Interview: Craig Mabbitt of The Dead Rabbitts

Dead Rabbitts

Recently I was able to catch up with the lead vocalist of Escape the Fate and The Dead Rabbitts, Craig Mabbitt, before the release of the latter band’s third studio album called Rumination. In this interview I asked Craig about the differences between writing music for both bands, the touring plans for each project, working with veteran producer John Feldman, and he also shared about his recent sobriety that allowed him to see his career path in a much better light. I enjoyed my conversation with Craig as he shared insight on the writing behind both bands, and The Dead Rabbitts’ latest album, Rumination, hits the streets this Friday (April 1).

Thank you for your time tonight, Craig, and congrats on the upcoming release of the new Dead Rabbitts LP called Rumination. So where did this album title come from, and why did you choose this title for the record?

So the title came from a single that we worked on over the pandemic, there wasn’t really a set plan to do an entire album. But with the pandemic, kind of putting a hold on everything, and with ETF releasing an album, they got pushed back about three times because of the pandemic. And then kind of getting buried underneath all the COVID stuff, I just kept going in the studio with my buddy Eric, who plays bass for Escape and guitar for Dead Rabbitts and has a studio in his house. And I just kept getting together with him working on songs, and we’re just like, let’s just do an album, let’s self produce it. Why not? And so the title, Rumination, comes from my experience of COVID. I found sobriety right at the beginning. And I’m coming on two years sober now. So that tells you how long this shit has been going on. Which I’m very stoked about. 

Congratulations, by the way!

Thank you very much. I’m very excited about it being almost two years, I just can’t believe we’ve been in the pandemic for two years and counting now. And so that’s where the title rumination came from. It’s a thought process where you’re just kind of overthinking and, and thinking about all the worst outcomes of every situation and things that don’t even exist, which is definitely something I’ve dealt with. And it’s one of the things that led to my alcohol addiction in the first place is I just wanted to drown all those feelings out. So that’s where the song came from. And I felt it fitting to name the album that as you know, the lyrical content of a lot of these tracks kind of follows that and everything I’ve been going through the past two years, so the title just made sense to me.

Nice. So what did you learn from the recording of the other Dead Rabbitts albums that you put into the new record? 

I just did Rabbitts since it has always been my baby, because there’s just less cooks in the kitchen. With Escape, we go into the studio, all the guys in the band have an opinion, the owner of the label has an opinion, the label’s contact at the streaming service has an opinion of what they would like to hear, and it’s just too many people in there. And Dead Rabbitts is something that I can just…this is what I want to do, so that’s what we’re doing. And this time around, I’ve been able to do that even more. So because we’re self producing it, I haven’t even hired a buddy that’s going to produce the album. Which was weird at first, because I loved working with Andrew Wade, on some of the past Dead Rabbitt stuff. I loved working with Caleb Shomo, on the very first Dead Rabbitts release. They always have great ideas and bring stuff to the table. But this is the very first one where it’s just me. There’s nobody to look to other than Eric, who’s helped us produce the album, who’s in the band, and knows what we want together more so than somebody else. But it was just nice to say, what do you think about that to somebody that produces a lot of stuff and just has that ear for things that just go around? I didn’t have that. 

So does he remain a trusted source for whether or not you did determine the quality was up to par?

Yeah, because I get in my own head a lot. So even though I write everything with Dead Rabbitts, I’d be in with a producer saying, ‘What do you think about that?’ And if I get that little thumbs up, okay. And this time around, I’m just asking, Eric, in the group with me. Which is fine. That’s the biggest difference. I’ve learned how to be more confident in what I’m doing just with myself and the guys in my group.

What are the major differences in writing for The Dead Rabbitts than for Escape the Fate? Especially as far as lyrical material?

It’s definitely a little more personal, Dead Rabbits is, because when you have that many cooks in the studio, so to say with Escape, you try to get a little personal and maybe the guys are like, well, this doesn’t make sense. Or what’s this about? Or you might feel a little weird opening up to them because you’ve heard them say no to 10 ideas that you’ve already had. And you’re like, Alright, I’m kind of over it for today. Robert, the drummer of Escape the Fate, has no filter when it comes to this is what we’re doing. This isn’t about this in my life and we got to do it for this album. This dude has 100 ideas, and this guy has 100 ideas. What about those? No, there’s the best one!

