Owen Rabbit’s guide to hitchhiking and anxiety

Landing in the sweltering Sydney evening, Owen Rabbit was recently traversing around the country following the release of his second single of the year Denny’s. Between a hasty soundcheck at Goodgod and a frosty pale ale, Owen opens up about depression and anxiety, his son and hitching a lift with a car thief.

Owen Rabbit Happy interview

Photos by Liam Cameron.

HAPPY: So you were just saying you used to hitch hike a lot, where did you do that?

OWEN: I hitch hiked a lot in WA, just to see friends and stuff. I also hitch hiked on the east coast. I hitch hiked from Tasmania to Byron Bay which was cool, and in Europe as well. It’s actually pretty good. I’ve had one really bad experience, but the rest were really good.

HAPPY: What happened?

OWEN: I got picked up by this guy who had a goon bag on the floor. And then I saw all the bottom of the, what do you call it? Underneath the steering wheel, the bottom was gone and all the wires were hanging out. He’d hot wired it. So I say “So how are you going?“, and he says “Yeah I’m going to Broome. I just stole this car and I’m going there to make a new life for myself“. And the car was fucked. The brakes didn’t work, so he kept bumping into cars because he was speeding through Mantra, he was going from Bunbury to Perth. So he’s speeding through Mantra bumping past other people’s cars, and they were like “Fuck you!” which was crazy. He turns to me and says “Do you want some goon?” to which I said “No I’m alright” (laughs).

But to be fair he went out of his way to drop me off. He also said “Everyone thinks I’m a big asshole, but I’m the first guy who’s gonna help someone when they’re on the side of the road so I’m a good person. But I’ll fucking smash anybody that crosses me. I’ll kill ya!“. I was with my friend. It was the first time she went hitch hiking and it was the worst person for her. I was like “It’ll be fine, we’ll be get picked up by some nice lady in a four wheel drive and she’ll be really lovely. And she’ll be like ‘I hitch hiked in Europe in the 70s and do you want some of these nice cookies that I made?’ and stuff “. Yeah that was a bad one.

HAPPY: Man that’s insane. I’ve never done it, there’s always that weird serial killer feeling.

OWEN: Yeah there is that Wolf Creek vibe. It’s not really true, I think most people are just kinda nice. It makes you be in a car with someone you’d never talk to otherwise. Growing up in the city so when you’re in the country you’ll ask someone what they do for a living and they’ll say “I shoot pigs in the head with a bolt gun all day in an abattoir“. You just sit there and go “Cool man“. My taxi driver today was an asshole though.

HAPPY: How so?

OWEN: He just made things hard. He wanted to drop me off on the other side of town because he didn’t want to stop here. I said I had a lot of gear, and he goes “Oh but I don’t want to get a fine because of your gear“. I say “You’re net going to get a fine, just let me out“.

HAPPY: Yeah taxi drivers can be weird like that. Did you hear about that MyTaxis fiasco?

OWEN: The Victorian taxis thing? I was watching it live on Twitter! They suck though, they really  suck. They’re just the worst. And they’re so sad because through their really bad service and all these terrible stories they’ve done themselves out of the job. And it’s not really their fault, they have a really bad job and it pays really bad and bad hours. They should just start driving Ubers. It’s so much better, it’s so much safer. You can send a thing to your friend and they can watch you go home.

HAPPY: Really? 

OWEN: Yeah, yeah! You can sync up your Uber apps or something. So if someone’s daughter goes out to a party then you can see the car make it’s way home. 

HAPPY: Do you think that might be a bit Big Brother-ish though? 

OWEN: Yeah but so many taxi drivers will not put the meter on and stick a bit of blue tack over the camera and just be an asshole. Especially in a big city you’re not used to. The guy will ask you what street to go down and I’ll be like “I don’t know. I don’t live here. You should know how to do the thing you’re doing“.

HAPPY: Argh I know! That’s why Uber was a much better option up in Brisbane for BIGSOUND.

OWEN: Oh man how nuts is BIGSOUND hey? It’s cool! I was there the year before. I had shows over the time it was on this year playing with SAFIA.

HAPPY: How did those shows go? 

OWEN: It was great! They’re really nice people that looked after you. I learned a lot in terms of how to play. They’re really talented. Ben’s such a good front man. He does all these vocal warm ups before he plays and I’d think “I should do that, then my voice will be better” (laughs). It was a really nice experience, and Boo Seeka are a really nice group, they’re just awesome. They make really good songs!

Owen Rabbit

HAPPY: Nice man, it looks like things have been trucking along pretty smoothly for you then. Holy Holy got a lot of love when it came out and I remember listening to Denny’s first thing in the morning the day it was released and thinking, “Woah, that is intense“.

OWEN: It’s good to be polarising, people will remember you I guess. If someone doesn’t like it then you’ve made an impact on them, but I think it’s a pretty pop-y song. It’s three minutes longs, heaps of hook.

