Words by Tracey Moyle
Australian rockers The Rubens have been a big part of Australian music fans’ staple diet since they dropped their first single Lay It Down in 2011. With three successful records under their belts, the band are back with their fourth studio album ‘0202’. The album drops alongside their biggest headlining tour to date, covering regional areas as well as our capitals.
Over the last decade the band have produced seven gold singles, a gold and platinum album, taken out number one spot on triple j’s hottest 100 in 2016, were invited by music legend Pink to join her on a 42 date arena tour plus so much more.
The Rubens are excited to take their self-produced ‘0202’ record, a body of work defined as ‘a forward thinking album for a backward year’, out on the road to a live crowd. With five singles already dropped from the album, including latest Muddy Evil Pain, the band has already impressed fans with a fist full of stellar songs. First single Live In Life was one of the biggest domestic singles of 2020, nominated for ARIA Song Of The Year & landing at Spotify’s third most streamed Australian song for 2020.
Recently our very own Music Maven Tracey Moyle had a chance to chat with the bands’ keys maestro Elliott Margin, discussing the creative aspects of their songs, why it’s important to stay true to your own musical inspiration and the excitement of getting back on the road after a challenging 12 months.
Congratulations on the new album ‘0202’. I guess it must be bringing back some sort of normalcy, releasing a new record and getting the music flowing again after a very strange year?
“Totally, considering when we release an album, there’s a long time between us finishing it and putting it out and usually that time will be filled with shows. Obviously this time has not been filled with shows. So we have had months of not nothing not the usual. So the records going to be a big release.”
Did the song writing process start earlier than 2020 or did it all unfold as the year showed its true colours to the world?
“I think we’re lucky in that all almost all of the music was written and recorded before Covid happened, so we’re not tainted by that which I think is good because otherwise it would be a very dated record. It wouldn’t be a record I would want to listed to if we were to sing about Covid. The fact that we got to get the record done before any of this kicked off is special. We were very lucky.”
That’s very true. The market is already saturated with music inspired by the events of the last 12 months. It’s going to be important to look forward going into 2021. I’ve had a listen to the album and there are some tracks on there that are absolute gold. I can’t wait to add them to my playlist. Masterpiece is truly that. What a brilliant song. How did that some come to life?
“I think the melody for the chorus was the first thing. A lot of the time for us, the melody is the first thing that come’s and you build the rest around it. I think it was written when Live In Life was, and in that sense they have a similar feel to them. Both are quite dark, lyrically and sonically. Just probably a frame of mind I was in at the time. But I think for us, the recording of them both, and the rest of the record, the process was very easy and fluid. Everyone knew their parts. Those two songs they weren’t a struggle to write and record. We knew what they had to be and got them down on paper so that was good.”
Do you have one person who lyrically brings most of the songs to the bands or do you share that creative role?
“Sam (Margin) and I share the song writing and lyric writing pretty much equally. Although we have done it on this album, in the past we haven’t written songs together. We would write them separately and bring the songs to each other and show them and work on them together and go from there. This record we tried to do that a little more which has helped. It’s more for us, overcoming that shyness, because when you’re making something super personal and you don’t know whether it’s good, you have to overcome that fear of being put down or rejected for something that you think could be quite good but it isn’t. You have to get over that. Especially being in a band, everyone’s opinion matters so it’s nice to be able to collaborate a little more on those ideas.”
I have just read a book call ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield and it’s about unblocking creative talent, learning how to follow your Muse and really allow that creative flow to run free without doubting yourself. Do you think your music is born from this creative flow or do you have a more deliberate focus when you’re writing?
“I should read that book. I think four albums in, we are pretty good at understanding our own creative process and knowing how to make it work better and make sure our output is as good as it can be. I think we are good at separating studio time and personal writing time and being on the road time. We make sure each process is as fun as possible and enjoyable as possible for all of us. It can get really taxing, stuck in a studio for a month working on a record, hearing the same songs over and over again and trying to be creative and do your best work. It can sometimes get a little stifling, but we’ve gotten to the point where we know how to avoid that in the studio. Though this record, we produced the song in the beginning by ourselves, which was the first time we’d done that. The fact we were able to do that in Will’s (Zeglis) studio in Camden our hometown, meant that it was very freeing. It was good that we could do that. Any idea was a good idea or at least worth considering and we’d try it out. Because it was just the five of us in the studio there’s no outside influence saying yes or no, we could just figure it out and then look at each other and figure out if it was something we wanted to do. It takes a while to get there but it’s fun to be able to do that now, being four albums in and trusting our instinct.”
I read that you gave each song on the album individual focus. Putting in 100% to that one track, giving it its own life rather than trying to make it fit into a larger picture. The four singles you’ve released leading up the album, each has its own personality as such. Do you think that this gives the album a different, perhaps more musically honest feel?
“Yeah, I think so. When we write music we don’t try to get too conceptual with it. Since we started this band we’ve been like, ‘what does this song need’, not necessarily ‘what are we trying to say with this whole record’. For us when we’re writing songs I’ts more about us expressing ourselves through this one song, ‘right now how does this feel?’ When I listen to the music I often don’t listen to the lyrics specifically, I just let it wash over me and however I feel is what I assume the song is about. I think that’s how we write songs as well. The lyrics we write in the end, for each song, it’s going to be subject specific. But overall for us it’s about, ‘how did the song make you feel? Did we nail what we were trying to go for?’ and trying to make that happen.”
