The husband/wife team of Phoenix band the Love Me Nots, Michael Johnny Walker and Nicole Laurenne, has never been afraid to reinvent itself. The garage rockers in 2013 debuted their electro-fuzz outfit Zero Zero, merging 1960s psychedelia, gritty guitar licks, and new wave dance pop. Now there's Motobunny, a garage-meets-glam-meets-'80s new wave, with an epic power ballad for good measure, rounding out their debut album.
A collaboration with West Coast psych band Woolly Bandits bassist Rik Collins and his wife/vocalist Christa, Motobunny is alive with swirling organs, heavy guitars, stomping bass lines, and sultry-to-raw dual female vocals.
"It's a big glammy pop thing. There's some poppier hooks, but plenty of big chords underneath," Laurenne says during a group interview with Motobunny, "all in pajamas and cuddled up" on Laurenne and Walker's couch. (This reporter was not there to see it.) "We can rely on our rock and garage roots and embellish it with some interesting effects or new wave keytar or whatever."
"Let's Go Out," off the self-titled debut album due in March, has an anthemic quality revolving around big organ riffs and big, bouncy dance beats. It sounds, I offer, like something Berlin might have written.
"We really were trying to do something more poppy and different, actually," she concurs. "We wanted to do some real rock 'n' roll, but not be pigeonholed into anything."
The band's namesake song is a revved-up rocker, while "Apocalypse Twist" screams rockabilly garage. "I Warned You" is a gritty power-pop ballad.
"There was really no one way of writing the songs," Rik Collins explains of the diversity on the album. "We have so many different influences and lives in music. We didn't want to restrict ourselves at all in this band. It's pretty much a real natural evolution to what happened. Nothing was really planned."
At a glance, there are plenty of bands out there with multiple female vocalists, but few where both sing and front the band. Unsurprisingly, given the tonal qualities, musical backgrounds, and even the strong friendship, both voices work succinctly together to create a powerful band dynamic.
"When you listen to our separate bands, it doesn't sound like we have similar voices at all, but when we played these recordings back, there were times we couldn't tell who was singing. Our voices are so similar on these songs it's bizarre," Laurenne says.
Motobunny works, the band members implore, not simply because of musicianship and an ability to generate fresh ideas, but because of the positive energy that evolves only out of like-minded attitudes and bottomless friendship.
"It's the opposite of some bands, where you try to become friends with them, but they're strangers you play music with," Collins says. "These are our friends. That's what you're hearing."
Adds Laurenne, "It doesn't feel like a job or anything. We're all having a real good time. Even off the stage, we like to hang out together and chill."
Motobunny formed following years of the Love Me Nots and Woolly Bandits sharing breakfast after having shared the previous night's concert bill. Morning conversations were typically filled with forever unfulfilled "we shoulds" and "let's get togethers." It wasn't until Walker and Laurenne joined the Woolly Bandits onstage during 2013's Ink N' Iron festival in Long Beach that the talk ended and the collaboration began.
"We had so much fun doing that that we were one step closer to actually doing something." Collins says.
Done. Motobunny is now revved up and ready to hit the road.
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
Like Up on the Sun on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest local music news and conversation.