Despite rumors of its death, the music scene is Trenton is still kicking. Sure, long gone is City Gardens, the historic music venue at which Jon Stewart and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy once worked, and which hosted performances by bands like Ween, Green Day, Nirvana, Circle Jerks and the Descendants.
But the legacy of music in Trenton still lives on at the Candlelight Lounge and in the basement venue at Mill Hill Saloon. For Alpha Rabbit member Joe “Dim” Wolstenholme, going to shows at the Mill Hill basement was a major influence.
“My old punk band would play shows at the Mill Hill basement in 2005, and that’s how I discovered the Trenton music scene,” says Wolstenholme. “I played in this band called Honah Lee for a while, and the Mill Hill basement was our home base. There’s an openness to the music scene in Trenton, and the crowds are diverse.”
In fact, Wolstenholme’s band Alpha Rabbit was born in another Trenton institution, the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market, where he crossed paths with future Alpha Rabbit bandmate Jaime Parker.
“My intro into Alpha Rabbit begins at the Trenton Punk Rock Flea market,” recalls Wolstenholme. “I ran into Jaime Parker, and I knew her from this band called the Timid Roosevelts. I haven’t seen her in a quite a while, and I knew she was involved with another project. At the time I had off from Honah Lee so I had free time on my hands. Jaime asked me if I was interested in coming down to the studio to practice, and that’s what I did. Alpha Rabbit started because I ran into Jaime at a Punk Rock Flea Market.’’
And like a good jean jacket you get at a flea market, Alpha Rabbit has been around for years, and Wolstenholme credits the success to having fun as a band. Wolstenholme, Parker and the band take turns playing different instruments.
“Jaime started playing bass for Alpha Rabbit, and I’m not a quote-unquote drummer,” says Wolstenholme. “It’s getting harder to see who is playing what instrument and who is writing what song, and that’s really cool. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Even though switching instruments is fun and all, Alpha Rabbit never really set out for it to happen; but like many great developments, it was born out of necessity.
“When I joined the band in 2016, Jake and Jaime were multi-instrumentalists,” explains Wolstenholme. “I played bass and guitar and that was my only multi-instrumental anything. Some songs Jaime would be on bass, and Jake would be on keyboard… well, who would play the drums then? That’s when I started to fool around with drums.’’
The fun isn’t limited to the songwriting process either; the public gets in on the action as well. Recently Alpha Rabbit performed at Porchfest in Bordentown where it was Wolstenholme’s first time playing on a porch. To up the novelty, Alpha Rabbit performed their latest album, Eternity, backwards.
Playing your record backwards on a porch is a pretty cool accomplishment, but its all window dressing for the quality of the music itself; Wolstenholme says that it’s the bands best work yet.
“It’s the best standing representation of how we sound live,” says Wolstenholme. “This new record I felt like we had advanced as a band up to the point where the world got put in a fridge.”
Eternity was recorded at Exit 7A studios in Hamilton Township, and the band started writing songs for the album back in 2018. Wolstenholme compares waiting for the album to be released to “holding back a funny joke for two years and hoping it’s still funny.” And if music is a joke, Eternity definitely landed. One of the songs that was long in the making “Another Day,” which the band started writing four years ago.
“’Another Day’ was one of the first songs that we wrote for Eternity,” says Wolstenholme. “Originally Jake had an electric version of the song, and he’s a very good synth player. What’s cool about the song is that Jake sings it and he has this low baritone Lou Reed type of shit going on and I wanted that voice instead of mine. I wanted the song to be a dialogue between two different people and it was that with Jake and Jaime. It ended up being a very good song.”
Similar to how the band handles instruments, the songwriting process is something in which that the band is universally involved, and for the song “Wrong Side of Thirty,” it was Parker’s turn.
“At the time our process was that the person who comes with the song will take the direction of the song,” explains Wolstenholme. “Jaime’s song killed, and I’m glad that we included it on the record. It makes for a great closing song.”
“Wrong Side of Thirty” is about making the most of life and taking chances as you get older in life.
“What Jaime says in the song is ‘I want to dance tonight, let’s shred it out, god knows we aren’t getting any younger.’ That’s a great motto for life. It’s not just about playing basement shows in a band, it’s also about god knows you aren’t getting any younger, so just do it.”