Next time you're browsing through records at Bull Moose Music in Salem, keep your eyes peeled for Windham native Luc Laurent. The 23-year-old drummer makes up half of the band Pepper Rabbit, which is fresh off an appearance at the SXSW Festival in Texas.
Laurent and bandmate Xander Singh, who play what Laurent calls "colorful, experimental pop," are currently touring around the country. The Los Angeles-based duo is getting ready to release their sophomore album, following up last year's "Beauregard," which reviewers called "mesmerizing" and "ethereal."
Listening to the bright, mellow melodies on that record, it's hard to believe that there are only two guys responsible for the complex sounds.
According to Laurent, one of the band's goals is to sound bigger than they are.
"We have so many layers and we put so many different instruments into our songs," Laurent says.
The result is music that sounds both orchestral and dreamy. But despite the experimental sound, Laurent says that at their core, the songs are really "straight-ahead pop."
"We just try different things out that make it sound a little more unique," he says.
The fact that electric guitars, drums, trumpets, pianos, and banjos flavor the musical mix makes sense considering that Laurent and Singh are both Berklee College of Music-trained musicians. And Laurent's musical education started even before college, drumming in the Salem High School band and getting exposed to diverse musical influences at Bull Moose. He also credits the high school marching and jazz bands with helping him become a disciplined drummer, by practicing sometimes 20 hours a week and doing a lot of "rudimental drumming."
"For what I'm doing now—playing live and drumming everyday—that's actually been a humongous help," he says.
Even as Pepper Rabbit tours around the country, the duo has been carving out time to write and record new music. They've already finished another album that's slated for release in July or August. Whereas "Beauregard" was more of an "experiment" that was "all pieced together in a really goofy way," Laurent says this new effort is their first attempt at writing and recording a "real album."
In the meantime, Pepper Rabbit will continue to tour. And the more they play around the country, the more people know and recognize their music.
"Every time you go back to a city, there's some more people that are there to see you," Laurent says. "A lot of times we're opening for bands that we're on tour with, so not all the time is anyone there to see us. It's really cool when we get to the show and there's people that already know our songs."
SIDEBAR: LEADERS LED
Pepper Rabbit isn't the only homegrown band making a national splash. Leaders Led, which cut its teeth performing at downtown Haverhill clubs like The Chit Chat Lounge, appeared at this year's National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., and is about to release its first record.
"I grew up going to shows at The Chit Chat," says lead singer and North Andover resident Guy Bardascino, who describes the band's sound as "rock fusion," combining everything from jazz to classical to blues.
Last year, Leaders Led won the NCN Rompetition, a music competition which included more than 50 independent musical acts from around Boston. And now, the band is gearing up for a series of shows at venues across the east coast, according the Hard Rock Café© in Boston, Bardascino says, to promote their debut album "Armchair Patriot," which is due out later this spring.
And although they continue to advance through the ranks of local bands, Bardascino says it's the people who come out to listen to them live who are the key to their success.
"That's kind of the most important thing," he says. "To develop a core group of fans."