“Let’s go for badass” – The Rubens Interview

Upon hearing of their success across the nation and abroad, it’s hard to believe that soulful blues rockers The Rubens formed just two years ago. After winning the Triple J Unearthed spot at Homebake in 2011, the four-piece from Menangle have topped iTunes charts with their self-titled debut album, appeared on the soundtrack to a feature film, been nominated for three ARIA awards to date and have just returned from their US tour with Grouplove.

Ahead of their performance at the Nova Red Room this Thursday, GC Mag caught up with drummer Scott Baldwin.

Congratulations on your second and third ARIA award nominations and your nomination for Channel V’s Oz Artist of the Year. For such a young band, did you ever expect to be where you are today?
Not at all, it’s pretty weird. I’ve gone from teaching drums and being a uni student to travelling the world.

Do you remember the first time you heard yourselves on the radio?
Oh yeah, I think it was ‘Don’t Ever Want To Be Found’ on Triple J and it was kind of weird hearing your own song. [It’s]a weird feeling people ringing you up saying “you’re on the radio!”

After finishing up your US tour with Grouplove, what is one thing you’ve learned about touring?
They seem to have a lot of fun and because we’re so new we want to get the set right and play the songs properly but one thing I’m about is kind of sacrificing a bit of perfection and having a bit more vibe on stage. So sometimes you’re concentrating too hard and trying to play the songs perfectly, [and] you can be really boring. I think that’s something we need to improve, and sort of let our hair down a little bit more, interact with the crowd and each other and have a lot of fun. Grouplove are really good at that.. they may not play a perfect set but they have a lot of fun and I think that’s something we can all learn from.

In a few day’s time, you’ll be headlining at The Jack Daniel’s 1907 Nova Red Room, do you guys prefer to play smaller intimate gigs like this or huge sold old crowds?
There’s more pressure at a really big gig and the vibe and the noise of a big crowd is crazy, it blows your mind away, you don’t get over that, the adrenaline and then the excitement you feel – I can’t really describe it, it’s really kind of strange. They’re both really cool, it’s good to play at the small gigs because it’s not as serious, there’s not this big barrier between you and the crowd – you feel more transparent.

You guys have such a distinct sound, do you have any particular influences?
We like a lot of music, me in particular – I like all sorts of things, country, electro, blues, rock, heavy metal, screamo. I even like classical music. But I suppose when we’re writing we don’t really think about who we want to be or who we want to sound like – just what sounds cool at the time and what we like. The boys [Sam, Zaac and Elliott] are a lot of the driving force behind the sound ..but they listen to a lot of rap music, it’s really different. As far as they go, they draw influences from Van Morrison, Kings of Leon, Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, things like that.

We understand you’re working on some new material, what have you been listening to while recording?
I’m all over the place but I’ve been really been enjoying the new Arctic Monkeys’ sound, a few tracks on there are really good and it’s something that I kind of want to zone in on. I really like the Preatures – a good Australian band – we’re actually playing with them [at the Nova Red Room]. I actually met them for the first time in Hollywood a few weeks ago.. they’re a young band kind of like us, coming through the ranks.

One word to describe the new album?
Well we’ve only done three tracks so we have a long way to go but let’s go for badass. I’m hoping it will be a little bit bigger again and more real with more energy so more songs like ‘My Gun’ and ‘Best We Got’.

Any advice for new bands trying to break into the scene?
Well when we sort of broke, it was all because of Triple J – we got really lucky. We didn’t have much experience; we’ve had to work really hard to actually play live. Our album went big before we could actually play properly. So I would say just practice, play the unit, have a lot of fun. [Triple J] Unearthed is really good, it worked really well for us. Just keep going with it, try to talk to some good people in the industry and get people on board. At the end of the day if you’re having fun, people will see that and people enjoy it when you enjoy it – that’s the main thing.

You can catch Scott, Sam, Zaac and Elliott this Thursday at the The Jack Daniel’s 1907 Nova Red Room and this December at the Falls Festival.