The Rubens are rising rock-star darlings, a four-piece from Menangle, New South Wales (I Google-imaged it. There were many pictures of cows and pretty houses in paddocks).
I got a chance to chat to Elliot, the guy behind those glorious, gospelly keys and organs….
You must be pretty excited with how your music career is going so far. Winning, Triple J unearthed, recording in New York, strings of sold-out shows all over the country…
“For sure, yeah, we never thought that anything like this would happen…you just gotta sort of accept it and just do your best to not stuff it up, really. We’re very, very excited.”
The Rubens self-titles LP sound like many things. Catchy hooks you’ll be humming for days, tracks that don’t shy away from a power snare or brash piano lines, some sneaky horns, bluesy bass. Sometimes it even gets a bit dark country, or at least reminds me of someone drinking whisky and lamenting a lost love in a bar. But catchy seems to be the running theme with all the tracks. Always so catchy, and with a smack of soul. When I asked Elliot what he would call it, he said “bluesrockpopsoul? That’s kind of the lazy way of doing it, maybe we should make a new word.”
Part of the Rubens story is a bit fairytale; their tracks were spotted by New York producer David Kahne. Kahne not only has a Grammy under his belt, but has worked with such intimidatingly famous acts as Paul McCartney, No Doubt, New Order, The Strokes, and Lana Del Rey.
What was it like going from rural NSW to New York to record?
“It was amazing, we loved it. We got there and we were just wide-eyed and staring at everything. We didn’t have enough money to go to the top of the Empire State or Rockefeller or the Statue of Liberty or anything like that…We got there and had a few days off, then straight into pre-production…then a month of recording. We were into it from the whole time from the get-go, really. All we see really is the inside of a studio when we think of New York.”
What was it like working with someone like David Kahne?
“It was good, a little bit scary at first because he’s worked with so many massive people, its kind of daunting going into a studio with someone who’s that experienced and that well-versed on music in general. He’s pretty much a genius I guess… We got over that quickly and all just realized he’s just a really nice dude who loves music, and loved our music… He makes you feel really comfortable. We knew where we wanted to go, what we wanted to sound like, but we didn’t know how to achieve that because we’d never recorded before.”
Three of you being brothers, do you think the music you listened to growing up influenced your current sound?
“I think maybe really, really subconsciously it might have…they played a lot of Van Morrison, Pink Floyd and Tracy Chapman in the car but I don’t think it was a conscious influence by us…our sound kind of just happened. If we’d grown up listening to glam rock I’m sure we’d sound different. So in a minute way I’m sure it did influence us, yeah.”
The lyrics really tell stories, can you give me the goss on what inspired all those scorned man break-up lyrics?
“Sam pretty much always writes fiction, he’s not really writing about himself, he’s kind of putting himself in other people’s shoes that he knows, or sometimes he’s making up a story. But he doesn’t really write about himself, I think he finds it too…I dunno, it feels too strange for him, maybe too self-indulged or something. I think he enjoys when it’s not really about him, cos he doesn’t have to really feel the heartache.”
Do you think it’s easy for new bands to break through onto the music scene, like The Rubens have?
“I think bands are offered all the right tools and opportunities to get their music heard, what with sites like Triple J unearthed, and a few good live venues here and there. But that just means that the playing field is leveled, that everyone is able to start from the same point. You could say that success comes from lots of hard work and good music, but there’s countless amazing bands out there who put everything they have into their music but don’t ever break through. In the end, as well as everything else, I think it comes down to catching a lucky break. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s definitely worth it.”
If The Rubens are playing in your neck of the woods, you should go check out their bluesrockpopsoul and pretty faces. Although if you can’t make it or you can’t snaffle tickets, I’m sure you’ll get another chance in the future. They’ll hopefully be sticking around.