Prepare to fall in love with The Rubens. After dominating the charts in their home country of Australia, the alternative rock band are ready to take the world by storm!
The group’s infectious guitar riffs and engaging lyrics have certainly made an impact on the music industry and it’s fair to say that The Rubens have even become Australian national treasures in their own right. Their viral hit ‘Hoops’ charted at number one on the country’s Triple J Hottest 100 list.
Now, The Rubens are getting ready to bring their signature sound to the UK. The quintet is the brainchild of: lead singer and guitarist Sam Margin, keyboard player and vocalist Elliott Margin, lead guitarist Zaac Margin, drummer Scott Baldwin and bassist Will Zeglis.
We chatted to Sam Margin earlier this week. In our exclusive interview, he discussed: the evolution of the band’s sound, his musical influences, how he felt when a Rubens song featured in Supernatural and much more. Check out Sam’s answers to our questions below!
For people who haven’t yet heard your music, how would you describe your sound?
“I’d say it’s kind of blues and R&B inspired rock and roll. The new record and the new single in general, ‘Hoops’, is probably more R&B inspired. We listen to a lot of hip hop so we use a lot of the hip hop inspired beats and focus a lot on that. Then my vocals just sort of naturally tend to sing in those melodies and riffs. That’s the way I’d describe it.”
Your sophomore album ‘Hoops’ performed incredibly well in Australia; congratulations. How did you feel when you heard that it went in at number one on Triple J’s Hottest 100 list?
“Thank you. Oh man, we lost our shit. It was a few months out; we were speculating about what we thought we might get. A couple of years back, on our first record, we’d gotten a song at number 10 and that was: crazy, huge and amazing. I think everyone’s goal, or everyone’s hope, was to get a better result than we’d gotten before so top 10 was like the goal. People started to speculate. There’s people who do statistics and stuff in Australia; it’s a big thing. These guys go and do a cross section of like 20,000 Instagram posts and try to predict the results. These guys had us in at like number 5 or number 4 so suddenly everyone started questioning us like ‘are you excited?’ ‘Do you think you’ll be in the top 5?’ So our expectations had to grow and it got out of hand but we never ever thought we’d get number one.”
And you beat tough competition too from the likes of Kendrick Lamar.
“Yeah, it came in over Tame Impala. We’re massive fans of Tame Impala; they’re the biggest band in Australia right now. Being around those artists in a thing like that was super cool.”
How excited are you to be preparing to release the record in the UK?
“Oh, it’s a relief man. We’ve wanted to put this record out in the UK for ages; we made this record a year ago and obviously when you finish making something you want to put it out as soon as possible. We figured that it would be smart to release the record in Australia and tour there then go to America and release it there. Then we’ve given ourselves time to go to the UK and be in the country when we release it – you can’t be everywhere at once. So yeah, it’s really cool. I used to live in London for three years so it’s actually really important to me that we get to come over to the UK.”
The album isn’t out yet here in the UK but your headline show in May has already sold out and you even had to upgrade the venue – does that feel quite surreal?
“Yeah, surreal man. I couldn’t believe it – I thought there must have been a mistake with the website or something. Obviously we do well in Australia but we’re not used to selling out elsewhere. Well, we’re used to selling out small shows but selling out the 300 and then going to that 600 was pretty cool and really unexpected. Hopefully we can do it in other cities other than London as well.”You’re also performing at this year’s The Great Escape Festival – how would you say playing festivals compares to your own headline gigs?
“It’s just a different vibe. Obviously crowds are generally bigger at festivals. If you’re tailoring a show towards an audience, the festivals are a bit more of a stadium rock kind of vibe whereas some shows can be much more intimate. So I guess, with festivals, it’s just more energetic and and you can get away with going more nuts on stage I think. There’s good and bad things about both. Playing a 3,000 seat arena is awesome but then playing a 300 person room can be just good – it just sort of depends on the energy. They’re completely different vibes but still awesome.”
The official video for the title track ‘Hoops’ has now received over 2 million views on YouTube – why do you think people have connected with that song so much?
“I dunno. You never know man. If we knew that, we’d be more successful than we are. (laughs) Record labels would be making more money if they could predict it. No-one knows if things will happen like that but we’re just thankful that they happen. I mean I really like the song. When Elliot (who’s the keyboard player) sent me the demo, I was hooked straight away and it’s definitely got an interesting sort of riff in that chorus that gets stuck in your head. I think that’s obviously an important part of having a hit song; if you want to call it that. That’s probably what I’d put it down to; the fact that it’s catchy but it’s catchy in a way that’s still interesting I think.”
‘Hoops’ was actually the last song that you recorded for the album, wasn’t it?
“Yeah. We recorded the whole album in New York and then we’d gone back to Australia and it was being mixed in America. We were just sort of hearing the mixes and it was almost all done. Then that song came up and obviously we weren’t just going to go back to America to record one song so we recorded it with a producer in Sydney. His name’s Eric J; he’s a hot producer in Australia right now and a lovely guy. We had a really nice time recording it. Obviously making a record can be super stressful but because we felt like it’d already been done, we had this bonus kind of track and it was just a really nice experience recording. I think you can kind of hear it in the recording; it’s like the vibes are good because we were so relaxed when we made it. For some reason, that made it even better. We got the title track when we thought we’d finished the record which is pretty crazy.”
You’ve also recorded videos for ‘Hallelujah’, ‘The Night Is On My Side’ and ‘Hold Me Back’ – can we expect more music videos from the record? If so, which song would you choose next?
