New York’s BUNNY X mined high school nostalgia for their debut long player ‘Young & In Love’ released in 2021.
Partying like it was 1986, it was a straightforward pop statement that unashamedly recalled John Hughes movies and MTV. But the duo comprising of Abigail Gordon and Mary Hanley are now sophomores and their thoughts turn to ‘Love Minus 80’.
Joining the Sci-Fi club, they have become more dystopian in their outlook as novels, films, television shows and interstellar romances take over as inspiration. Abigail Gordon chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK on behalf of BUNNY X on what many artists call that difficult second album and how despite the darkness, love is still the key…
What prompted BUNNY X to conceive a Sci-Fi themed album in ‘Love Minus 80’ after the high school nostalgia of ‘Young & In Love’?
At the very early stages of the writing process for this album, we realized that we wanted to do something in stark contrast to ‘Young & In Love’ and all that the record embodied such as themes of high school nostalgia and first crushes.
We knew pretty much at the outset that we wanted our next release to be much darker and more introspective than the debut record, but we honestly didn’t realize until we had a few songs done (or mostly done) that we wanted to take things in a Sci-Fi themed direction. In fact, the first song we wrote for the album was ‘Good Love Gone Bad’ which was inspired by a Don Dellpiero song called ‘Good Deal Gone Bad’. I think I may have actually sent the early demo over to David (Don Dellpiero) but we ended up creating completely new music for it as it ended up taking on a life of its own.
‘Something To Rely On’ was written shortly after that one and it became clear we were absolutely going in a darker direction but it wasn’t until the title track ‘Love Minus 80’ started to come together that we realized this was going to mostly end up being a Sci-Fi / Futuristic themed album.
Had the real life events of the world in the past 18 months had a bearing on your mindset for ‘Love Minus 80’?
Yes and no. In honesty, ‘Young & in Love’ was more inspired by those events and was truly healing to work on during an unbelievably stressful time for all of us. Some of those tracks (like ‘Perfect Paradise’ and ‘Can’t Wait’) were 100% inspired by feelings and emotions that were present during the height of the pandemic.
I had Mary in my mind for example when I wrote the lyrics for ‘Perfect Paradise’ as we weren’t able to spend as much time with each other in those days and it was a good reminder that the simple things in life (like staying up late talking with a dear friend over a glass of wine) are the most important and what bring about true joy and peace – or paradise as it were.
As for ‘Love Minus 80’, life was beginning to fully resume when the album started to take shape and things were becoming more and more hectic after a long period of quietude. I’m sure many of us had a similar experience and went through that feeling of being pulled in a million directions all of a sudden.
I’m not sure if this ended up shaping the overall mood of the record or not, but I was definitely in a stressful place when some of the earlier songs were crafted and it’s quite possible that those emotions creeped their way onto the album.
A case in point in relation to current events could be ‘The Forever War’ and its subject matter tracing a love story between two soldiers attempting to find each other again after being separated in battle?
For better or worse, this seems to be a longstanding and ongoing theme throughout many of our releases.
The searching-for-your-long-lost-loved-one-somewhere-in-deep-space was certainly the plot in ‘Unknown Places’ (2018) and appears again on the album in what is largely a sequel track to ‘Unknown Places’, ‘The Darkest Place’. Apparently we are obsessed with vague and mysterious places haha. But yes, this same theme is ever present in ‘The Forever War’, in ‘Breaking Away (Song for Chevette & Rydell)’ and to a slightly lesser extent in the title track ‘Love Minus 80’ as well. We love ourselves a romance saga set in deep space what can we say? Ha!
While the entire record is pretty personal, ‘The Forever War’ is especially so as my dad lent me the book which ended up inspiring the song in its entirety. It’s a fascinating read by the way, the author is Joe Haldeman and I highly recommend it to anyone that’s into military science fiction as it’s quite thought provoking and is actually an anti-war book according to the author.
In any event, when I told my dad about the song idea, he got pretty excited about it and then proceeded to rewrite the lyrics which is reason #98,674 why I love him and why anyone reading this would too if they met him. He also wrote some of the lyrics on ‘Unknown Places’ so if anyone needs help with song lyrics, particularly if the theme is Sci-Fi, my dad is your guy.
‘The Darkest Place’ could be considered as a metaphor for more personal matters despite the Sci-Fi inspiration?
Absolutely. It’s essentially a song about losing someone and wanting to get them back but also about feelings of regret and even shame for having lost them (or let them go) in the first place. These are widely universal emotions and we’re always trying to tap into that as I think it’s so important to be able to relate to and see yourself in the music you’re listening to. We are all flawed and we all make bad choices sometimes. Sometimes those choices can have a lifelong impact and sometimes we never fully recover and that’s okay. It’s part of life and it’s something we all experience at one time or another.
Having worked with producer GOSTEFFECTS on ‘Young & In Love’, how was the creative dynamic this time round with that experience behind you, as ‘Love Minus 80’ does come across as being more assured?
All I have to say is: I still thank the sun, moon, stars, planets and even the exoplanets that I happened upon GOSTEFFECTS’ profile one day in a random fit of frustration I was having with being unable to get my mixes to the next level. After working with GOSTEFFECTS on the first album, I knew there was no going back and, as you alluded to, this last go round was even easier than the first since he and I have become true collaborators at this point. He’s become a bit of a mind reader in that he usually knows what I’m hoping to accomplish without me having to go into any lengthy description and just kind of understands what the brief is from the jump. I’m eternally grateful to GOSTEFFECTS for helping us bring these projects to life.
