The Bunny The Bear is a band rife with contrast, if not outright contradictions. It features guttural vocals paired with sweet crooning, songs of both despair and love, pain and joy, written by a born-again Christian front man given to frequent profanity, whose personal listening habits — Chicago, Euroquirk twins CocoRosie — are far removed from the driving, electronic-infused post-hardcore rock his band makes.
The force behind The Bunny The Bear is 23-year-old Matt Tybor. Words, music, stagecraft and often dark, violent videos all spring from his fertile mind. He’s known as The Bunny primarily because of the hard plastic rabbit mask he wears when performing, and his singing partner — best friend of seven years, Chris Hutka — employs a similar disguise as The Bear.
Vocally, The Bunny growls while The Bear provides melody, though the latter occasionally contributes an unclean vocal. The two are the band’s only constant members since it formed in 2008, explains The Bunny when reached by phone at his home in Buffalo.
“His voice is … pretty much unstoppable,” he says. “It’s a necessity because a lot of the stuff I write — vocally I can sing in key, but I don’t have that beautiful angel voice. As far as the rest of the band, we’ve been through at least two lineups. It’s pretty secure now.”
A few minutes in the presence of The Bunny’s nervous energy reveals other reasons for his nickname. He talks so fast it’s hard to keep up –—a tape recorder is a necessity to have any hope of quoting him accurately. His ideas come and go with frightening rapidity. Some of these fleeting thoughts are good, like the one that gave birth to the six-piece band, appearing Saturday, Oct. 8, at Rocko’s in Manchester.
“The Bunny happened when I was bored, covering a T.I. song,” he says. “I don’t know why, because I don’t like rap music at all. I just said, I’m going to start a band called The Bunny and The Bear and run around in a kid’s mask. It was really that quick, 10 seconds in my ADHD thinking. I’m really anxious and I’m not patient at all, so when I think of stuff I just roll with it and do it immediately.”
Such reckless impulse can also lead to less than desirable outcomes. The video for “Aisle,” a song from the recently released If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, is a telling example: “I had a metaphorical rape idea I kind of played out in the video just to push buttons,” he says. “It wasn’t really even a bad video.” But word got out about his twisted symbolism, and the Internet lit up like an old-school switchboard. “People are posting threatening stuff online saying we support rape — even in our hometown,” he complains. The Bunny wrote a lengthy response to fans explaining things, and the fury died down.
But the band’s label gutted the video anyway, turning it into a straight performance clip.
The band’s breakthrough song, “April 11,” was released in 2010.
“I had a couple hundred written and I just saved them as the date, and I didn’t feel like naming that song,” The Bunny says when asked to explain the title. It was made into a video full of blood, duct tape and horror movie violence — another happy accident. “One concept we had fell apart, so I said I’m gonna kill our lighting dude. It was literally that random,” he says of the piece. “We sort of did it to piss people off. Everyone hates something.”
Such sentiments seem to clash with The Bunny’s avowed faith.
“It’s loosely defined,” he explains. “I grew up in a non-denominational church; my father was pastor. So I’m kind of like the bastard child that went crazy. I have beliefs, but I don’t really believe in organized religion very much. I believe in a relationship with whatever you believe in aside from an actual religion.”
His lyrics mix the angst of youth with what he excitedly calls “the amazing relationships in my life.” Unsurprisingly, there’s also a lot of soul-searching.
“The songs have to do with my personal beliefs and how I pretty much never fulfill any of them,” he says. “I’m striving; everyone takes little steps at first. A few songs are definitely breakup songs.”
Religious themes are present — “Alley” has several of them — though they’re not overt.
“I was never a fan of Christian bands with blunt, over-obvious lyrics,” he says. “I’m more of a closed than an open book, so I try to do everything somewhat poetically.”
Hooking up with a major label earlier this year precipitated a small crisis of self-doubt. It soon passed.
“I expected all the old-school Victory kids to hate us, and for the two weeks after we were signed, everyone was talking crap, but as of now everything is fine,” he says. “I’m actually surprised, it seems the kids found some way to relate and accept our music in one way or another. They really love it, which is cool — there are definitely fans of ours who would take a bullet for me. It’s the weirdest thing in the world.”