“Obviously in Australia, we’ve already had four singles to radio and we’re going to put out a fifth which is insane. In the UK, we’re just starting with ‘Hoops’ so there’s a few to go with you guys. The next song we’re doing is ‘Cut Me Loose’; that’s the song that’s going to radio right now in Australia. So we’re making a video for that. Even though we’re in America, we’ve been discussing with our management what video to do. We want to do it on a budget; so it can be fun and interesting to try and work out how we can pull off a really small budget video.”
What’s the process behind making a Rubens song – do you usually start by writing the lyrics first or by coming up with the instrumentals?
“There’s no method to it actually. When Elliot wrote the melody of ‘Hoops’, he woke up to go to the toilet at like 5am in the morning and he had the melody in his head so he went over to his laptop and hummed it. He just came up with it out of nowhere so that’s a cool way for it to happen. Then sometimes it might be a riff that a guitarist writes or it might be a beat that starts it or you might be inspired by another song that you hear or something. As long as the song comes, I don’t really give a shit how it happens. (laughs)”
Do you often get inspired when you’re out on the road touring?
“Yeah, I think inspiration comes from seeing other bands a lot. One of the good things about playing festivals is that you end up seeing some of the best bands in the world all of the time. You sort of get a good gauge on how good everyone is and the level you have to be at to sort of compete. I mean it’s not a competitive thing but it’s inspiring to see someone who’s better than you.”
Who would you say some of your musical influences are then?
Sam: “I think Arctic Monkeys have been a big influence on us; their last record was awesome. There’s other bands like Kings of Leon too. More older stuff would be like Van Morrison and old sort of soul music and stuff is I guess where I get my inspiration for singing. Modern R&B as well.”
CelebMix: “Quite a mixture then?”
Sam: “Yeah, and I think you can kind of hear it in our music. There’s a bunch of influences there.”
You released your debut self-titled album back in 2012 – how would you say your sound has evolved over the years?
Sam: “It’s evolved naturally. I think touring and playing live has made us understand and hone in our direction a little bit more. We didn’t necessarily say to ourselves that we needed to sound like this; we just wrote a bunch of songs and we worked out the songs that we liked out of about nearly 40 songs. We worked out our direction from there really but it was pretty natural; it wasn’t like we were trying to make something happen or be something.”
CelebMix: “With the songs that you’ve not used, do you reckon that you might release them in the future or would you just start from scratch on the next album?”
Sam: “Yeah, some of them will go in the trash and I’ll never think about them again. Some of them were actually really good and maybe we just didn’t execute them in the right way. There’s definitely a few that we really liked. Whether it was in the production that it happened or influences from the producer or something, they just didn’t end up being what we wanted them to be. I think some of the songs have a huge potential so we’ve already started working on them and we’re trying to sort of make them what we think they can be. There’s some really cool stuff so they’ll probably be on the third record.”
Your song ‘I’ll Surely Die’ featured in an episode of Supernatural – how did that come about and did you notice a surge of new fans after the episode?
“Yeah, I mean our publishing company will email and say ‘you’re about to be on this show – is that cool?’ And we’ll say yes or no. That was really cool to be on that show. It’s interesting because these shows have die-hard fans that I didn’t even realise. I don’t watch that show so I don’t know what it’s about really but there was a fan video that somebody had put up. It was like a lyric video of ‘I’ll Surely Die’ on the internet because we hadn’t made a video for that. It has loads of views and I didn’t realise why so I looked at the comments and everyone was like ‘I heard this song in Supernatural.’ I didn’t realise the influence that some of these programmes have on people so it’s kind of cool.”
What are some of your career highlights to date?
“Well, like you said, the hottest 100 win is the best achievement we’ve ever had. In Australia, that’s probably the pinnacle of success when it comes to one song. That’s as high as we can go, you know, and it meant a lot to us. That was good and there’s been amazing festivals that we’ve played. We supported Springsteen in Australia which was another highlight – it was kind of one of those moments and there’s not really many of those greats left so that was an honour. So yeah, it’s been good.”
What does the rest of 2016 have in store for The Rubens?
“The UK and Europe man. We’ll probably come back to America again and we’ll do some touring there hopefully at the end of the year but we’ve got a bunch of festivals and a headline tour too. We’re actually doing the biggest headline tour that we’ve ever done in Australia in June which is going to be really exciting. Before then, we’re with you guys in the UK so hopefully we’ll be able to make some shit happen there.”
If you could leave a message for your fans, what would you say?
“Come to our shows dudes. Come and see it live; we won’t let you down.”
The Rubens’ critically acclaimed album ‘Hoops’ will be released in the UK on the 20th May and it’s currently available for pre-order here on iTunes. Don’t worry if you can’t wait that long though. If you pre-order the album today, you’ll be able to download the following instant gratification tracks: ‘Hoops’, ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Switchblade.’ They’ll definitely help while you wait for the full record.
In terms of the UK, The Rubens will be playing a sold-out headline show in London on the 26th May and they’ll also be appearing at The Great Escape Festival. As mentioned in the interview, the indie rockers also have a string of Australian dates lined up too. You can see exactly where The Rubens will be heading later this year here on their official website. Make sure you don’t miss out.
Here at CelebMix, we’re looking forward to release of ‘Hoops’ in the UK. The Rubens are clearly smashing it right now and their future is looking very bright – it’s fantastic to see that the band’s talent is being recognised by so many people worldwide. Long may The Rubens’ success continue!
Will you be seeing The Rubens live in concert? Let us know over on Twitter @CelebMix or leave a message in the comments section below!