Interview with The Rubens

Jackelyn Bassett sits down (figuratively) with The Rubens’ keys and backing vocalist Elliot Margin.


How did it all start with The Rubens?

It started in 2011. I was at high school still, I was in year 12 and Sam and Zaac who are my brothers were just at home bored one day and decided to jam and that’s how it happened. I got home from school and they were like “do you want to jam?” and I was like okay. We had all played instruments as kids but never thought about actually playing together and then we did and it just kind of worked. It was a strange thing. It’s like well, why didn’t we think of this before? We just wrote a bunch of songs and put them up on the internet and people actually liked them.

Were you a muso as a kid?

I wasn’t crazy into it. I never thought I would be a musician, I just enjoyed listening to music. I enjoyed playing music but I never thought that that would be a viable career. It just kind of happened which is extremely lucky because there’s so many people that that’s all they want to do and that’s all they focus on and you have to have that extra bit of luck to get you there and we had that luck which is crazy.

Who are your musical inspirations?

As kids, our parents would play Van Morrison and Fleetwood Mac in the car and they’d have Tracy Chapman on tape and we’d listen to that kind of stuff. I don’t know about inspiration, I think it comes from anywhere. It doesn’t matter what genre it is. We listen to a lot of hip hop and that’s a great genre to look for for inspiration, I think for any musician just because it’s so different. Especially if you’re a rock musician, you can get a lot of inspiration from hip hop just because they’re pioneering a lot of different, weird kind of stuff.

When did you decide that you wanted to make music for a living?

When we were playing shows. When we started playing our first shows, I was like, yea this is fun but at that time, I still didn’t think it was going to be anything. I think when we got a bit of radio play we actually had people turning up to shows, I think that was when I kind of realised this could actually be something that we can do and I love it.

What are your thoughts on Hoops reaching the #2 position on the ARIA Album charts?

It’s crazy, it’s amazing. We were stoked. You don’t ever think something like that is going to happen and during the week when we were in the first week of sales and we saw some articles saying we were up against Dr. Dre for number 1, we were like holy s***. We were being realistic we were like well, we’re not going to get number one. It’s crazy especially nowadays, not many people are buying records, you don’t really expect much to go on regarding record sales and to have those figures come back at you it’s like wow, that’s a really cool thing.

What was it like making Hoops?

It was really fun. We rented a house about an hour south of Sydney. We did about 5 months of writing there which is something we hadn’t done before. For the first one, we’d only been a band for about a year when we went to record and we only had 15 songs under our belt so it was kinda like it just happened. This time, we could actually sit back and think about what we wanted to write and what we wanted the album to be. We ended up writing about 35 songs which was awesome and then you have a lot of songs to choose from and you can really hone the album and make sure it’s as strong as it could be. We spent the first couple of weeks just surfing and drinking beer and having friends over and it was like alright, maybe we should start doing some work now. We had to knuckle down eventually…

How was it playing at Splendour?

It was so much fun. We used to beg family and friends to come along to shows when we first started like, please, someone be there. A big show like that, you have such high expectations for it and there’s so many things that could go wrong. It could be raining, you might be up against a huge person on another stage and not many people might turn up but we just had a crazy crowd, one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever played to. It was a nice way to say we’re back again, we’re back on the road, we’ve got an album. It’s a nice reminder as well, you go away for so long writing an album and being off the scene and not playing shows and you go stir crazy. You’re stuck in a studio 24/7 and it’s like well, why are we doing this? It can be really hard at times and then you play live shows and you’re like, that’s why we’re doing it. It’s just the best part about it.

Are there many fights playing in a band with your brothers?

None, there hasn’t been any. I mean, there’ll be arguments about tiny things but nothing huge, which is nice. Everyone expects it to be like the Gallaghers, fighting on stage. I think it’s also because we’ve got Scotty and Will in the band so they can break it up and they’ve got great personalities and they’re good characters. It doesn’t really feel like there’s any tension ever because everyone gets along so well. There’s no time to sit back and be angry about anything because we know how lucky we are.

If you could swap lives with somebody else for a day, who would it be and why?

That’s a hard one. I don’t know. I really like Outkast personally and André 3000 is just a cool guy. I mean it’s not like they’re playing shows or anything at the moment but just to be him for a day would be a pretty cool feeling.

What’s your favourite song to play live?

At the moment I think it’s a new song on the new album called ‘The Fool’ and it’s a real heavy, hard-hitting song. For us, it’s just a lot of fun because we don’t have a lot of songs like that that are just like distorted and kind of mental. We’re still learning to play these new songs live so it’s kind of like right on the razor’s edge. It could fall apart at any time and it’s just holding together. It’s a little bit of beautiful chaos, which is fun, and it’s got a cool solo in it so I think that’s my favourite at the moment.

What are you most excited about for the upcoming tour?

I think just the feeling of playing shows again and having people coming along to see us play live. It’s been a long time. We’ve had a couple of shows recently like Splendour and some album launches and things but not an extended stint on the road, which is what we love to do. I think just travelling, seeing new places, meeting new people and playing your new songs live is just going to be a real nice way to get back into it again.

 How are you preparing for the tour?

Just a whole lot of rehearsals. Like last time, when we came off the first album, came back from recording, we kind of went straight on the road and we were a pretty shit band like we weren’t tight at all. By the end of that cycle, we got better we realised how terrible we were at the start. So now it’s like, we’ve learnt from that, let’s do a whole lot of rehearsals and make sure we’re tight as and then you can enjoy the tour from the get go. You can be tight as and really get into it and work off the crowd instead of learning as you go on the road. The main thing is to be rehearsed well so you can feel comfortable and have a good time. We’re doing that at the moment, we’re rehearsing right now.

What are your goals for the future of The Rubens?

Just keep playing shows and keep writing songs and getting better. It’s nice to have a job where you’re being creative and you’re constantly pushing yourself and you’re pushing each other. When the creativity is good, it’s lots of fun and then you have hard times when it’s like, I can’t f****** get through this song. It’s nice to have a job that’s stimulating like that. I think, that The Rubens, we’re happy to just keep doing what we’re doing and expanding. We want to spread our fan base and be able to play shows around the world eventually. That’s our job and that’s the only way you can survive as a band and we love it.


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