Interview with The Rubens

Comprised of three brothers and two friends, The Rubens could be considered Australia’s answer to popular family bands like Kings of Leon and Stone Temple Pilots. However, given the fact that their music breathes new life into the alternative rock scene, with its motown vibes and soulful undertones, that’s as far as the comparisons can be drawn. Although the group’s only been together since 2011, the boys have shared stages with the likes of Jack White, Bloc Party, The Black Keys, and Bruce Springsteen. Nominated for both a J Award and ARIA Music Award, the band is easily taking over their homeland, and conquering America is their next task. With their new self-titled album debuting high on the charts, The Rubens brought themselves to SXSW where they met up with us to talk about their music, when US fans can get the new record, and — of all things — the weather.

Is this your first time in Austin?

Sam Margin: Yeah!

Has it been treating you well?

SM: So far, it’s been good! It’s pretty full-on. Even though it looks like we’ve had time to chill, the day just kind of seems to disappear and then suddenly we’re playing another show. It’s pretty cool, though. Nice weather!

It is! It’s great weather. I guess compared to you guys we’d actually be kind of cool, right?

Zaac Margin: This is almost Australia weather.

SM: Yeah, we’ve just come from Europe and New York and it was freezing, so we’re happy to be here.

Better to be warm, and not freezing!

SM: Yeah.

Now, I have to ask, the name of the band is The Rubens, and I saw something where you did a challenge with the sandwiches. So, if not after the sandwich, where did you get the name?

SM: We were just talking about that, actually. Where did we get the name from? It’s from our little brother. There’s me, Elliott, and Zaac. We’re brothers. And then there’s these two: Will and Scotty. They’re our buddies. Our little brother’s nickname at the time of forming the band was Ruben. He didn’t want to be in the band, so we decided to name the band after him.

It’s like a nice little tribute.

SM: It was kind of like taking the piss really.

Well, he’ll thank you later! When you guys hit the big time, he can say that you’re named after him.

SM: Maybe!

And like you said, it’s the three brothers and your childhood friends, right? How did you guys get together?

SM: Well, us and Scotty are almost cousins somehow. We’re from a small town.

Scott Baldwin: My second cousins are your first cousins. We’re not related by blood.

SM: We try to use it somehow to spin it as more of a family band kind of like the Kings of Leon. So, we know Scott from that, because we also went to school together. And Will came on board a few years ago when we went to New York to record our album. Well, last year. We knew him before, but he came with us just on holiday and he ended up playing on the record and we couldn’t not have him in the band because he sounded that good. Then he joined the band.

It all worked out! That’s great. What made you guys decide to form the band?

SM: It was how long ago? Two years ago?

Elliott Margin: Yeah, two years ago.

SM: It was just that we were bored and we’d all been working really bad jobs in the food service industry. We were all bartenders and stuff. Scotty went to uni and I think we had just had enough of not doing music. I don’t think we thought we’d make a career of it. It just sort of happened.

Well, that’s the best way to do it because you guys are in it for the music.

SM: Yeah, yeah.

Speaking of your music, it’s very nostalgic in a way. It has this old rock feel, kind of motown-y. What are your inspirations for that?

EM: Uh…

SM: Got anything, Zaac?

ZM: Zepplin!

SM: [laughs] Zepplin. Fleetwood Mac. Tracy Chapman.

SB: Old Kings of Leon.

SM: Old soul artists.

Will Zeglis: [mutters]

SM: What was that?

SB: Will has to say something.

SM: If you’re gonna say something, share!

WZ: Nothing, nothing.

SM: He was going to say Phil Collins.

WZ: Yeah.

ZM: He said grindcore.

SM: Grindcore?

It works too! To each their own, right? As long as it helps you make great music, it’s okay. Now, before you guys came here, you were in New York and did a couple shows, right?

SM: Just one.

So the one in New York, and you’ve done a few here already. How has the crowd response been?

SM: Well, New York was great because it was our own show. They had come to see us, and so that was a good show and the response was really good. It was great to see the response to the tracks they hadn’t heard from our album. And last night was great at the Warner Showcase. Obviously, everyone seemed to be there for Paramore and Tegan and Sara, but it gave us a crowd.

Well, that’s the best part about South By. You can be there for a different band or stumble into a bar and end up finding your new favorite band.

SM: That’s what I want to do. We haven’t had a chance to do that yet, and I think that’s what we all want to do at some point. We need to have a bit of time off and go to a bar and discover something cool.

You should. I hope it happens!

SM: There are like 2,000 bands here or something, so you could probably just see shit for a week.

If you’re very unlucky. You’ll need to get some good karma so that you can hopefully avoid that. But, speaking of the album, when can fans in the US expect to get it?

SM: September, I think.

ZM: June, I thought.

SB: September.

EM: Yeah, September.

That’s good. It’ll be out in time for my birthday, I’ll get it as a gift for myself!

SM: Sweet. We’ll send you a copy!

Thank you. That would be amazing!

SM: We’ll probably forget, though.

Well, it’s the thought that counts.

SM: Exactly!

The album went to #3 on the Australian music charts, right?

SM: It was. It got into the top five, yeah. It’s slowed down, but it debuted quite high.

How was that? Did you guys expect such a great response?

EM: No way. When we were making the album, we never really thought that would happen, so when we got that response, it was a huge surprise.

And it was nominated for a bunch of awards, like an ARIA Music Award.

SM: Our video was. Our record wasn’t eligible, but hopefully it will be next time. We got a Triple J award, which is a popular radio station in Australia. We’ll see about next year. There’s too many good records that have come out around the same time as our record, so I think we’ll just get nominated.

Well, a nomination is not so bad.

SM: It’s hard being an Australian band because you’ve got to go up against Tame Impala, so we’re screwed.

No, don’t say that! Have a little faith.

SM: They’re like my favorite band, so that’s fine. As long as they beat us and it’s not someone else.

Do you guys have any plans to tour the US soon, or are you heading back to Australia?

SM: Yeah, I guess we’re planning on coming back in the summer. We’ll be here for the Governor’s Ball Festival in New York. Then, we may do something during your fall.

Alright, so New Yorkers should look out for the Governor’s Ball! [laughs] For my final question, it’s my favorite to ask bands: what song would you use to introduce yourself to new fans?

EM: As in our songs?

Yeah!

SM: I’d say “Lay It Down” because that’s the single that got us discovered in Australia.

EM: “Look Good, Feel Good” mainly because it’s not “Lay It Down.”

ZM: I’d say “My Gun” because it’s going to be the first US single.

WZ: I like “The Day You Went Away.”

SC: “The Best We Got” because it’s the best we got!

Pick up The Rubens’ new album, The Rubens.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their official site.