For the better part of 13 years, Nobunny operated as a garage-rock man of mystery, admitting in interviews only that he was birthed in the desert outside of Tucson, Ariz., and played his first official show on Easter 2001 — the same day Joey Ramone died. Rocking a tattered rabbit mask, women's underwear, a leather jacket and little else, Nobunny's MO is right up the Ramones' alley: lo-fi, lowbrow gutter-rock that mixes revolting raunch with a heart of streetwise gold.
Nobunny's outsider personality and hardcore tour itinerary quickly made him an underground hero — especially considering the fact that most of his recorded output was only in the form of rare 7-inch singles and cassette tapes.
Since 2008, though, three excellent full-length albums have increased Nobunny's profile, eventually forcing garage-rock veteran Justin Champlin to admit he was the man behind the filthy mask, the dirty mind and the whirling dervish of bubblegum punk.
Onstage, Nobunny embraces chaos, but in a phone interview last month, Champlin was genial, light-hearted and deflective of most praise or acclaim. Instead, he emphasized the passionate, personal nature of Nobunny and the love he has for his adoring audience.
That convinced us to compile this list of 10 reasons why you should embrace Nobunny.
With a Valentine's Day Eve concert scheduled at Shanghai Nobby's in St. Augustine, his first in the Oldest City, the half-human, half-bunny will certainly be loving Northeast Florida back.
1. Nobunny actually started his career as an animal Elvis impersonator.
"That story is true," Champlin says. "I was born and raised in Chicago, moved to the middle-of-nowhere desert outside of Tucson, Ariz., said, ‘What am I going to do with my life now?' and thought it would be fun to become an Elvis impersonator with a rabbit head. That was the niche I was trying to fill before I started writing my own songs."
2. Inhabiting such a schizophrenic persona wasn't originally part of the plan.
"Building a character that allowed me to get wild and crazy on stage took a while. I already had a taste for performance, but I can do things with the Nobunny platform that I couldn't have dreamed of doing before."
3. Nobunny's live shows are still legendarily chaotic.
"It seems logical that the shows would calm down as I get older, but as the crowds have gotten bigger and crazier, the chaos only seems to grow. And I love jumping into the fire. Also, I toured nonstop from 2008 to 2011, crossing the country four or five times a year, so now that I'm taking things a little slower, touring feels a lot more special to me."
4. Nobunny knows what it means to
"I'm aware that I can't do this forever — certainly not to the level that people have come to expect. But I wouldn't even consider Nobunny a career. This is something that I do for fun. I love music and performance. It's all about not taking yourself too seriously."
5. Sometimes the crowd affects Nobunny as much as Nobunny affects the crowd.
"I certainly try to give 110 percent at all my shows, but I am half-human and half-bunny, so I've had moments of not wanting to go out on stage. And my fans have definitely brought me out of a funk more than a few times. Normally that's my job, but it's a two-way street."
6. Nobunny's fans are way more obsessed with vinyl than he is.
"I definitely like records, but I'm not a purist or a snob. I'm making a really meager living off this, so there's no way I could afford to buy all of my own special releases. Honestly, I'm a thrift-store dollar-bin guy. I've gotten rid of all my vinyl twice in my life — including once to go on the first Nobunny tour. I sold everything for that one."
7. Nobunny loves Florida.
"I'm a big fan of the Gainesville scene, and the folks at [Orlando label] Florida's Dying were the first to ever fly me anywhere, for their Total Punk Fest. I'm down with Florida, even if the highways freak me out: the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, billboards for abortion and surfing."
8. Nobunny only wants to be loved …
"I've never told this to anyone but an ex-girlfriend, but my original goal was to earn the respect of my peers who were putting out records — especially bands from Detroit like The Gories. I thought I had some all-right songs, and once other people affirmed that for me, my life started changing."
9. … and remembered.
"Maybe I've said too much. But I want to be one of those cult figures — a very small footnote of some sub-category or genre. If I died tomorrow, I think people would remember my music. Maybe even keep their Nobunny records. That would be cool."
10. Nobunny knows the dream will eventually end — and that's OK.
"One day I'll have to find a regular-ass job. But that's OK; I'm a regular-ass, cruddy person just having fun. I've accomplished what I originally wanted to with Nobunny. Everything else is just frosting with gravy, cherries and sprinkles on top. I like all that stuff, and I'm going to keep eating it until I get fat, or people stop coming to see me." o