Originally from the small town of Menangle in NSW, The Rubens have become renowned for their catchy hits over the past decade. Their debut single ‘Lay It Down’ was voted 57th in the triple j Hottest 100 of 2011, before follow-up single ‘My Gun’ came in at number 10 in the Hottest 100 the following year. 2015 single ‘Hoops’ came in 1 st for the triple j Hottest 100 for 2015, got stuck in all of our heads, and currently has around 44 million streams on Spotify.
In 2019, the band released the single ‘Live In Life’ which received multiple ARIA nominations, and has since amassed over 37 million streams on Spotify. Following up on the success of this single, The Rubens released their fourth studio album, 0202. The release of the album, plus the tour to accompany the ‘Live In Life’ single were delayed due to COVID-19, however, this month the band has headed back out on tour to bring their music to fans across the country.
Recently, The Rubens joined a whole host of artists including Delta Goodrem, Crowded House, Amy Shark, Ben Lee, and Jimmy Barnes in performing at Sidney Myer Music Bowl as part of the nationally broadcast Music From The Home Front event.
We caught up with the keyboardist for The Rubens, Elliot Margin to have a chat about how their latest record came together and why he’ll never take crappy hotel rooms for granted again.
Music Feeds: The Rubens released their latest album 0202 in February this year. What was the recording process for the album like, and did it differ from previous albums?
Elliot Margin: Yeah, so we took on the initial production of this record ourselves, which is something we’d never done before, kind of just out of accident, really. In 2019 we were doing a lot of regional touring and we were in between records and we had a bunch of demos and we kind of, we had the conversation like, we’ve got all this touring coming up, we don’t really know what the next record is going to be, should we just record a song ourselves and put it out to tie people over until whatever the next record is going to be? We decided to do that, so we listened through our demos in the touring van and we picked ‘Live In Life’, and decided to go back to the studio mid-week and record that. So, we recorded that in Will’s studio, like, The Bunker in Camden, and did that ourselves and all the initial production ourselves in two days and then sent it over to Konstantin Kersting for final production and then mixed it and put it out there, you know, in our minds thinking that would be a standalone single. And then people actually responded to it really well and it kind of was the model that we based off recording the rest of the record that way. Which we didn’t expect, you know.
Every other record, we’ve brought in producers and worked with them on music, but this time it was kind of us backing ourselves and saying well, maybe we can play that role and see how we go. So, that’s what we did for the rest of the record. It was pretty much we would be touring and then pick a song while we were on the road to then record once we were back at home, mid-week. And then do that and then hit the road again, and it kind of tricked us into not psyching ourselves out of being in record mode. We didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves, which I think was really beneficial for us. There was no stress.
MF: Yeah, cool. That’s a really different way of doing it, a bit at a time like that – I love that!
EM: Yeah, and the funny thing is, the producers that we worked with – for most of them, we hadn’t even met them before, which was a funny thing. Like, we could just send them tracks and then send them our ideas and they would do their thing and we’d send notes and then it’d be all fine. A funny way to do it, like, the Internet Age.
MF: I noticed that 0202 has a real… I don’t know quite how to describe it, almost like a modern production vibe to it that’s really cool. Were you listening to any different artists while making this record, compared to previous records?
EM: Honestly, like, personally I wasn’t listening to much music at all during the making of that record. Just because like, when we are working on music it’s like your whole day is music and then you go home and the last thing you want to do is listen to music, well, the last thing I want to do is listen to music ‘cause I feel like it’s all-encompassing. Honestly, for me, it would be either no music or a podcast or something. So, I can’t really explain what influences might have crept in there apart from us just being influenced by where we’d been before and where we wanna go now.
You know, we’re always trying to experiment and try new sounds just because for us it keeps it interesting and I think, as the by-product of us keeping it interesting for ourselves, it also keeps it interesting for the listeners. So, it’s not like we’re gonna make the same record every time, I think, which is a good thing, which has kept us going all these years, you know? It’s exciting for us to jump into the studio and try something new each time we’re going in to do a new record because that’s why we play music, we’re excited by doing new stuff.
MF: Awesome. You mentioned podcasts; do you have any podcast recommendations?
EM: Oh man, I have a lot! There’s one called The Dollop that is like, an American podcast with two comedians. One comedian reads out a weird story from American history to his friend, and his friend has no idea what it is about, and then it’s just kind of like, bogus, bullshit, weird, funny stories that come out of that that are hilarious. I don’t know what else I listen to… I’m in the market for recommendations if you have any?
MF: Hm, I’m trying to think of what I listen to… There’s one called Lore that I really like, which is basically just this guy talking about all these different mysteries and things from the past, which is cool. I’m not doing a very good job describing it, but it’s definitely worth checking out. They’re pretty short and kind of like, mysteries, if you’re into that kind of stuff?
EM: I do love that stuff. Oh, you ever watch Workaholics?
EM: Ah, okay. So, the guys from Workaholics, the Comedy Central show, they’ve also got a podcast now that, I mean, I’m a fan of the Workaholics show so I’m probably biased, but I think it’s hilarious. It’s just pretty much buddies just talking shit and hanging out.
MF: That’s always nice, I’ll have to check that one out! So, this past year has seen most of us living pretty different lives than what we’ve been used to. What have you learned about yourself during this time?
EM: I’ve probably learned that… I took touring for granted I think, really. I think, like, now that we as a band have been back on the road, we’ve realised how much we love it and how much we need it to just… it’s our purpose: hitting the road and playing shows and meeting fans and just seeing new places. The fact that we couldn’t do it for so long meant we realised that we’d been taking it for granted. We kind of realised that, let’s never complain about lack of sleep and crappy hotel rooms or crappy food or early lobby calls, because it’s like, that’s all just part of what we do and what we love and we realised that we’re babies and we need that to survive, really.
MF: Yeah, that’s fair. I feel like a lot of people sort of felt that about travelling and stuff as well.
EM: Yeah, totally! It’s like, I’m not going to complain about those crappy parts of travel because I miss all of travel now.
MF: It’s hard to ask this question at the moment, but do you have any plans for playing more shows this year?
EM: Yeah, we’re actually… we’ve only just begun the tour for our record 0202, so that’s happening at the moment. We’ve already done some South East Queensland shows, we’ve done some New South Wales, some Victoria shows. This tour was actually planned for this time last year, it’s been rescheduled twice. So, it’s been on the cards for so long and now we’re actually doing it, which is amazing. And it’s 30+ dates, so it goes until the middle of the year, so that’s gonna be our next couple of months which is super exciting.
MF: Wow, that’s great! And final question, what’s in store for The Rubens for the rest of 2021?
EM: Hopefully a lot of touring. Now that it’s back on the cards and now that festivals look like they could be coming back, we, like everyone else is hoping that they come back and hopefully, you know, we’re crossing our fingers we can be a part of that. Keep hitting the road and keep reaching people in places that we haven’t played before or in a long time. As well as, behind the scenes working on new stuff like we always do, so we’re very excited.
The Rubens’ massive national and regional tour continues this week. Head here for dates and ticketing details.