Through Grief and Loss, Jessica Viscius Resurfaces As Bunny

Photos by Julien Carr

Jessica Viscius, the woman behind Bunny, had an impressive wave of success before things came to a halt. The band was hailed as one of the more exciting emerging acts from Chicago from their beginning, a band with the national scene squarely in its sights. They had tours secured and a hotly anticipated EP ready to come out, with everything seemingly trending in the right direction when tragedy struck Jessica, and the larger music community with the untimely death of Trey Gruber.

_MG_3851.jpg

"Bands have this point of momentum and it can fall really easily. Which is why, despite my depression right now, I'm forcing myself to do something."

— Jessica Viscius

Trey was Jessica’s partner and creative inspiration. He was a wildly talented musician, already gracing national publications with his project Parent. He was one of those musicians you can simply tell is special, someone who had a lot to say and said it beautifully. His passing was a great loss for Chicago music, and it deeply affected Jessica and her ability to make music. “We weren't very active for the few months after Trey passed away, I just couldn't do it.. We went on tour for a month or something after he passed and it was just really terrible for me, I thought it would be like, ‘oh I can do this and it will be like good to get out of the house.’ It was really hard and I was very depressed. It was not a good idea.”

Jessica couldn’t bring herself to focus on her music and found that she had trouble writing.  “I took a break for a little bit. We cancelled a few shows. Most of my songs are about Trey, he was basically my muse.  I've tried to write about him since, but I feel like I can’t do him justice in a song, everything just feels so trivial in comparison to his death.”

_MG_3863.jpg

"I definitely considered quitting music. If I’m being totally honest with myself, my heart isn’t in it right now."

— Jessica Viscius

She had still not written a new song by the time of this interview. While the death of a person like this would understandably rattle anyone, it is compounded by her own depression and anxiety that she’s dealt with her whole life. She had these things under control before the passing of Trey, which seemed to trigger a retreat into herself, to the point that she’s considered leaving music behind entirely. “I definitely considered quitting music. If I’m being totally honest with myself, my heart isn’t in it right now.”

Despite her struggles, Viscius is working through it effectively and, in a sense, forcing herself to do the things that she knows she used to love. “Bands have this point of momentum and it can fall really easily. Which is why, despite my depression right now, I'm forcing myself to do something. If I'm not forcing myself to make music I just spend all my time at home doing nothing. I live alone and I don't really go out as much. I just need to do something and this is the most productive thing. Also, so many friends tell me, “If Trey knew you were quitting music he would be fucking pissed.”

_MG_3853.jpg

Having turned away from the initial EP, Jessica is planning on getting back into the studio and reworking some of the music they had laid down. Perhaps some new material will come out of this as well, but Viscius is specifically concerned with getting her sound even more low-fi and reverting to some techniques used in earlier demos. Bunny recorded most of the EP at Public House using sophisticated equipment, supposedly including the same type of studio mic that Taylor Swift records with. While the recordings are beautiful, they leave her wanting a dirtier sound. “I almost wished we hadn’t used that really nice mic.”

Navigating the waters of tragedy is never easy, but it becomes particularly painful for a creative person to have a source of energy ripped away so suddenly. While the status of Bunny remains somewhat hazy in the long-term, it’s certain that Jessica Viscius is fighting for this project in profound ways. She knows how much she loves this music and the people she plays with (Tyler Bixby, Tim Makowski, and her sister Alexa), and she knows that music is the only thing that makes sense to do. It’s unclear whether or not that creative spark will reignite, but her persistence and talent make the odds high that Bunny rights its course to being one of the most exciting acts in the city with a shot at national prominence.