It’s been three years since The Rubens laid anything down, track-wise at least. The band burst onto the scene in 2012 (when people still bought albums), and its self-titled debut My Gun went platinum. Today the band members are sipping on Bloody Marys on the promotion trail for their long-time-coming follow up album, Hoops.
“We rented a house and lived there for six months, we wrote at home, we went to Byron. We moved around trying to find inspiration, not in the actual surroundings, but by changing location,” says lead singer, Sam Margin.
Sitting across from them it’s easy to pick the three Margin brothers Sam, Elliott and Zaac. Alongside childhood friend and drummer Scott Baldwin and bassist William Zeglis, The Rubens has a casual couldn’t-give-a-shit vibe. They’re relaxed, like a group of mates just hanging out and having a good time. Their writing process follows the same style – just playing around with sounds until they find something that works.
“Everyone’s expanded their sounds this time, and thought about it way more. It’s more upbeat, there’s more belters and it’s a more well-rounded set (live),” says Sam.
Hoops has been a lengthy process. The band spent time in New York recording and rehearsing, before flying producer David Kahne over from the States to Byron for pre production. The band cut 34 songs down to the final album track list. So what was it that inspired this album?
“That if we didn’t do a good record we’d be broke and we wouldn’t be making music anymore. Homelessness, unemployment, no longer being musicians.” says Sam.
It’s this lighthearted cynicism that brings the financial hardship that is the reality for most musicians to the forefront. After kicking off at Splendour in the Grass, the band will play 22 shows over the coming four months. “We’re doing more regional stuff so that we can expand our fan base,” says Sam. But there’s another reason for this extensive touring.
“Today artists can’t just put out a record, make heaps of money from it and then tour when they feel like it. If they want to keep living they have to tour all the time, which means fans get to see good music all the time,” he says. While a strong live music scene is a positive side effect, the necessity of it highlights the repercussions of illegal downloading and its ongoing effects for musicians.
“All the dialogue about Spotify is good because people are actually starting to focus on it and put a value on music. And if they look more at using Spotify to listen, maybe they’ll spend more on going to shows and buying merchandise, because they’ll understand that’s what keeps their bands alive. Keep them on the road, otherwise there’s no more music,” says Elliot.
Baldwin goes further to attribute the extent of free downloading to a lack of understanding. “If people understood how long it takes to make an album and how much you don’t make from selling one, I think people would change their thinking”, says Baldwin.
Lucky for it (and us) The Rubens loves to tour. You can see it on their faces when they share stories of sitting across from each other at a little table inside their Mercedes splitter tour van, scared shitless the time their tour manager drove on the wrong side of the road and mounted the median into oncoming traffic.
Touring festivals such as Laneway are the band’s top picks to play, as is Splendour in the Grass, where every year prior to this they have camped just like us regular punters. Hoops has been a long time coming. The Rubens’ last gig was Lost Picnic in March, and touted for its high-energy live shows, the prospect of its upcoming tour has the band pumped.
“We’re actually more enthusiastic than any fan is right now,” says Sam.
Hoops was released on August 7, 2015.