The Rubens – North QLD Tour

You’d be forgiven for thinking their repidly-growing recent profile would have put The Rubens in a position to kick back a little, pick and choose only the tastiest shows. The truth is that these guys are working as hard as any band around at the moment, just coming off what some would see as a pretty tough run of dates in the time-honoured Aussie driving tour style. I caught up with the man behind the keyboards, Elliott Margin, and asked what the experience was like, playing the Corona Sunsets free pub shows.

“Oh man, it was awesome. We did, like, 22 or 23 shows, driving from pub to pub, sometimes two shows a day, five shows a weekend. It was pretty intense, but fun.”

That sounded pretty gruelling to me, but Elliott shrugged off my suggestion that it was a bit brutal.

“Well, I think we had it pretty easy. We have a good crew who make the travelling part easy, which was nice. It was just about us getting on stage and keeping the energy up, which was fun.”

I thought giving a nod to the support crew was pretty classy. Turns out The Rubens’ crew are regulars, rather than a team put together for the one tour. That’s again a bit of an Aussie tradition, and no doubt makes life much easier for all concerned.

The band’s deserved reputation as artists of substance comes from their consistent ability to package intelligently-crafted content with super catchy tunes, and having caught one of their earliest festival sets at Laneway in Brisbane back in 2013, I can vouch for their ability to deliver live. Their two studio releases, 2012’s The Rubens and 2015’s Hoops (whose title track garnered them the top spot in TripleJ’s Hottest 100 for the year) were recently joined by a five-track acoustic EP. I asked Elliott whether their recent shows had included any of the stripped-back material from the EP.

“Yeah, so we incorporate one of the tracks into our shows, the cover (Same Drugs by Chance The Rapper.) That’s the only one we’ve incorporated so far, and yeah it went down really well. It’s cool to play someone else’s song as well, you feel like you can kinda do whatever you want and there’s no expectation! If you screw it up, you can be just like… well… It feels like you kind of have free reign, and you can make mistakes and you can go weird places and it’s fine.”

Crowds can certainly have that, “play it like the CD!” attitude, but a lot of the more memorable shows I’ve seen have been a bit off the cuff. I said it must be tough to not do that, especially if the band was playing far-away places they don’t visit a lot.

“Yeah definitely. If you go to places where people have never seen you before they probably just want to hear the hits, and how they’re meant to be played.”

Pub shows are one thing, but as mentioned the band has always had a great presence on bigger stages. I said I thought their sound would be translatable between a festival and a more intimate setting, but asked whether there was a different feel in terms of how they approached the shows.

“There can be, yeah. Obviously big festival stages you think more about production, what you can do with the stage and the lights and whatever, but show-wise, we pretty much take the same show and put it in a pub. I feel like our songs fit in both venues, really, which is lucky for us in that there’s not a lot of adjustment we need to do to do from show to show.”

The big stage production planning must be well under way, as the New Year period will see the band playing sets at Falls Festival before regrouping to hit the Dalrymple Hotel in Townsville, