French for Rabbits’ Brooke Singer dives into the band’s achingly expressive third album ‘The Overflow,’ an intimate and deeply stirring dream folk experience.
Stream: “Live in the Vogelmorn Bowling Club” – French for Rabbits
I didn’t expect it to be, but I think it is an album for introverts.
These past few years of pandemic living have been replete with moments of repose and reflection, and few recording artists soundtrack that kind of introspective experience better than French for Rabbits. With deeply intimate lyrics, immersive instrumentals, and enveloping soundscapes, the band have long been one of New Zealand’s most prized indie music exports. Their third album is a resounding reminder of everything fans have come to love about them over the past decade: An intimate and deeply stirring dream folk experience, The Overflow is as captivating as it is contemplative, inviting us to dwell in vast and wondrous depths as French for Rabbits soak us in their beautiful sound.
Someday I will seek out your heart and I will not divide it.
Pull together each separate part and make it one again.
Too long that I’ve been gone, terrified of wrecking all my
friendships one by one.
Judging me for what I have not done.
It’s just a river, a current.
It’s just a heartbeat out of time.
And I’m afraid I’ll lose you all the time.
And I’m afraid I’ll lose you all the time.
– “The Overflow,” French for Rabbits
Released November 12, 2021, The Overflow hits as hard now as it did eight months ago upon its initial release. French for Rabbits’ third studio album arrived three long years after the band’s stunning sophomore LP The Weight of Melted Snow, which Atwood Magazine premiered, praising at the time as “an intimate record that weighs on the mind, body, and spirit… [bringing] to life a breathtaking array of powerful, stirring, and poignant emotion.”
Hailing from Wellington, New Zealand, French for Rabbits have been actively unleashing their sometimes sweet, sometimes melancholy, and always enchanting brand of dream pop onto the world for ten exhilarating years. The band currently consists of core members Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald alongside drummer Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa (Glass Vaults, Shake’em-Downers) and multi-instrumentalists Penelope Esplin (Moonlander, Grawlixes) and Ben Lemi (Trinity Roots, Dawn Diver, Congress of Animals).
It’s said that many songwriters hit their stride on album #3, and that seems to hold particularly true for Brooke Singer in the case of The Overflow.
“The interesting thing about making a third record, is that it felt like an opportunity to take what I learned from our first two albums – and push forward into new territory while also perfecting things we’d started to explore previously,” Singer tells Atwood Magazine. “I had two main goal with this record – to follow my intuition, and go where it told me to go. The second was to have a really nice time making it, and to choose the path of least resistance – working with people we liked being around! The album is born out of time spent co-writing in the USA and Australia – I learned so much about simplicity, honesty and a good hook during that time and it was kind of nice to bring that into these songs which I feel are very truthful and led by curiosity.”
“I had visions for certain elements – sort of the philosophy behind writing and production as I mentioned above, however the subject matter is often dictated by experiences and thoughts of the moment. ‘Money or the Bag’ was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend that resonated with me, for example. ‘The Dark Arts’ came from a time spent at home where the object around me seemed poignant with memories. I didn’t expect it to be, but I think it is an album for introverts.”
I am immensely proud of The Overflow,” she beams. “I like to think we’ve managed to capture a bit more of us – the big spaces of New Zealand, the layers of harmonies, the intimacy and small moments we celebrate… If you hadn’t listened to a French for Rabbits album, I think it is a nice place to begin.”
It’s a very happy album about sad things, and it’s a bit bolder and brighter than our previous record.
Singer poetically describes the album as “morning mist evaporating.“
She says the album’s title (which shares the name as its opening track) is an attempt to capture the multi-faceted, deeply humanistic nature of the music within. “The Overflow felt like a fitting title as it touches on several themes in the album and on our musical journey,” she explains. “I’ve always been drawn to lyrical ideas that work as double entendre. I love layers, looking at ideas from many angles, and the ambiguity of words. Our music has often touched upon watery and oceanic iconography and themes such as climate change – including on our album “The Weight of Melted Snow” and EP “Claimed by the Sea.” So the album title nods to that. However, this album also explores anxiety, and the title track is a very optimistic song about that point of “overflow.” It is about panic attacks and doing too much. It seemed to suit the album on more than one level.”
Highlights abound throughout The Overflow as French for Rabbits deliver a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack to inner reckoning and warm reflection. Songs like the stirring title track, the intimate and ethereal “The Outsider,” the bittersweet “Money or the Bag,” and dreamy upheaval “The Dark Arts” all make an instant mark on listeners’ ears. As a whole, The Overflow is impressively cohesive, despite each song introducing a world of its own.
“The Dark Arts” is of particular note: An introspective, poignant exploration of objects, memory, and meaning, the song dives into the depths of our shared humanity through beautifully bittersweet lyrics and equally affecting, brooding music. The song finds vocalist and songwriter Brooke Singer, unencumbered by pretense, sharing her most vulnerable self: A lone soul together with her memories and possessions – the sum of a lifetime, but to what end? She spares no expense in a chorus that gives listeners pause, imploring us to consider our own values and how we manifest meaning in the tangibles and intangibles of our lives.
The dark arts of preservation,
the mottled collection of displacement.
To love them is to know how it feels to be lost and to be left.
You know, you remind me of a boy I once knew?
Such a meaningful album comes with plenty of meaningful moments for listener and artist alike. “I do have favourite moments,” Singer reflects, “like the swirling psychedelic bridge in ‘The Overflow’ and the nor-westerly wind at the beginning of ‘Middle of the House.’ But it is hard to pick one song, as they each have their place and their reason for existing.”
Lyrically, she adds, “I love how when words are strung together in a different way, they can surprise us, and make us see something ordinary in a new light. These are some that I am fond of…
“To love them is to know how it feels to be lost and to be left. A barnacle shell and a half used film, marrow of bone and a picture I drew…”
“A life or a dream? Call the submarine. If I could sink right under, avoid the rain and thunder, I would never have to second guess.”
“In the middle of the house where you grew up, saw the way that you went back into your shell. Could feel the cold of your mother – see the marks on the walls? baby, how you’ve grown.”
For French for Rabbits, The Overflow is an undeniable triumph.
This is the New Zealand band at their dreamiest, at their folkiest, at their most intimate and at their most vulnerable. Singer has never sounded quite as raw, nor have the band made music with so much depth and intent.
“This album re-affirmed my love for crafting a song and for production,” Singer shares. “I think it is album that let us be creative and curious and I’m very thankful we got to make it! It was a collaborative effort. On putting it out… well, I have learned that releasing an album in the middle of a pandemic requires throwing out the rulebook, a lot of hoping for the best, and being happy for the small wins. I hope listeners will get both a sense of calmness from listening to The Overflow, but also the opportunity to listen deeply and discover little moments that make them think.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside French for Rabbits’ The Overflow with Atwood Magazine as Brooke Singer goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s third LP!
Stream: ‘The Overflow’ – French for Rabbits
:: Inside The Overflow ::
“It’s just a river, a current. It’s just a heartbeat out of time.
And I’m afraid I’ll lose you all the time.”
This song is about panic attacks, anxiety, friendship, and to-do lists. Holding space for the demands of daily life when it all gets a bit overwhelming. On the surface though, the song is uplifting– John and I wrote the opening riff together and it is like a little golden ball of light when I listen back.
“Will you remind us, the reason for kindness? Cause lately for you it seems more of a game. Who is more moral? Yes, you’re leading the quarrel! No space to explore on uneasy terrain”.
This song is about a few things – but I wrote it as a way for me to try and get my head around the way people communicate on the internet. There is no space for ambiguity in a tweet – there seems to be so much point scoring – and “performative” kindness on social media. It can sometimes feel very hollow and it makes me sad.
“Leave me alone with a book in my room. I’ll find myself there. The outsider”
This is a song for introverts – I resonate deeply with the sentiment of this song. I am the girl who goes to a party and spends the evening patting the cat before retiring early to read a book in bed.
Walk the Desert
“Even though my lips are parched and my blood sugars low, I rather walk the desert home”
This is another song exploring what it is to be an introvert. I wish I was brought up in a culture where it was normal to be expressive with your emotions – but I only know how to put them into songs and the written word. This song is about how I’d rather walk a desert home than tell someone exactly how I feel. It is a vulnerable thing.
The Dark Arts
“The dark arts of preservation, the mottled collection of displacement. To love them is to know how it feels to be lost and to be left. You know, you remind me of a boy I once knew?”
At shows, I describe this as my song about hoarding. But, it is really a song about objects and the memories they keep. It is a romantic sort of song, all billowing piano and strings. I imagine it is one you would dramatically meander around your summer house too, but in autumn wearing a flowing dress with wild hair.
“Damn my soul, it’s got so very low. There’s nowhere else to go from here but up!”
This song makes me a little gleeful – it is so down in the dumps, but there are so many optimistic twists and turns in the lyrics. I love the line, “There’s nowhere else to go from here but up.” Another line I like is “Put your coat on, we’re entering the storm. I’ve backed into a corner to be freed. There is no going back, the hatchets been unpacked…” Normally speaking you’d bury the hatchet – but here, I decided to subvert this idea – and the idea that being back into a corner can also set you free.
Money or the Bag
“The money or the bag? Your dream or his hand? If only I could have both of them, cause it’s the best thing I ever had. The sting or the bee, it’s not easy. One suffocates you, the other erases your chance to be happy.”
The song is accidentally named after a historic New Zealand game show called “It’s in the Bag”. Looking back, we can see stark moments of sexism, the 1960’s house wife – in this game where the contestant answers a series of questions and then gets to choose between the money or the bag.
“Punch in the time cause your nearly done. Put it on record that you’ve almost won
Love is a construct and we both know – it’s just confidence, smoke and mirrors.”
I remember my PE teacher telling the class once that love is just a combination of lust and intense friendship – and this sort of stuck with me uneasily. I couldn’t believe that love was not more than this. It seemed so mundane.
Nothing in My Hands
“Every last breath that was granted – we never stopped to think that it would be counted”
I am very fond of this song – a song about the bittersweet nostalgia for something that is coming to an end. The end of the world. The last dance. The lyrics in this song are some of my favourites and it is a joy to play – I feel like this song highlights everyone in the band. It is pretty dark though – when we look back, did we do all we could do?
Middle of the House
“In the middle of the house where you grew up, saw the way that you went back into your shell – could feel the cold of your mother. See the marks on the walls? baby, how you’ve grown.”
This song is set in a creaky house, battered by Canterbury’s nor-westerly wind. It is a song about letting go of childhood trauma. I don’t know who this song is for, but I hope it finds whoever needs it. You know those lines you’d mark against the door frame – showing how tall you have grown? I love this metaphor. I wrote this one with Jol Mulholland who recorded and co-produced the record and our friend Alexander Biggs who is one of my favourite lyricists.
Stream: ‘The Overflow’ – French for Rabbits
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📸 © Lily Paris West
:: Stream French for Rabbits ::