That’s funny. So do you plan to tour extensively on Rumination? Or are you going to continue to split your time between The Dead Rabbitts and Escape the Fate?

I’ll continue to split my time with Escape, but a lot of things have changed. Because once again, because of COVID, our drummer is more of a homebody now. He’s figured out how to be there with his kids all day. And when this was something we had been doing all the time, 10 months out of the year, since we were all 15-16 years old. That’s just what it was. This is my career, I have a tour coming up, I have to leave, but let’s figure it out. Now he’s figured out home life, and sort of randomly has a two month long tour coming up next week? Nope. There’s no way he can’t do that anymore. He needs time to figure things out now. So that is the biggest difference. When it comes to Escape, we just did a two week festival round, not just did, but back in the fall now, and Robert wasn’t able to do it. He injured his foot. Kevin wasn’t able to do it since he’s too busy in the studio. And the way things are being booked, you could try to book it in advance right now. And it could come up a week before you’re supposed to leave and then it gets canceled. Or it could be booked last minute because it’s actually going to happen. And then you have a bunch of your members that can’t make it in that short amount of time with not that much preparation. So it’s definitely weird. But with Dead Rabbitts, all the guys are here with me locally in Arizona. We all grew up here. So we can all talk to each other and figure it out and be like, “Hey, do you want to do this if we need to rehearse?” There’s not 10 million flights that need to be booked, just to have people show up for rehearsals the week before you got to leave for tour. So it’s a little easier. But I’ll continue to do both until we get back to some sense of normality with the way touring and shows and concerts were running. Who knows? I thought it’d be over a year ago.

Yeah, exactly. A lot of people didn’t know it would take this long when all the different COVID variants were going around and everything like that. Do you have to get a little bit more strategic with the touring as far as a regional focus? Is there like a centralized place that you could do like a mini tour?

It just depends on what’s available. What offers do we have? We have this 12 year, we’re calling it, because we missed the 10 year <of the self-titled LP anniversary>. So we’re calling it 12 year, but we got the offer to do a festival in Florida, with Danny Wimmer. But the tour ends at…I can’t remember the name of the venue, but I know it ends in California. So we end the tour in California, we fly out to Florida, we fly back to California. And then we drove out to Texas…

Not really the traditional tour routing! <Laughter>

I just got to figure out, and even the routing, I had the opportunity to take Dead Rabbitts out on the road with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. And even the routing of tours that actually do happen. I’m like, this doesn’t make sense anymore? For well over a decade now I’ve done tours where the routing doesn’t really make sense. But this is crazy. Going back and forth. Because promoters are doing shows right now based on what venues are open, what venues are selling a decent amount of tickets, because once they have to require a vaccination card, or negative tests, the sales go way down. People are returning tickets and then the venue has to get changed, but there’s no other venue available. So it’s just tough out there.

Yeah, the music industry is really shifting a lot. Can you talk more about the recording process of both the Dead Rabbitts and Escape the Fate? Do you find any vocal challenges going from screaming to clean vocals? 

I’ve learned for some reason, Dead Rabbitts is easier to do, which it seems like that would be more difficult because there’s more screaming and stuff. But I guess that’s just the style that I kind of came from. I did the screaming thing, and then the kind of mid-range high vocal thing for a very long time with the first group that I started out with and with Escape, especially when we work with Feldy <John Feldman>. It’s always high energy, high impact, vocal vocal vocal vocal vocal at the tippy top of your range. And then let’s get higher than that. So that ends up feeling like it’s a little more difficult on just my vocals to perform in the studio and then perform live than even the heavier stuff has been lately. I don’t know…Dead Rabbitts is more in my comfort zone.

That’s interesting! Because you would think screaming would cause more stress on the vocal cords…

It’s less stressful for me to do a screaming part here and there, for some reason.

