Rarely do we become so obsessed with an artist that we make an hours-long trek to find out all about her, but Jesika Von Rabbit–aka Queen of the High Desert–was too damn cool for us to pass up. When she isn’t touring with her solo project (whose sounds are appropriately dubbed “Adult Theme Park Pop”), she’s front woman of Gram Rabbit, an electro-country rock band hailing from Joshua Tree, the infamous desert hub a couple hours south of L.A. We sent a crew to check out her desert digs, snap some shots of her wild, circus-inspired show at Pappy and Harriet’s (those glasses tho!!!), and get a peek into the life of a gal who pretty much only wears custom-made jumpsuits. #YASKWEEN
How did you become Queen of the High Desert?
It’s a self-proclaimed thing. When I moved here 12 or 13 years ago, there wasn’t too much of a music scene–Victoria Williams was out here, and some of the guys from Queens of the Stone Age had a studio out here, but there wasn’t much going on. I’ve been out here for so long and built my band out here. We’ve acquired a very loyal fan base that we’ve dubbed “The Royal Order of Rabbits,” so it just kind of became this little rabbit cult [laughs], and I decided I was the queen of it all.
How do you decide what to wear when you’re getting prepped for a show?
I try to switch it up and always keep my look new–I get a lot of things custom made for me. There’s a shop in Yucca Valley called Funky and Darn Near New that this woman Evelyn owns–she’s been making me some stage pieces. She connected a vintage bustier to pants to make a jumpsuit for me recently. I like to shop for fabric in downtown L.A. and then bring it down here to turn into outfits, mostly jumpsuits. I draw it out for her exactly how I want it: simple, open back, a little flare–and then she makes it. I like to mix in new stuff, too–like I have this pair of astrology leggings I’ll probably wear to my show tonight. My look is probably a mix of vintage and new–I just wear what I like.
You’ve dubbed your musical genre as “Adult Theme Park Pop.” What is that??
My record right now is a little naughty, so it’s adult-themed. And I think there’s something circusy about it, too, like you’re on an amusement park ride–especially in the Psychic Spice video. There are lots of bright colors, but it’s a little dark, and the themes are for adults–it’s fun, but it’s still freaky. And it’s pop! [Laughs] So that’s how I came up with the name.
As a local, what do you think are the can’t-miss Joshua Tree spots?
Pappy & Harriet’s for sure. The Integratron is really cool. The park, if you’re into hiking–I don’t go that much, actually, because it’s too damn hot. I go to the gym instead [laughs]. Evelyn’s shop for sure–Funky and Darn Near New. I like the Joshua Tree Saloon, too. Also definitely check out Art Queen, it’s run by this amazing artist named Shari Elf. She has the World Famous Crochet Museum over there and lots of really cool stuff. She sells all her own art, and it’s really cute. Cher even bought some of her art.
You’re about to go on tour with Eagles of Death Metal–do you think those boys are gonna be able to keep up with you?
[Laughs] I just don’t know what their fan-base is going to think of me–we have pretty different sounds. But I put on a pretty intense show and I bring it; it’s not, like, light, wimpy synth-pop. Plus, a little variety is good.
Is it true that you just called them and told them you wanted to join up with their tour, and that’s how you got on board?
Yeah, pretty much. I just started bugging them–I saw that they were going to be doing some shows in October and that they’d be playing at the Teragram Ballroom in L.A., which I’ve heard great things about. So I called over there to see if I could open for that show, and they said they’d get back with me. A couple days later, I got a call from their booking agent offering me the entire tour! It was pretty awesome.
Who’s inspiring you right now?
I’ve been listening to these vintage astrology records by Sydney Omar lately. They’re kind of ridiculous; I just found them at a thrift store. I love anything colorful and whimsical and weird. Like this other lady, Louise Huebner, she was the official L.A. witch back in the ’60s–I’ve been listening to her a lot. She was really popular; I play it for my girlfriends when they come over. It’s called “Seduction Through Witchcraft,” and she tells you how to cast spells to make yourself more seductive. As far as other bands, I’ve been into De Lux. And I’m really obsessed with [the brand] DI$COUNT UNIVER$E–their look: the make-up and the models, the crazy eyeliner they use–all of it.
Tell us about making the video for Psychic Spice.
It was directed by Jessica Janos, she lives in L.A. I met her about a year ago–I needed a new videographer, and we hit it off. She came up to the desert, and we talked about the vision–we were completely on the same page, so we just went for it. It was shot pretty cheaply, most of it we did in my house. Some of it we shot over at Art Queen, in Shari’s little airstreams. I wanted it to be wacky and colorful, so I got my dancers who perform with me, and my friend Poptart Sprinkle from L.A.–she did all the trapeze stuff. One of the old men who dances with me is a local named Larry–he’s been dancing with me onstage for a year an a half now. I scouted him at the gym, I found him dancing in one of the aerobic rooms by himself–I even took some video of it. He was so awesome, I approached him and asked if he’d be in one of my videos, and now I can’t get rid of him! [Laughs] I pick him up in my van and take him with me to my shows–he can out party all of us even though he’s in his 70s! He’s like a prima donna now–he’s got articles written about him in the Coachella Valley. You know, people just love him. So anyway, yeah, we all came together and made the video happen. We just did our thing.