We chat with The Rubens
For a brief moment, Sam, Zaac and Elliot Margin from The Rubens thought their drummer was dead.
It wasn’t a cliché rock ‘n’ roll vomit choke. Nor was it an untimely nosedive during a flight across the Pacific. No, this was more the type of act that would make a WorkSafe Officer shudder underneath their tangerine vest.
It occurred during the filming of the band’s launch single ‘Don’t Ever Want To Be Found’. In the clip, the boys can be seen leaping off an 18 metre cliff face into the water below. While most would’ve opted for a simple pin drop, sticks man Scott Baldwin somehow managed to turn his leap into a failed inward-reverse pike.
His resulting face plant and near unconscious state left the Margin brothers thinking they might need to audition for a new drummer.
“He landed in a ball on his face and the water went up like a bomb,” frontman Sam Margin explains. “We all thought; ‘oh shit, he’s dead’.”
Thankfully, Baldwin survived, perhaps partly due to the fact he is built like a Bulgarian weightlifter. Either way, it’s lucky he came through unscathed otherwise Tone Deaf may never have had the pleasure to have a chat with he and the rest of The Rubens at Mushroom Records HQ.
Despite the recent run of near-death experiences – Zaac Margin ruptured his spleen while skateboarding through Times Square – the past year has been fruitful for The Rubens. Aside from selling out most of their shows and landing in the J’s 2011 countdown (coming in at a #57 on the Hottest 100), the band also managed to catch the ear of veteran producer David Kahne; whose CV is gilded with such big names as Paul McCartney, The Strokes, Regina Spektor.
The opportunity to travel to New York to record their debut LP with a producer like Kahne seemed like Christmas for the boys. Unfortunately, it didn’t begin as smoothly as they were expecting.
“He (Kahne) tried to fuck with us a lot. It took a while to try and pull him back,” explains frontman Sam. “We had interventions. There was a lot of stuff that went down that was really scary.”
“It was blind faith for the first half of the record,” he admits. “That being said, it’s not like we fought with the producer the whole time. He did some amazing things. It (the new album) wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if he didn’t do the things he did.”
“He’s a bit of a crazy amazing genius,” Margin adds.
Kahne’s golden touch is evident when dissecting the before and after versions of the band’s new single, ‘My Gun’. The changes, such as the half-step pause before the chorus and the increased tension within the second verse, are subtle, but provide a polish that was missing in the song’s previous format.
Such changes have also meant the band has had to adjust their live repertoire. This adjustment hasn’t been a problem, however, considering that they’ve toured more times than John Farnham during the past few months.
Despite the constant gigging, it’s no surprise that the band’s shows consistently sell out. Few tickets are expected to remain for their upcoming national album tour.
Even their Splendour slot at the GW McLennan tent was beyond capacity. Keep in mind that this was during day three at 1.20pm, a time where most punters are either waking up from a hangover or a random sleepover from the night before.
“We’re always playing bigger shows than the last,” Margin says. “The progression has been like the Northcote Social Club to the Corner to The Forum or Splendour. We get a massive amount of excitement when playing these sorts of shows.”
“Splendour was completely different,” Baldwin adds. “We were blown away by how many people showed up. I would’ve been asleep at the time we were playing.”
You’d think such popularity would be enough to score them a free pot and parma back in their rural New South Wales hometown of Menangle.
Not so, it seems.
“If you visit our hometown you’ll realise how much they don’t give a shit!” Elliot says to a resounding chuckle from the rest of the group. “Young people care, we’ve been in the papers and stuff, but it’s not like you walk down the street and get noticed.”
It’s a vastly different story outside Menangle. Their number 57 positioning in last year’s Triple J Hottest 100 countdown was no fluke, nor will it be the last taste of success they have locally. A soul-drenched vibe combined with their effortless live swagger has seen The Rubens go from laid back blokes to Australia’s most promising quartet.
Given such a reaction, abroad success almost seems a given. That is provided the lads don’t hurl themselves off 18 metre cliffs, go skating through Times Square or get crushed by four simultaneously falling pianos in the interim.
The Rubens is out now through Ivy League, read the Tone Deaf verdict here. The Rubens are currently on a massive national tour w/ support from Bertie Blackman and New Gods. Full dates and details here.