Rabbit Quinn, by Robert Alleyne

After all she has gone through, Rabbit Quinn is not looking for your sympathy. She never has been. All she wants is your support. “If you like a female artist, support them. Because if they are supported by you, they don’t need to be supported by the asshole over there who wants to fuck them,” she affirms. “Support local artists. Support female artists in an independent way that has nothing to do with the giant evil sexist music machine.”

But what does it mean to be independent in today’s music business? The Bay Area singer-songwriter and purveyor of “gothic soul” is currently finding out. After over a decade of navigating the music industry, she realized independence has become necessary.

“This is a business of fucking relationships,” she says. “It is not what you are capable of. It is not how talented you are — those things matter — you have to have them, period, in order to get to a certain point —

[but] beyond that point it is who you know and who you’re fucking. I don’t care what people say of me because I’ve said that. That’s why going indie…and staying indie, for me, is so important.”

Quinn does not take her decision lightly. Experiences throughout her career have shaped it closely. “I was getting hit on at 17 in Irish bars, having my ass grabbed,” Quinn shares openly. “A manager of a club once tried to pimp me out with champagne glasses to one of his fucking customers. It is so fucking dehumanizing.”

The sum of all of these experiences came to a head when she “had a manager who was super creepy and awful,” she says. She wanted to escape the contract. However, there was no way out. This happened alongside a long-term relationship of hers ending. It was an exhausting period for Quinn, and she found herself breaking down while making her sophomore album, Painted Fan.

“I did all the things — released a music video, put out an album, did a successful Kickstarter — all that stuff, I did it. Then immediately fell to pieces afterward,” she says. “I was just holding it together to get through everything and then [it] took six months…just to get back to my normal, or get to a place where I felt like I knew who I was again.”

Rabbit Quinn, by Robert Alleyne

It was the Bay Area’s “goth cabaret” community who helped her find her way. They can be found at DNA Lounge sharing “fart jokes [and] dirty jokes” with one another, says Quinn — who used to try and sneak into DNA Lounge as a teenager dreaming of performing on stage.

“The thing about [an] artists’ community, the goth community, in particular, is that you have a bunch of lost children,” she says. “Everybody has their hang-ups. Everyone has got anxiety. Everyone has got depression. But, they’re a lot of the times the most genuine, creative, deep feeling, helpful, [and] soulful people.

“Here’s a group of people that is interested in ideas…They’re not going to tell me I need to show more cleavage. They’re not going to tell me I need to fucking do anything. They just need [me] to be myself…I don’t have to write happy pop songs for them,” she explains. “I can write about all the pain and the suffering, and they’re going to get it and feel that.”

Through this community she met Kat Robichaud, who served as an inspiration for Quinn. “I really admired what she was doing. She was sourcing all of the crème talent in the area to put on a cabaret and selling fucking out. I was just like, ‘That is what to do. That’s what you have to do.’ Because people want that experience of a show,” she says.

Quinn got to work. Earlier in the year she created a “Valentine’s Prom,” featuring balloon arches, burlesque dancers, and a prom king and queen. Her latest show is even more ambitious. She is partnering with ContainHer to turn the Chapel into a magical wonderland inspired by Jim Henson’s ’80s masterpiece Labyrinth. The experience is funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign and is an opportunity for Quinn to release the full potential of her music in all its wonder.

Rabbit Quinn, by Robert Alleyne

Identity is an essential topic for Quinn, and she is often known for her visual identity — her style has a vintage flair and mixes in old Hollywood glamour. “I love a good corset,” she jokes. “I like things that make me feel like me,” she says. She explains how the “me” she refers to can change daily, so I ask who she is on the day of our interview. “Today I am the love child of Stevie Nicks and David Bowie circa 1976. I ran away with the carnival for a couple of years and read tarot cards. People think I’m a witch.”

“Who were you yesterday?” I ask.

“I was a piano teacher in a sweater and jeans teaching Bach…This is not an everyday occurrence,” she says, referring to what she’s wearing today.

Not everyone understands — or is respectful of — the outward representation of Quinn’s art. “I had to stop by the Walgreens on the way here…I got out of my car, dressed like this. This guy was on a motorcycle, and he’s like, ‘Jesus Christ, are you trying to make me get into an accident or something?’ because of the way I looked. There’s something incredibly dangerous about becoming people’s fantasy. You aren’t a person anymore; you’re an idea. But you have to be that in order to communicate the art effectively.

“I love being told I’m beautiful..I like the way I look. I like to experiment with it. I like being appreciated for it. The problems start when people start expecting things from you. I’ll get messages, dick pics, people wanting to take piano lessons from me just an excuse to…blah, blah, blah.

“We live in a society that has told women that our bodies don’t belong to us, that they are community property. Ever since you’re little, the minute you start getting pretty, it’s like your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. It’s there to be looked at. It’s there to be touched. It’s there for the pleasure of other people.”

“Today I am the love child of Stevie Nicks and David Bowie circa 1976. I ran away with the carnival for a couple of years and read tarot cards. People think I’m a witch.”

Quinn is often full of moments like this — deeply introspective about herself and society. She reflects this in her music, which often feels painfully real. On songs like “Looking Glass,” she speaks to losing what she thought was the love of her life and how, when looking back, it represents just a moment in time. With her album, Painted Fan, being recorded at a difficult time in her life, she revealed during our conversation that she has struggled to listen to it.  “It’s too painful to listen to. I’ll play it live, and that’s fine. Having to sit there and listen to me cry into my microphone is a different thing; [remembering] where I was when I recorded that.”

Rabbit Quinn, by Robert Alleyne

Our conversations about identity, self-worth, sexism, and community all serve to make Quinn’s decision to do things on her own terms feel even more urgent. It’s not about a feminist rebellion — even though Quinn firmly identifies as a feminist — it is about saying fuck you to the world in which we currently live, because we can have something better. It’s her chance to prove to others what is possible if you operate with integrity, and through her art, Quinn is doing her best to lead the way.

As the World Falls Down: A Masquerade
The Chapel
September 8, 2018
8pm, $25