h

The Rubens on embracing a new sound

“We needed some ground rules, we couldn’t have it turn into a party and not get anything done.”

The upcoming release from Camden, NSW collective The Rubens is a stark contrast from the indie-rock outfit you think you know. They’re moving, they’re groovin’, they’re doing things they haven’t done before, and there’s a lot more to love.

“Is it different?” asks frontman Sam Margin. Well, yes, it is different, but definitely in a good way. The album in question, Lo La Ru, elevates the funk, soul and groove elements The Rubens have always enveloped into their sound, and frames them in a bigger spotlight.

 “We’ve been working on this so hard for so long,” Margin says. “It’s been sitting there waiting for release. It sounds so normal to me now, I need outside perspective.”

There’s an overriding party beat to the new album, suggesting that this should be a soundtrack shared with a group of friends, and oddly enough that’s exactly what The Rubens were aiming for, and exactly how Lo La Ru came to be. “We didn’t really plan it,” Margin says, “The music was written and we went and hung out, partied at the same time, and recorded with some awesome dudes. The songs and the vibe we chose, it’s reflecting our situation.”

In a converted WWII bunker-turned-studio set in the grassy plains of Camden, The Rubens needed to make sure that whoever was enlisted to help make real their visions of a new sound, would understand the breezy direction they intended. Enter renowned producers Torbitt and Wilder. “We knew the guys, we knew they were awesome people. The logistics of making it happen was a long shot. It was very easy, everything fell into place, but it shouldn’t have been that easy – the way we gelled in the studio wasn’t a given, but we got so lucky,” Margin says.

What began as a business relationship unfolded into friendship and down there at the bunker, so intimate and familiar, The Rubens were ready to welcome Torbitt and Wilder into their home away from home. “The bunker is very intimate, it’s sacred ground for us,” Margin says. “You can’t just go there if you want to, you’ve got to be friends, it’s part of a crew of friends that use the space. It’s really personal.

“The album was recorded in two very personal spaces – The Bunker is The Rubens’ home and the other part of the album we recorded in New York, Torbitt’s home. The friendship started in his basement studio, testing whether we would fit. It was a friendship, very early on everyone had each other’s back. Lots of things happened but it was super supportive.”

Though The Rubens were working, it never felt like work – the day they recorded ‘Casper’ is a prime example. “That day, we had people hanging out – we have a big circle of friends in Camden,” Margin says. “But we needed some ground rules, we couldn’t have it turn into a party and not get anything done.

“We made sure we had time to party and time to work. We had a bonfire outside, our friends would be outside with a case of beer all night long, we’d go out for a half hour break and hang out with them, go back in. The balance was really good, I don’t think we lost any productivity.

“Torbitt and Wilder were contracted to have one day off a week,” Margin says. “They never took it. They just wanted to keep working, they were having a great time. I’m sure if they weren’t having fun, if it was just work for them, they would’ve taken that day off.”

With those wonderful sultry tones and little R&B licks going on, this is still very much The Rubens – though you might wonder if Margin has any anticipation for reception with the band taking on a more pop vein.

“I’m not trying to be disloyal to fans by changing any sounds because I love that they like us and I don’t want to piss anyone off, but you’re just going to, that’s part of it. We’re doing it for ourselves and hopefully [other] people enjoy it and get joy out of it and that’s the ultimate thing.

“I feel we’ve embraced the other side of The Rubens better. There’s so much texture, there’s enough happening without too much happening.”

The Rubens will release Lo La Ru on Friday June 29 through Ivy League.