The Rubens Q&A and national tour w/ Bertie Blackman
By Nick Killalea
It’s been a busy time for The Rubens recently. They’ve been to New York to work on their debut album with Grammy award winning producer David Kahne. They have just released their new single “My Gun” and in September and October will embark on a National tour with the support of Bertie Blackman.
With all that’s going on at the moment we were lucky enough to catch up with the Rubens very own Elliott Margin to find out how the Rubens are prepping for the upcoming album launch and how the guys found working on their debut album in New York.
1. Who are the Rubens?
Scott Baldwin, me (Elliott), Sam and Zaac Margin
2. Which artists influenced the Rubens musical style?
I don’t know if we were consciously influenced by any specific bands, when we first started writing it just turned out that way, it made sense. Of course there is the obvious link people make to the Black Keys but i think there is more to us than that. We listened to a lot of Van Morrison, Tracey Chapman, REM and Pink Floyd as kids so I guess you could say that music might have made its way into our sound.
3. Being mostly brothers did anyone take control and push the band toward a specific sound or was it more of a group decision?
Sam was the one who brought us together and pushed the creation of the band in the first place, but it was more a group effort than a decision. Like i said it wasn’t a conscious effort to sound the way we do, it just happened. The combination of our guitar and organ sounds paired with sam’s vocals worked from the start so there was no question about where we should go with our sound.
4. You went to New York and recorded your album with producer David Kahne. What was it like working with a man who surrounds himself with the likes of Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, the Strokes and Tony Bennett?
It was at first really daunting, because of all the huge musicians he’s worked with of course. But it didn’t take long for us to realise that he was just a really nice guy who loves music and loves a good joke. He made us feel comfortable from the start, which helped us put everything we had into the album.
5. Did you get a taste for the Big Apple? Any plans to head back for a tour?
For the first month we were typical wide eyed tourists (even though we didn’t have the money to do anything in the way of sight seeing) but by the end we had definitely had enough. We were living in a tiny apartment on $10 a day, spending most of the time huddled in the rehearsal or recording studio working late every night. It wasn’t the typical experience for people traveling to New York. We were all so happy when we got back to the wide open space and fresh air of Australia. But now Sam, Zaac and i are sleeping in the same room in our parent’s house, New York doesn’t look too bad! We definitely have our hopes high for something in America but nothing is set in stone at the moment.
6. You’ve been hailed as the darlings of Triple J’s unearthed after scoring their Unearthed Homebake slot and coming in at #57 in the Hottest 100. How would you describe the significance of a platform like Unearthed radio for emerging artists?
Unearthed is definitely one of the most beneficial tools for any young up and coming band who wants to get their music heard. It’s done a great deal of good for us, we had 30 to 40 people turning up to gigs before Lay It Down got airplay. A week or two after it got put on rotation we played to a full crowd at World Bar in Sydney, some people even singing the lyrics. Any band’s dream.
7. The current social media landscape for artists looking to promote themselves is pretty wide and demanding, do you guys enjoy the social media aspect or is it just a necessary part of getting a band noticed these days?
I think we definitely enjoy it because we never think too much about using strategies to gain more likes or listens. We just use them to let people know what we are up to, to connect and have fun with fans. We’re fairly good with Facebook and Instagram but our Twitter needs a little attending to!
8. It must be very encouraging to have a songstress the ilk of Bertie Blackman supporting you on your national tour, how did you manage that?
It was our booking agent who hooked that up. We got the email saying that she was supporting us and couldn’t believe it. We’ll definitely be watching her performances and taking notes so we learn as much as we can from her!
9. We’ve heard you blasted all over the radio, what can we expect from your live show?
Our live show is probably a lot bigger in sound than people expect, especially for those who only know lay it down. We work really hard on our set list making sure it flows from start to finish. This tour is going to be a lot bigger production-wise than any previous tours because we are playing bigger shows than ever before. It’s definitely going to be a good rock and roll show.
10. What’s going to be on the tape deck in the Tarago when the Rubens tour Australia?
We listen to a lot of hip hop so good doses of that (the brothers of chico dusty is one of our favourites) and we recently got into band of skulls so a lot of them as well.
11. Can we expect any Oasis-esque brotherly fighting while you’re on tour?
Not against each other, against Scotty for sure. He’s so monstrous that it takes a team effort to take him down.
12. Top three Melbourne bands?
Them Swoops, the Pretty Littles and the Harpoons.
13. Favourite Melbourne bar? And drink to have there?
Bimbo deluxe on brunswick st. A coopers + a pizza on their rooftop.
Catch the Rubens and Bertie Blackman on their national tour throughout September and October.