Feminism and Groceries Lead to Deeper Truths for Hey There Rabbit

Sprackett & Sprout bills itself as “an EP about feminism and groceries,” and sure enough, it delivers on that promise with incisive lyrics on gender politics and trips to Trader Joe’s. It’s the debut record by North Carolina duo Hey There Rabbit, featuring singer/songwriter Gabrielle Secker and producer Colin Read–each of them on a wide range of instruments–playing melodic, emo-tinged indie pop. And like other great debuts, the songs are flush with the exuberance, like the opening of creative floodgates after years of absorbed experience and growth in progress.

In an Instagram post taking stock of the personal history behind the project, Secker lays out the inspirations: distrust of men, depression, and body image, to name a few, stretching all the way back to childhood trauma. She also brings up therapy and self-improvement, addressed most directly in the self-deprecatingly funny “Georgia O’Keeffe,” and that work comes through in her vocal delivery all throughout the EP. She sings in free-flowing, confessional verses, in and out of meter, like a stream of consciousness flowing over its banks, but it’s the kind of spontaneity that takes preparation. Excuse the extended metaphor, but it takes a lot of rain to push the water level that high.

On the production side, that translates to an arrestingly vulnerable sound, as in “Don’t Let Him Pick the Movie,” dotted with open-hearted strings and xylophones, following the exploits of an unreliable family member. Bits of sound painting in the arrangement, like a synth drum that sounds like the outgoing FaceTime ringtone, make the scene all the more tangible. The duo also knows when to pull back, as in the lo-fi folk of “Trader Joe’s,” where Secker’s uncertainty about her future living arrangement gets to hang in the air–and there’s plenty of that in the field-recorded instrumental.

She’s adept at weaving the record’s twin surface-level lyrical themes–feminism and groceries, ideology and everyday life–through each track, always uncovering deeper truths in the process. On “Sarah Palin and Prednisone,” for example, Secker faces the pitfalls of gender representation in politics. She recalls with embarrassment that she once dressed up as the former governor of Alaska for a school project, but not with any understanding of what the woman stood for. As she explains: “I just saw someone with bangs and glasses at a podium who looked like me.”

With a reference to a hypothetical AOC tramp stamp later on, she makes it clear her standards for role models have gone up, but the specter of knee-jerk impressions–particularly the visual–continues to haunt her, in her struggle to get an accurate medical diagnosis as well as her interpersonal relationships. Through her misunderstanding of Sarah Palin, she sees an echo of the way she too has been flattened by the male gaze: “I know that I reach the eyes before I reach the brain,” she sings.

The last track, “Offhand Girl,” serves as an illustration. “It was an offhand comment / ‘you look like an old friend of mine,’” she sings. “It was an offhand comment / but I am not an offhand girl.”  The details of the unwanted attention are painful for her to recall, and they may be opaque to the outside listener, but it’s impossible to miss the broader resonance.

Secker ends the EP with some of her deepest trauma (it filters all the way through to the way she thinks about going to the grocery store) and a prime example of what makes Sprackett & Sprout such an engrossing project. There’s more to understand than you can get from your first glance, and from the lyrics to the depth of the arrangements, every element tells the story. It’s anything but casual and anything but interchangeable. “An EP about feminism and groceries” is an offhand explanation, but this is no offhand set of songs.

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