Groovin’ with The Rubens (INTERVIEW)

It’s been a busy few weeks for Sydney-based band, The Rubens: they were voted in to no. One on the most prestigious indie-music democracy of the country, Triple J’s Hottest 100; they announced their upcoming Hold Me Back national tour; and now they’re on their way to Adelaide to play at their first O’Week, at Flinders Uni’s O’Fiesta this Friday. I was lucky enough to get to chat to front man, Sam Margin, about The Rubens’ past, present, and future.

When asked about the band’s proudest achievement to date, Margin answered that, of course, it was winning the Hottest 100; “it’s something that only happens once a year to one band, not necessarily Australian, and there’s so much competition…we never even considered the idea that we’d get Hottest 100 no. One.”

Triple J released a video of the moment that The Rubens found out that they had won the Hottest 100 (you’ve probably seen it on Facebook, it’s adorable), and Margin revealed that they had never had a reaction like that to any of their career accolades up until that point; “You can see how excited we were to have won. It was so unexpected, we’d never been so elated”. Triple J put all five band members in a recording studio with microphones and a camera, around the time that the countdown had reached the top six songs. Margin admit that the band then expected to get number five or four, and that the wait was “excruciating”; he added, “every song that came on that wasn’t ours was a relief, but we couldn’t believe it as well”.

When Margin told me how they celebrated their win on the night, I was surprised to hear that it was very civilised; they went out for dinner with people from their record label, and had “a few whiskeys, a few beers, and some pizza”, but he admits that even then, they were all still stunned. “You have to keep it real, but the next night was pretty wild”, he continued, referring to the big party they had in true rock star style, when they returned to Sydney the following day.

The Rubens have since returned to the Triple J recording studio to do Like A Version, where they played their winning song, Hoops, and they also did a mash-up of the music from Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta, with the lyrics from Adele’s Hello. If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favour right now, and youtube it! I asked Sam what his ideal mash up or music collaboration would be, and he said it would be their “dream” for one of their favourite hip-hop artists, such as Andre 3000 and Big Boy, to remix Hoops; “It would be sick. Kendrick on Hoops would be ridiculous.”

Another musical act The Rubens admire is The Black Keys, a band that they have long cited as one of their biggest musical inspirations. In 2012, The Rubens were the support act for The Black Keys, and Margin described the experience as “awesome; they didn’t let us down at all”. The Rubens learnt a lot from The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney; “their performance was amazing, they always just nailed it”. The Rubens’ nightly routine during this time involved their own performance, then sitting side stage with a few beers and watching one of their favourite bands “tear it up” night after night.

In 2016, The Rubens will be playing at Groovin’ The Moo, as well as kicking off their new national tour, and heading overseas to the US and to the UK. By the end of the year they plan to be back in Australia, ready to perform for some of Australia’s best summer music festivals. Margin also tells me that they plan to start writing their new record this year, which prompts me to ask, “Is the pressure on to produce another no. One hit?”; he laughs and admits that the pressure is on but it gives the band a good goal to work toward.

A glimpse at The Rubens’ social media reveals a recent show of support for the ‘Keep Sydney Open’ movement, relating of course to lock-out laws that would undoubtedly impact on Sydney’s nightlife. I asked Sam about the Sydney music scene, and from his experiences, how these changes would affect budding bands; he replied, “we wouldn’t have even have played our first few gigs, as they were all in King’s Cross, in bars there. They would all drastically change, as these bars used to have music going until like three in the morning”. Margin says the music scene is already tough enough for aspiring musicians, so reducing the number of venues would be “detrimental” to these acts.

The O’Fiesta, on this Friday night, will not be The Rubens’ first university performance, but it will be their first O’Week performance, and the band is “totally excited” to come and play for us this Friday night. Just last week, The Rubens just announced their national Hold Me Back Tour for June of this year, but due to commitments to a music festival, the band could not schedule in an Adelaide concert on this tour, so Margin is glad that by playing at O’Fiesta, they can include Adelaide in some respect.

He told me he’s looking forward to it playing at Flinders, and then he said, “It’s going to be big. I don’t know, is it going to be big?”, with a laugh. I reassured him.

Interview by Eleanor Danenberg

The Rubens will be supported by Northeast Party House, Thelma Plum, KLP’s DJ set, and our very own Flinders student band, Babes are Wolves.
The gig is for ages 15+.
Tickets for students are $15, non-students $30 – tickets will be available at the door unless sold out prior.

Photo, L-R: Elliott Margin, Will Zeglis, Sam Margin, Zaac Margin, Scott Baldwin. Photo credit: The Rubens Instagram