Do you have any tracks on the new album that you are particularly attached to? Musically or lyrically.
“It always changes but at the moment I really like Thank You. Just because it was a really super easy song to write when it happened, it’s a happy memory. I think actually we were in L.A at the time, Sam, Zaac (Margin) and I, and we’d be doing a bunch of writing sessions with other people, just trying to stretch out limitations and break down those barriers of being shy in the studio. It was actually the last writing session of a bunch we’d done over two weeks in L.A. and we’d and we’d had a big night the night before and so we were really hungover this day. We arrived at the studio, we had no energy, just felt like there’s no way we’re going to get anything good out of this day. We were almost to the point of ‘should we just cancel.’ And then we ended up coming up with one of our most favourite songs on the record. I feel like it’s a nice testament to sticking it out and committing to the idea while you’re in the studio. Also, I think it’s just a beautiful song.”
All four singles so far are amazing. I have your earlier music in my CD collection. Just like the way we listen to music, your music has evolved since then. Do you consciously feel you need to find a balance between growing as a band and exploring new directions in your music and keeping your signature Rubens sound?
“It doesn’t come into the creative process for us. We don’t sit down and start writing for a record and say ‘right, what do we do different now’, we’re always writing songs so there’s always going to be a progression, because if we’re writing the same song every time, it’s just going to get boring for us. It’s more of a personal thing. There’s no point in us writing the same song twice. There’s no point using the same sounds, because we just get bored, you know. Whether that’s for us, Zaac buying new guitar pedals and making his guitar sound fucked up in some kind of way, and me, when we started out I would only play, as a keys player, some piano or some organ sounds and I kind of felt like that was it. Now I’m branching out way more into experimental synth sounds and production sounds that are more exciting for us. Not because we feel like we need to do something to keep people listening, it’s to keep ourselves interested. The benefit of keeping ourselves interested, is that other people stay interested as well. They don’t want to hear the same song twice. I think each time we do put out a record and we hear people say ‘that’s a progression from your last record’, it’s a nice surprise for us. It’s not something we try to do but we’re glad we accidentally do each time.”
You have a pretty extensive Australian tour kicking off in April. You’re heading out to a lot of regional areas as well as the capitals. I bet you are looking forward to getting back to touring again and connecting with fans?
“I cannot wait. Especially with these new songs. We’ve been releasing songs and not been able to get the reaction from a crowd live, which is hard. When you release a song you put it out there and you might see some kind of reactions on social media or see streaming numbers go up, which is really cool and nice but it’s not the same feeling as having people respond to it in a live setting. So, for us, we cannot wait to play these new song.”
The Rubens new album ‘0202’ is out now on all streaming services.
0202 ALBUM TOUR DATES 2021
For ticket details, head to therubensmusic.com
Fri-Feb-12-21 Dubbo, NSW Dubbo Convention Centre
Sat-Feb-13-21 Port Macquarie, NSW Port Macquarie Glasshouse
Sat-Feb-20-21 Thirroul, NSW Anita’s Theatre
0202 ALBUM TOUR 2021
Supported by Alice Ivy
Sat-Apr-03-21 – Crooked River Winery – Gerringong, NSW
Thu-Apr-08-21 – Fortitude Music Hall – Brisbane, QLD
Fri-Apr-09-21- Moncrieff Entertainment – Bundaberg, QLD
Sat-Apr-10-21 – Highfields Tavern – Toowoomba, QLD
Fri-Apr-16-21 – Enmore Theatre – Sydney, NSW
Sat-Apr-17-21 – Bar On The Hill – Newcastle, NSW
Wed-Apr-28-21 – Riverlinks Westside – Shepparton, VIC
Fri-Apr-30-21 Forum – Melbourne, VIC
Wed-May-05-21 – Whitestar Hotel – Albany, WA
Thu-May-06-21 – The River – Margaret River, WA
Fri-May-07-21 – Freo Social – Fremantle, WA
Sun-May-09-21 – Wintersun Hotel – Bluff Point, WA
Fri-May-14-21 – The Gap View Hotel – Alice Springs, NT
Thu-May-20-21 – Altar Bar – Hobart, TAS
Fri-May-21-21 – Altar Bar – Hobart, TAS
Sat-May-22-21 – Saloon Bar – Launceston, TAS
Sun-May-23-21 – Forth Pub – Forth, TAS
Wed-May-26-21 – The Leichardt Hotel – Rockhampton, QLD
Thu-May-27-21 – Seabreeze – Mackay, QLD
Fri-May-28-21 – Otherwise Bar – Townsville, QLD
Sat-May-29-21 – Tanks Arts Centre – Cairns, QLD
Wed-Jun-09-21 – Beer Deluxe – Albury, NSW
Thu-Jun-10-21 – The Whalers Hotel – Warrnambool, VIC
Fri-Jun-11-21 – Torquay Hotel – Torquay, VIC
Follow The Rubens
With thanks to Mushroom Group