It was in 2012 that five boys from the small NSW country town of Menangle packed their bags and flew to New York City to record their debut album. They had 14 songs and only $20 per day to spend on food, but Grammy winning producer, David Kahne (Lana Del Rey, The Strokes) had heard their music and sent a personal invitation. That was three years, a platinum album and numerous sold-out tours ago, and now The Rubens are back with their sophomore record, Hoops …
The last time we caught up was in the lead up to FOTSUN back in 2013. I can only imagine the last two years have been filled with memorable moments – can you name a few of them?
The last two years pretty much has been … we finished touring the album in late 2013, so since then it’s just been writing and recording Hoops, which has been a whole lot of fun. We did a lot of writing in a house south of Sydney for five months and came up with a whole bunch of material, and then ended up going up to Byron Bay for pre-production, which was beautiful, and then recorded in New York. So, we’ve done a lot of travelling and been to a lot of sweet places, and then now of course we get to start touring and see a lot of great places again! We’re so lucky!
You’ve now dropped your new album, Hoops, which has already made it to #2 on the ARIA chart; you guys must be chuffed!
It’s a crazy thing; you spend so long recording and sitting in a studio doing all this stuff, and then you kind of forget why you’re doing it … and when you get a stat back saying that is charted second, that’s amazing! That’s why we’re doing it.
What was the experience like going into the studio for the second time?
It was good. We worked with the same producer as last time – David Kahne – so this time around we weren’t in for a lot of surprises.
Last time we’d never been in a studio before, and all of a sudden we were working with this big name producer who’d worked with so many cool people and so many of our heroes; it was a bit scary at first, but this time around we didn’t have to be scared. We’re good friends with David, and we can just get along and work hard on the music and have fun.
I think this time we weren’t as green; we were able to speak up a lot more. Before if we didn’t like the sound of something or maybe a song was going down a road we didn’t like, this time we were able to speak up and have a discussion about that and steer it more in our direction, which meant that we were a lot happier with our end product. We knew how studio time works and how exactly we could pull the sounds that we wanted; it was exciting for us, because we knew what album we wanted to make and we knew were capable of doing it – it was a very fun experience.
I read the song Switchblade off Hoops has a bit of a comical story behind it …
Sam wrote that one; he wrote it when he was really drunk! hH decided to sit down at the laptop, write a song and have a couple of beers, – I think it ended up being a lot of beers – and in the morning we had a listen to it, and said, “Oh s*@t, we have a song here!”
The album Hoops incorporates a lot of different music styles; what inspired the decision to bring those different influences forward?
We listen to a lot of different music between us. We listen to a lot of Hip Hop and then obviously Blues, and Rock and stuff. When you’re listening to that kind of music, it kind of creeps in with what you write, and we’re not afraid to branch out across an album and have a new song that’s quite RnB, and then another song that’s quite straight up Rock ‘n’ Roll. If that’s the songs we’re writing, then that’s us and what we’re playing.
We don’t think any articular song isn’t “Rubens” enough … When we wrote Hoops, it’s sounds quite RnB, but we still like it. There’s no fear of being eclectic on an album.
You’re stopping by in Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. Can we expect a mixture of both new and old? And what are you looking forward to most about getting back on the road?
At the moment, we’ve been building steps in working out how things are going to flow, and it’s looking like it will be half and half at the moment, which is fun – going back to the old stuff is more fun than we thought it would be, because we haven’t played it in a while, and it feels fresh again.
It’s a pay off for us to be finally playing this new stuff live; you spend so much time indoors making it – live, it feels good.
Being brothers, you must disagree at times. How do you calm the fire when problems arise – especially while on the road?
We’re pretty good – we see eye to eye on pretty much everything, whether it’s creatively or business wise – like going to certain places and things like that. When we were cutting down songs, we had about 35 songs for the album and that had to be cut down to 11; we had differences of opinions, and everyone was OK with listening about why their song should be on the album or why this song shouldn’t be on the album. It can get heated, but everyone respects each other well enough to listen to each other’s decisions. It’s part of being a band; otherwise, it’s going to be a s@#t time.
What happens to those songs that don’t quite make the cut for the album?
We have some that we just didn’t do well enough with and they’ll probably just go in the scrap heap and will never see the light of day, but then there’s a bunch that we feel really strongly about – whether they’ll be reworked on a third album or whether they’ll end up on some sort of deluxe version as they are. There’s a lot of material there that we feel strongly about and really hope they’ll see the light of day someday.
Don’t miss the Rubens with special guests Saskwatch & Winterbourne at C.ex Coffs Harbour on the Hoops national tour. Saturday 7 November 2015 (opening 7pm).
www.cex.com.au. 18+ tix $39.80