You have worked with SELLOREKT / LA DREAMS again and adapted two of his previously released instrumentals on ‘Breaking Away (Song for Chevette & Rydell)’ and ‘Chiba City Blues’?
Kevin of SLA Dreams is an absolute diamond of a person and has there ever been a more prolific artist in the synthwave genre? I honestly don’t think so as he churns out the hits like an absolute wizard again and again. It’s been awesome working with Kevin off and on over the past few years and we’re extremely grateful that he keeps having us back and even more so that he trusts us with his incredible compositions and allows us to add onto them. Aside from our collaborations with him, I’m looking forward to hearing what he’s been cooking up with Roxi Drive and Mayah Camara. The boy doesn’t sleep!
This was the second track we worked on for the album and was created before we settled on our Sci-Fi theme.
Once the rest of the tracks started to take shape and I realized it didn’t really fit in with the overarching aesthetic, I was concerned that this one wouldn’t work on the record. However, we felt that the moodiness of and driving BPM on the track fits with the overall vibe we were going for and I’m glad we included it. The song has a bit of an end of the world feeling to me, perhaps because the characters in the song have become so toxic and destructive to one another such that there’s nothing much left for them to give. Fun!
The theme of unrequited love is explored again on ‘Daydreaming’ and you used ‘Dancing On My Own’ by Robyn as the rhythmic template?
Yep. We can’t seem to help ourselves when it comes to unrequited love and themes of lost love and longing. I think it’s because it’s just such a universal feeling that we’ve all had and I think even when you’re happy, and in a good partnership, and / or a good place in your life, we can’t help but think about the roads not taken and the paths not explored. I think it’s just part of the human condition to wonder or daydream as it were about other places, lives and people and how you may (or may not) have been happy and fulfilled living those other lives. I think a lot of sci-fi readers are also kind of obsessed with parallel universes and alternate timelines and ‘Daydreaming’ is somewhat inspired by that.
I definitely wanted us to do a more upbeat, danceable track on this album since most of the songs are pretty midtempo and so what better template to use than Robyn’s iconic ‘Dancing on My Own’ and ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ era bops to accomplish that?!
How gorgeous are Orion’s vocals on this track though? Not gonna lie, when Mary and I first heard the mix he sent, we blushed like some dang schoolgirls! Phew! I had a feeling the duet would lend the song some serious depth and power but I had no idea just how great Mary and Orion’s voices would blend together. I must have first reached out to Orion about the duet idea in mid-2022 kind of around the time we were working on our recent freestyle collabs (ie ‘Cross The Line’ and ‘Promised’) and fortunately for us, he agreed to the project right away. It took me a second to get him the final demo of memory serves and then he sent us his mix not long after that and really breathed some new life into the song.
In terms of the futuristic sounds on the track, I have to give full credit to GOSTEFFECTS for that – that was his pure genius mind at work there. We decided to add in a little sample from my favorite sci-fi movie ‘Logan’s Run’ so there’s also a little Easter egg in there for any fans of the film (I see you Marc!).
‘Good Love Gone Bad’ is perhaps icier than we are used to with regards BUNNY X?
Totally. While ‘Young & in Love’ was earnest and sweet nostalgia, this album – particularly songs like ‘Good Love Gone Bad’ and ‘Something To Rely On’ – is teeming with some much darker and heavier elements like rage and resentment and fear and loneliness. I’m not entirely sure what inspired all this but I guess looking around at the state of things here at home and elsewhere, it’s perhaps not so surprising that some of these songs came out how they did.
‘Good Love Gone Bad’ is also a frustrating Catch 22 in that even when the relationship (or “war” in this case) is over, nothing really changes as so much can remain unresolved long after an ending. It’s possible that I’m completely overanalyzing it all now with the benefit / lens of time, but so much of what we’re seeing on our screens are the same problems over and over again with no real evidence that things will improve anytime soon. I think we experience this hopelessness in our own personal relationships that have failed but we also see it play out in the news every day.
Which songs from the album are your own favourites?
I find myself listening to ‘Breaking Away’ fairly often because I love the dreamy vibe of it. Similarly, ‘Love Is An Empire’ also has that gauzy, hazy quality that I enjoy so I’ve been listening to that one a bunch as well.
‘Love Is An Empire’ was actually a last minute addition to the record but now that it’s an integral part of it, I can’t imagine the track not being there. It was pure joy to work with Don Dellpiero on that and have him give us his blessing to add onto his work.
What’s next for BUNNY X, there were hints of a return to Italo Disco?
We do have a few more collabs in the works that we started on some time ago so we want to see those through now that this project has wrapped.
I’m also thinking it may be high time we put out a collection of all the Italo songs we’ve released over the years so everything is in one place. I also think it would be great to get some of the older tracks remastered and perhaps include some previously unreleased Italo tracks cuz we sure do have ’em!
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to BUNNY X
‘Love Minus 80’ is released by Aztec Records on 26th May 2023, available as a CD, vinyl LP, cassette and download from https://bunnyx.bandcamp.com/
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
6th May 2023