- Tue, 2010-06-01 14:24
Canadians Born Ruffians invited comparisons to Modest Mouse and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with the energetic, leftfield indie-rock of their 2008 debut album Red Yellow and Blue. Building on the success of that record, and following a busy two years of extensive touring that has taken them far and wide, the band have now released album number two, Say It.
I Like Music met the band to chat about their live show, the making of and themes behind their new album, the evolution of their sound and what the future holds.
“I Like Music because…I like to groove down with my bad self!” Born Ruffians
ILM: How has the new material been going down in the live shows?
Mitch: We’re just about to start with the live show actually, we haven’t really toured the record. We’ve played a few random shows, but tomorrow night is our first show touring, so we’re pretty excited!
ILM: How to you approach the transition from studio to live?
Luke: It’s pretty different with this album, cos Andy’s new to the fold. And also I moved cities as well. We’ve had to organise rehearsals a lot more. Because we don’t live together any more we have to figure out when and where we can do the practice and what we have to do in it. As far as interpreting the songs goes, it was recorded pretty live, so the record is pretty transitional from recording to live.
ILM: So it’s just a case of seeing what happens with the first ones and reshuffling if it needs it?
Luke: Yeah. Wherever there’s an opportunity to beef things up and add a part in we’ll do that if it works. Having Andy is great because he brings extra parts and fills in parts that are on the record that we were never able to play live. But we haven’t just filled everything in. Andy’s not just going to play violin in every song.
Andy: Only in four or five songs!
Luke: We still have a pretty sparse sound live.
ILM: Which have been some of your most memorable live shows?
Luke: Australia was pretty crazy for us. That’s like the furthest place that you can play.
Mitch: We just have good memories from that entire trip. We got there and just played a big festival in each major city.
Luke: We got to go to all of them.
Mitch: It was so much fun travelling from city to city.
Luke: And the crowd reception and size of the crowds for us there was way beyond our expectations. It was our first time there, so that was pretty cool. The first show kind of blew my mind. I think it blew all of our minds. It was part of a festival, so you’re always going to have a crowd, but it was really our crowd. It was packed and everyone went crazy. It was amazing! Other great shows are usually just random shows that, for whatever reason, have something cool about them. A lot of our hometown shows in Toronto are really great. The last one we played was amazing. Hometown crowds are always crazy.
Mitch: Those are getting better and better
ILM: Did those experiences play a big part in how you approached your second album?
Luke: That’s tough! I don’t know if I ever really relate the two in my mind, other than thinking “that part could be cool live.” As far as the process of making the album goes, it was very much the same as the first record. It was different in certain ways, but we just worked in a room and jammed together and everything came out of building the songs from different ideas that we had. I might bring a guitar part in or Rich would bring a bass part in and it would build from there. It’s all very collaborative. It just came together from hanging out in a room.
ILM: And the recording?
Luke: A sort of similar approach. Everything was recorded very live and with a very organic feel. It was the same producer. I kind of think of the records as a pair, this one being the logical progression and the maturing and all that generic stuff that happens to a band! It wasn’t an intentional departure from the first record. We didn’t play any of these songs live. Maybe two of them. So the live show had no impact on these songs. We weren’t really able to test any of them out live.
Steve: There was that one show we played at the opera house when we were already two days into recording.
Luke: Yeah exactly, we were already recording. We didn’t have a chance to over-think the songs. That’s the way I like to think of it. When you play a song live you can over-think it and take something away from it.
ILM: How would you describe the sounds and song structures that you enjoy working with the most? What makes a track a Born Ruffians track?
Luke: It’s something that you just know when you’re working on it. A lot of songs fall by the wayside, maybe because they’re too serious, or too sad. When we get together and come up with a sad song we tend to be like “that’s fucking lame, let’s work on something else!” I’m mostly influenced by stuff that gives me goosebumps when I listen to it, like the big pop songs from the past ’60 years or whatever. Stuff that gets the hair on your skin to stand up. That’s the kind of thing we go for; big choruses, big endings.
ILM: What kind of approach do you take lyrically?
Luke: I’ve written all the lyrics except for Soul Brother. Steve wrote his parts in that. The lyrics are from a two year period, as they were with our last record, so it’s tough when you get asked what a record’s about. I have to put two years of stuff together and try to find something that links them. I guess what links the majority of them is communication. That’s kind of where the title comes from: Say It. If there’s any common theme, it’s that. They just come from experiences in my life. Something real that happened that I just fictionalise, or something that I’m thinking about for a day and write a song about. But yeah, the common theme that I’ve been coming up with is communication and the difficulties with it. It’s a very, very broad subject…
ILM: How do you push yourselves to evolve as a band?
Luke: I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. As I said, these two records are a pair in my mind, and they were created in a similar way, so the thought now is “I’m a bit tired of that, how else can we do this?” That’s what we’re getting into now; the very, very early stages of new material. Things that happen by chance affect that, like my moving cities. We might have to email ideas back and forth to each other, which will affect the writing. If I send a song to Steve and he’s able to work on the drums on his computer rather than in the room… Basically, I’m excited about the next record and about pushing our boundaries a bit. Hopefully we’ll contribute something a bit different to the music scene.
Steve: Even the logistics of that will change the way I approach drums. Usually we sit in a room, we have the bare bones of a song and we start working on it. If I have to try and demo them on a programme rather than playing them it might be a lot worse, and if that happens we’ll just have to ditch that approach.
Luke: The good thing is that we’re in such an early experimental phase that we can try that, and if it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work. It might work for a different song. I’d definitely like to try different things.
Mitch: We’ve yet to purposely set aside a time to be like “let’s try doing something like this.” Circumstance has just dictated how everything has happened. We haven’t been like “let’s do this record when we live together in a basement!” It’s not some concept, it’s just what happened!
ILM: What have you been listening to recently?
Andy?: I’ve listened to the new Usher record.
Luke?: The new Caribou.
Mitch?: The new Four Tet.
Steve: There’s something else I just heard and I thought “I’m gonna remember this for when someone asks me what I’ve been listening to.” I did a good job of remembering the moment but not of what I was listening to!
ILM: What live shows have you seen that have left a lasting impression on you?
Mitch: Man Man. Anytime I see them.
Luke: Yeah! They’re just incredible! I haven’t see Caribou’s new show yet, to go with the new album.
Steve: The bass parts are a lot better.
Luke: But Man Man are just insane!
Steve: If you ever get the chance to see them play… They’re all so wild, but they’re such tight musicians that you never hear a mistake.
Luke: It looks like chaos.
Steve: Their drummer is amazing. I remember one time he was drumming and adjusting a mixer…
Luke: And dancing at the same time!
Steve: He didn’t miss a beat. He’s probably one of the best drummers we’ve ever seen. I told him that and then I got embarrassed!
Luke: The singer surfs on his stool while he’s playing keyboard.
Steve: We stole all that...haha!
ILM: What does the future hold for Born Ruffians?
Luke: We’re kinda just focussed on touring at the moment. We’re looking forward to writing new exciting music. Stuff that feels relevant to us. Just see where that takes us. We’re always excited for the next record...!