HAPPY: So what’s the story behind it? I understand you had a lot of issues with anxiety.

OWEN: Yeah so I wrote the song about how I had a bit of a meltdown. I felt shitty and that’s when I wrote the song. I guess it’s just too much information comes in and your brain can only process so much. It’s been a really big year for me. Not even in music stuff, just in my life. There’s been a lot going on. It’s rough. But it’s not the end of the world, you can always do something about it. My dad has gout, and he can’t eat shellfish or drink margaritas. It’s like his favourite thing, eating shellfish and drinking margaritas, so he can go to the doctors and get some pills so he can do all the things he wants to do. You can make your life better that way. I’m a big believer in science, I think science is the way.

Scientists are creative people and they are trying to help people’s lives. Heaps of massive changes for human kind has stemmed from scientific discoveries. Some dude figures out that light is split into a different spectrum, and then all of a sudden there’s a radio. And then a radio turns into a telephone, TV, the internet. This whole last century happened because some dude looks at a rainbow. It’s fascinating, I think it’s really cool.

HAPPY: Were you always scientifically inclined?

OWEN: No, I did year 11 and then I dropped out. I got an A+ in English Lit, I won the award I must’ve been smart at reading books. But everything else was just C’s. It was a sea of C’s. I didn’t do science subjects, I wish I sis coz I found it really fascinating later in life. It’s a little passion of mine. Have you seen Cosmos? You watch that and you’re like “Holy fuck!“, it’s so amazing. It’s cool! I really like sci-fi as well. I really like the X-Files and fucking trippy stuff.

HAPPY: Have you ever watched Doctor Who? 

OWEN: I never got into it, but I really like Star Trek. I’ve seen every episode of Voyager. I was really into it for a while, and I got half way through Next Generation. Deep Space Nine, was interesting. You can’t do it in a weekend, there are so many episodes! There’s a lot of seasons in a series, and I think Voyager is like 9 seasons. But they’re all 24 episodes, an hour each. It takes a chunk of your life! It’s also not a bang-bang shoot em’ up show. There’s a lot more weird sci-fi concepts, not like Star Wars where they go ‘band, bang!’, the goodies win. There are no goodies. All civilisations are part of the journey. Everything is relative. It’s fascinating.

HAPPY: Meanwhile Star Wars tells you white is good and black is bad.

OWEN: Yeah exactly! Oh shit people are texting me, sorry this is really rude!

HAPPY: All cool man.

Owen Rabbit sydney show

OWEN: Does your phone auto-correct your name to Shaven?

HAPPY: Yeah it does, it’s really annoying but it’s starting to learn I think.

OWEN: I have a son, he’s 4 and his name is Sid. Every time I try and write Sid in my phone it changes it to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Apple shouldn’t have done that. When he was a baby I’d text my mum saying “Sid’s screaming and I don’t know what to do“, and it’d turn into SIDS. Fuck you Apple, you suck!

HAPPY: Oh man that’s really bad! So Sid’s 4 now? Do you ever take him out on tour with you?

OWEN: I have done, mainly when I have family in Perth and Newcastle. So I’ll take him to see his great-gran and all his cousins. He likes it. It’s not really compatible, the late nights and kids get up early in the morning. Touring isn’t really compatible with anything. It’s really hard. It’s the wrong end of the day to be working. Most people wake up and their most productive hours of the day are from 9 to midday. With touring you have nothing to do all day but travel, and then at 11 at night you have this huge adrenalin spike and you can’t sleep. Everyone is giving you alcohol. It’s a really weird way to live your life.

HAPPY: Especially when you have young kids who on the opposite sleep schedule as you.

OWEN: Yeah my sleep pattern is half of the week is a nightmare, and the other is like a regular human (laughs). I don’t want to sound like… some people work three jobs and come home from the night shift but still wake up with their kids because they love them. I’m just a selfish asshole (laughs).

HAPPY: That’s pretty cool you have Sid, I didn’t know you were a dad.

OWEN: He’s pretty awesome. He gives you feedback on songs which is cool.

HAPPY: What does he say?

OWEN: He’d be like “That was good. I don’t like that one it’s too noisy.” I use lots of toys in my songs as well, so we share them. I borrowed his music box and I didn’t tell him. I got him to record one of the toys in my song which isn’t out yet. That was cool. And he loves playing with my stuff because there’s lots of buttons (laughs). As long as he’s happy it’s fine.

HAPPY: Nice! So we’re almost out of time before you have to play the show. So we always like to talk about what makes us happy, so Owen what makes you happy?

OWEN: Playing music, even though I just whinged about it for ages. My son, cooking food, watching cartoons, I really like Rick and Morty. I love my girlfriend, she’s awesome. I dunno what else, that’ll probably do!