By Wal Reid
I am meeting one of the most exciting rock bands out of Australia, The Rubens. The band known for their gritty dirty blues style were last here in Aotearoa supporting American Rock duo Black Keys, their recent sophomore album Hoops has been making waves both here and in Oz, while the boys hope to crack American & European audiences next year. "I'd like to go to Europe" quips Scott.
We casually work our way to talking about the band's latest rock offering Hoops, however talk turned a tangent as the subject of New Zealand's change of flag debate struck a chord with the group. "You know your captain of the All Blacks Ritchie McCaw" says Scott. "He wanted the leaf (Silver Fern) or something so basically everyone's on his band wagon, so whatever he wants we'll just go with that. It's pretty funny".
The ‘bro' band comprises the three Margin brothers, Zaac, Sam and Elliott, Will Zeglis on Bass and childhood friend, Scott Baldwin. "We actually grew up together and went to school with our singer Sam" says Scott. "We share cousins actually".
The band originally from Menangle, New South Wales first burst onto the scene a couple of years ago. Their acclaimed debut self-titled album The Rubens gained them domestic success with it reaching No. 3 on the Australian Music Charts (who can forget the oh-so catchy My Gun?) gaining the group a nomination for a J Award for Album of the Year. It doesn't do any harm having a band name that is easy to remember.
"Our band name, I kind of forget how it exactly happened" recalls Zaac. "But it's our little brother it's his nickname, he's Ruben. Somehow our older brother came up with it, Sam. I just can't remember how he came up with it, he started calling him Roy, then Croydon and then Royben. Then it just changed to Ruben somehow and then we were thinking of a name for the band and Sam said ‘Why not The Rubens?' We asked him to be the drummer I think when we weren't even a band, and he said ‘No' and Sam said ‘We'll just name the band after him" I think that's how it happened.
Hoops is the latest CD from the talented group, it also spawns the catchy single of the same name with its impressive kaleidoscope effect, its shot walking through the inside a white room, a video that came together rather quickly. "It was a quick shoot one of our quickest shoots we've had" says Scott. "It was over 3 or 4 hours really and a couple of takes and the rest was CGI'ed, it's a simple clip but we're pretty happy with it". "We wanted to have something that was visually good to look at and not really like a narrative" chips in Elliott.
Produced once again by Dave Kahne (The Strokes, Paul McCartney, Lana Del Rey) and mixed by Michael Brauer(Coldplay), Hoops was crafted over two years of relentless touring and song writing, it still retains the bands signature kitsch blues sound, the driving force behind Sam Margin's raw and raspy vocal style. It's a sentiment that rings true for keyboardist Elliott. "We had a lot of fun picking sounds this time, not just keyboards but guitar and things. It's just what comes naturally, the fact we all write songs. It's a bit different from the first album I think, Hoops just takes the R&B thing further, which is cool". "Some people have been commenting on the use of synth on the new album it's not anything there, it's Zaac's guitar effects which is cool" chimes Scott.
Bassist Will is more optimistic, his learnings from recording and touring are a welcome reflection and insightful. "You're in the middle of it and you don't realise what's happening" he says. "But we're just trying to keep relaxed and just go along with the flow, because you never know what's going to happen with the music industry, especially being a band you know? We're going alright today but tomorrow we could be nothing so were trying to enjoy the ride for what it is now".