An Interview with Synthwave/Italo Disco Band Bunny X
Abigail Ferguson and Mary Hanley are the originators of the synthwave/italo disco band Bunny X. Their music pays homage to all of the great sounds of the '80s. In an email, I asked Abigail about the band's origins, their creative process and talked to them about some of their upcoming musical projects.
Karl Magi: How did Bunny X come together as a project?
Abigail: Mary and I met here in NYC in 2005 and quickly discovered our mutual love of karaoke (and Malbec and late night pizza)and often did duets together. After a while, we started to notice that our voices blended pretty well together and Mary started teaching me more about harmonizing. In 2008 or so, we started singing as backing vocalists for a few local bands (we even sang in a Queen cover band) but soon realized we wanted to try our hand at writing our own material. Mary and I started writing some synthpop songs in 2009-2010 and also met our (now) long-time producer, Conrad Kaneshiro, around the same time, but before we began collaborating with Conrad and going the italo disco route, we put out an EP called Lovespy in 2012 with the help of producer Jesse Glick. These songs are all still up on our SoundCloud for posterity but generally speaking we don't perform them anymore as our sound and style has changed so much since then. By 2013, we were collaborating with Conrad in earnest and released our first italo disco song If You Say Yes in 2013 and several more songs in the years that followed such as Potential, Lasers and Lace and Hit Show, which is actually an older track that we finally released last year complete with a video.
KM: What drew you towards making the retro/synth style of music?
A: I guess I started listening to synthwave in 2013 when I heard FM Attack's Deja Vu. That record is insane. It's so good. Through FM Attack, I got into Visitor and started to discover other artists in the overall genre that I liked a lot too like Parallels and Electric Youth. I didn't even think to try my hand at synthwave since Mary and I have pretty much solely stuck to italo for the last several years but sometime around 2017 I started to really take a deep dive into the genre and quickly realized there was this whole world that I had only been on the periphery of. So, in the last few years, I’ve really just been an avid listener with this voracious appetite for synthwave and adjacent genres (I’m looking at you popwave and darkwave).
During a gig we had in Brooklyn in 2016, we befriended a super nice and multi-talented artist and producer, Miles Maxwell (who does experimental electronic music under his primary moniker GGGAMESSS). Not too long after we met, we started working together on several demo tracks Mary and I had amassed over the years but, after some time, I realized I really wanted to try writing some synthwave songs. So, the three of us got to work and Miles went on to help us produce our very first synthwave tracks: Stay, Unknown Places and our latest release Come Back, all of which were released last year.
KM: Which artists have influenced you the most strongly and why?
A: Well, personally I am an '80s pop lover at heart and grew up on Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner, the Eurythmics and Kim Wilde, to name a few. So, I end up spending most of my time listening to amazing female artists like Mecha Maiko, NINA, Parallels, LGHTNNG, Dana Jean Phoenix, Roxi Drive and, more recently, Jessie Frye. I am also strongly influenced by Timecop1983, FM Attack, Absinth3 and Trevor Something. As far as Italo, I grew up on that genre so am influenced by a ton of artists like Ken Laszlo, Valerie Dore, Sandra, Savage, Fancy, Miko Mission and Silent Circle, to name just a few.
KM: Talk me through the process you undertake when creating new music.
A: It’s definitely a mixture. Sometimes I’ll start humming a melody in the shower or while I’m out on a walk and then I’ll grab my phone and sing the idea straight into a voice memo so I don’t forget it. Other times I’ll just mess around with some loops to help flesh out an idea and get a basic synth and bass line going with my midi keys until I start feeling an overall vibe and melody for the track which is how Stay and several other songs came about. For the most part though, Mary and I collaborate with our producers, Conrad and Miles, to really bring our ideas and vision to life.
KM: Tell me more about your upcoming musical releases.
A: We have a lot coming out in the next few months actually as we’ll be releasing a 12” Maxi Single of some wonderful remixes of Stay by long-time italo DJ/producer Flemming Dalum, as well as Vincenzo Salvia (no stranger to synthwave and italo disco) and Conrad Kaneshiro. This will be coming out on February 14th via Fresh Colour Music. In March, we’ll be releasing two additional 12” Maxi Singles (via AMD Records) for Disco Pagan Boy and Words, which will feature legendary italo disco singer Fred Ventura. Mary and I have been very honored and humbled to work with Flemming and Fred.
On the synthwave side, we recently collaborated on a track, Call in the Night, with the super talented CJ Burnett which was just released a few weeks ago. We’re currently busy working on some upcoming collaborations with Driver86, Time Travel (TT), Marvel83’ and just recently FacexHugger.
KM: What are your future plans with Bunny X in terms of getting out there with your music?
A: In general, I find the synthwave community to be very supportive and positive, so whether it’s interacting directly via social media or other platforms like SoundCloud and Bandcamp, I think there are lots of great options nowadays in terms of getting one’s music out there. We definitely interact with other artists and listeners via social media and also regularly submit our songs to genre-specific YouTube channels and Spotify playlists so we plan to continue putting our submissions in and keeping our fingers crossed. We are always humbled and incredibly appreciative of those kind souls that work hard to help promote artists. There is also a pretty amazing local scene here in New York for synthwave artists and fans so it’s been really cool to meet and hang out with long-time fixtures in the scene like Aaron Vehling (Vehlinggo), the Nightwav crew, Betamaxx and DJ Ten.
M: What are your views on the current state of retrosynth/synthwave music?
A: We are relative newbies to synthwave as we have been so focused on italo disco music for the last several years and there really isn’t a huge local scene for that so getting more involved with synthwave has opened up this whole other world that has been and continues to be really special for us, as much as we love our italo. However, having said that, even to me it feels like synthwave has gone pretty mainstream. Like, Aaron V. and I saw The Midnight perform last fall at Brooklyn Steel and it was just packed, we could not believe the crowds of people. I was like,"Where did they all come from, Aaron?"
It’s no surprise, I guess, when you look at all the views they’ve amassed on YT. I still think that, no matter what, this genre is full of magic and nostalgia and personally I can’t get away from it even if I wanted to because I just genuinely love the music so much. Whether an artist has two million views or 200 views, there are so many gems out there.