Escape the Fate released their seventh studio album, called Chemical Warfare last year, like you mentioned. What do you feel is the ultimate legacy now for Escape the Fate, now seven albums in? And is there a song or album you feel is the “best” version of Escape the Fate?

I don’t know what album represents the best version of Escape at this point. And I feel like we’re all, especially me and Robert, have conversations all the time with each other, that we’re still working on that legacy. It’s a weird time right now. We’re going out on our second celebratory tour, celebrating 12, but 10 years of now, the self-titled album. We did that with This War Is Ours almost three years ago now. So it’s insane. Our thought process is, have we already done it? If we already reached as far as ETF is gonna go? Because you got to go out there and do these celebratory albums. It’s fun for us. It’s fun for the fans. It’s cool to revisit it and do a whole tour dedicated to that. But it makes us wonder if we already reached that, and now we’re just all let’s celebrate 10 years of this, 10 years of that? Or are we to a place where we’re just gonna continue doing that now for every album?

Yeah, it’s usually like a bad sign when the label starts rolling out like Greatest Hits after Greatest Hits, and stuff like that…<Laughter>

10 years of the Ungrateful album. But then on the other hand, the things we were talking about while looking at it, we’re like, Well, how many bands do you know that go out there and they’ve done multiple album 10-year tours? We feel like if we announced a 10 year for Ungrateful when it got to that point, people would be pumped. And then at that point, what do you do? So we’ve just been laughing about it and making jokes of, is that where we’re at now? Or do we need to release now that album, that’s going to be like our new staple? So we don’t know what that legacy is? Because we’re like, is that the legacy already? And is that where we are? Or do we have yet to release that album, that’s going to leave the staple behind because we’ve all gone through so much stuff, since those elements came out. We were all so young, we didn’t really know what we were doing or where it was gonna go. And now that we’re here, a lot of us are finally maturing. Some of us took longer than others. Me, I’m finally sober, in my 30s. I have a lot I want to say now. And so we’re all just very, very grateful that we still have the opportunity to number one still be around. And number two, still have the opportunity to go in the studio and create new music.

That’s awesome. So what do you find to be the most cathartic about having this creative outlet of The Dead Rabbitts?

It’s a way for me to get those feelings out. Music was always my escape. Even when I was really, really young, before I was even in a band, I’d lock my door and scream into my little Walmart stereo speaker system that Santa brought me with the five disc changer and I would just scream into the speakers of that, and they would just help me help me feel better. And then as I got older, that turned into addiction, and it turned into a career in music. And so I had this other escape along with my main escape, and I just got lost in that. And having Dead Rabbitts just enables me to say what I want to say a little more to myself, sometimes when I don’t get a chance to with Escape.

Makes sense. So the last question I have for you is are there any other surprises in store for fans of both projects for one, and are there any either vinyl reissues to look out for or unique merch items as you reach each of these album anniversaries?

I’m getting images right now of this new merch line for the tour. I don’t know how many people talk about merch lines that they have coming out, but I’m stoked. I’m very excited. It’s completely different for Escape the Fate, the type of merch line we’re doing. Like, I want to wear this stuff myself! So I’m personally very excited about the merch we’re bringing out for the self-titled tour. We’re discussing trying to do a collector’s vinyl for the self-titled tour at the end of the month. And then we go back in with Feldy to start writing the new Escape record. And the Dead Rabbitts record comes out on April 1st.

Cool. So any last words before we wrap up the call?

Yeah, thanks for listening to my stuff for all these years and giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do and create music. And for hanging out with me and supporting me on Twitch every day since the pandemic started. We do a lot of fun stuff over on that channel and special unreleased songs that I just found from my email. And I’ll share it with everybody on the channel and so we have a good time over there, man. It’s really been helping me get through all this. It’s almost like a family. That also feels good.

And congrats again on your two years of sobriety. I very much look forward to catching either Escape or Dead Rabbitts on the road!

I guess Baltimore would be the closest for you. Come say hi!

Have a great night, Craig!