Small band, big sounds

The band Rabbit in the Rye

L to R: Brendan O’Connor ’09 with bandmates Joe Mettler and Alexander Lavon

Brendan O’Connor ’09

While a student, Brendan O’Connor ’09 could often be found at the Barge Canal Coffee Company, performing, handling sound, and enjoying local music. Now, after working as a microbiologist and starting an organic farm with a friend, O’Connor has found his place back in Hamilton as the drummer in folk trio Rabbit in the Rye.

O’Connor, bassist Alexander Lavon, and guitarist Joe Mettler have been busy creating what their website describes as “a collection of bittersweet fables and genuine storytelling.” After recently winning a regional music award, releasing a new album, and even helping to create a new beer, O’Connor spoke about how Rabbit in the Rye is making big waves from Hamilton down the East Coast.

Rabbit in the Rye. Joseph, the guitarist, came up with the band name. It is a combination of the books Rabbit Run by John Updike and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. They both have despicable main characters, but despite that, you find yourself trying to like them.

What the band’s been up to. We spent the end of August to December in Brooklyn because we were commissioned by In the Basement Theater Company to write a score and provide the live soundtrack for an interactive play, The Lady in Red Converses with Diablo. We’ve also toured down to North Carolina and out to Nashville and Chicago. We’ve played very heavily regionally, and will be doing a couple of runs to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. We’re trying to get back into the studio to record another album by the end of the summer so we can begin touring again in the fall.

Winning a SAMMY. We were nominated for the Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist, a part of the SAMMYs (Syracuse Area Music Awards). This award highlights new music that’s coming into the area. We didn’t even know that we’d been nominated until I got a phone call saying we’d won! It was pretty cool to be honored in that way.

New tunes. Our most recent album, Live at Subrosa, was the result of playing eight songs in front of a live audience during the Subrosa Sessions at Subcat Studios in Syracuse. I played mandolin as well as the drums. Our songwriting process is very collaborative; we all come from different perspectives and have different ears, so this helps to make our music sound the way that it does — and sometimes it gets pretty strange! We’re actually releasing this album as “pay what you want,” because it didn’t cost us anything to make it.

Bringing more music to Hamilton. About a year ago, I built a music studio in Hamilton with local resident Zach Collins, and I’ve been working out of that more heavily. Collins and I have been running it together with Rabbit in the Rye’s bassist, Alex Lavon. We mostly use the space to record, but it’s also used for lessons and as a practice space for local bands.

Drink up. We teamed up with Good Nature Brewing to make the second beer in their Artist Series, the Rabbit in the Rye PA. Joe drew the label for the bottle and some of the text on the bottle also came from us. We take it on the road with us to shows and spread the word about; they continue to sell it at the Tap Room and in bottles across the region. It’s been a really cool way to get people to come out.

 — Article by Kellyann Hayes ’16; Photo by Jim Button Photography