The Rubens may be humble about their fame, but the truth is they’re one of the best Australian bands to erupt in the last couple of years. And erupt is the best word to describe the way they shot from their rural hometown, Menangle, NSW to the Big Apple within their first year of forming. They recorded their debut album in New York with a big American record producer, which came out in September 2012. The Rubens will be hitting Brisbane shores next week 1st February making an appearance at Laneway Festival.
IZE got the chance to speak to Elliot Margin (keys/vocals) of The Rubens about Laneway, recent accolades, the dreaded Hottest 100 countdown, fighting over girls and everything in between.
When you found out you got put on the bill of Laneway Festival, what was your initial reaction?
Ahh I don’t know – excitement. Because we’ve never played at a festival like that before so I think with all those cool bands going that’s pretty much what we’re excited for. Especially because on of the bands on the line-up are Alpine. We really like them, we’re really good friends with them and being put on a tour, we know we’re going to have a really good time.
An amazing achievement for the band last year was winning the J Award for Triple J Unearthed artist of the year. This has previously been won by artists such as Ball Park Music, Boy & Bear and The Middle East so to join those ranks is a feat in itself. Has it been a big thing for the band and how?
Oh yeah it was huge, just to be acknowledged. For the amazing year that we’ve had, to cap it off with that was awesome. We were all really really nervous and to get that award was amazing.
Your debut self-titled album was also nominated for Album of the Year. It’s smoky, bluesy with such a rich, mature and big sound. What were your personal expectations before you released it?
We were just hoping that we could capture everything that we wanted to be as a band. To feel like we made the album that we were hoping to make and to succeed in that really. Then getting it out there to people was the next step. Basically the whole time we were making it, all we were expected for it out of ourselves was what we were aiming for. And when releasing came we worried about that. So yeah that came second.
To record the album you got picked up by Grammy Award winning record producer, David Kahne, whose clients include Paul McCartney, The Strokes and Regina Spektor. What was the best part about working with Kahne and can you share an anecdote?
Best part, he’s just been doing it for so long that he has so much knowledge. I think working with someone like that, especially for us because we’ve never recorded in a studio before. And then to go over to New York and do it with him in this massive studio was, like you take everything in. So that was the best part learning a lot from him. And anecdote, I don’t know. In general at first he comes across as a really sweet guy but he’s got a very crude sense of humour which was always fun. He’d be very clean at one point and then the next second he’d be making a really dirty joke which was always fun.
I read in an interview that Kevin Parker from Tame Impala felt that he was rushed to release the record by their label and he would have liked to have changed a few of the song. Do you feel like you would change anything on the album?
Not really. Well there are tiny things here and there, but I mean, we worked as fast as possible to get it out because we just wanted to get it out as soon as we could. I don’t know if there was anything that we were rushed on really because we were pretty much doing the album before we were even signed to a record. So it was all part of our plan anyway to get it done and release it when we did.
Your single My Gun is a big contender in the Triple J Hottest 100. How are you going to be celebrating Australia day?
Well in the morning I’m going to pick up my parents from the airport so I have to get up early for that and I haven’t really made plans for the rest of the day. I don’t know, see what friends are doing I guess and maybe tag along. Maybe go to the beach or something. I’ll try and listen to the Hottest 100 but I might just be too nervous to bring myself to do it. I’ll try my best, but I don’t know.
A big thing about the band is that your rise to fame was quite accelerated after you first formed a couple of years ago. What sacrifices did you have to make in your personal life?
Not a lot really. It’s the same as any other kind of job where you don’t have time for friends during the week. Or while you’re working you don’t see a lot of people but once you’re back or have time off you catch up with everyone. We haven’t really made a lot of sacrifices in that sense. Because we’re not huge, we’re not always busy and always around the world and everything. So we’re still hometown boys doing the same old stuff really.
The Rubens are made up of yourself (Elliot Margin), two of your brothers (Sam and Zaac Margin) and one of your friends (Scott Baldwin). I know my dad was in a band with two of his brothers and they had their ups and down. But you’ve all said that you get along really well in interviews. Is there anything the band doesn’t agree on?
That’s a tough one. There are things here and there that we don’t agree on but they’re never to do with the sound of the band or anything like that. Just random little things that we might not see eye to eye on but they are never things that we argue about; it’s just little discussions. With the sound of the band and everything like that it’s always made sense to us. It was never something we had to think about.
Our readership is mainly teenage girls so I ask the question, have you three brothers ever fought over a girl?
Laughs. No, no. Never, I would never see it happening really.
Being a Brisbane magazine, it’s pretty special that the band has cited your Brisbane Hi-Fi gig as your favourite show you’ve ever played. Describe the atmosphere of the green room after the gig.
We played with New Gods and Bertie Blackman that night as well and we were probably backstage with them afterwards just having a big old group hug. I think it was one of the last shows of the tour as well so it was just all this energy. You know the tour had come to an end and we were all so excited. We were probably just screaming and yelling and having fun and enjoying it.
Finally, what can we expect from The Rubens’ Laneway set?
We’re going to do something new. We’re mixing up the set. For Brisbane it will be a different set for sure. We’re going to be getting some rehearsal time in and working on some new stuff.
Five (Super) Quick Questions with Elliot
If you had to buy a six pack for rehearsal, what would it be?
VB Maybe? Corona?
What was the last great album you bought?
Current favourite Australian band?
Vinyl, CD, tape or MP3?
I would like to be cool and say vinyl, but I own no vinyl so I’m just going to be honest and say MP3.
Who would you love to support, dead or alive?
The Rolling Stones.