the room. In one take he laid down this killer solo which is on the record. That was a special magical moment from a guest musician on the album. I love it when that happens!
By the Barricade: The unexpected can often be an amazing thing. You also have an instrumental track “Waves” on the album.
Nathen Maxwell: Yes, that is our take on modern day surf music; modern day ‘classic’ surf music. *laughing.
By the Barricade: I saw that The Bunny Gang has a couple of show dates scheduled in Colorado in early October, you have previously traveled to various countries, any upcoming plans to tour?
Nathen Maxwell: The whole schedule is being put together. I know Authority Zero is coming to town and we are really happy to jump on stage with them and get out there and start playing shows. I definitely look forward to touring. There is talk about doing some work in Germany. We will definitely be hitting the west coast sooner than later. I’m looking forward to it but nothing is in stone. I actually have rehearsal tonight.
By the Barricade: We are looking forward to seeing you when you come out. Anything else you would like to say to the readers of By the Barricade maybe about how they can learn more about The Bunny Gang?
Nathen Maxwell: The best way to learn about The Bunny Gang is to come and see us live. Check it out. I’m not the most computer savvy person, but you can go online there is a lot of information there TheBunnyGang.com and there is our Facebook page. It boils down to just listening to the album.
You can get a taste of the Bunny Gang by downloading the track “Sirens through the City” free of charge on Hardline Entertainment’s website and pre-order packages of Thrive are available along with a contest.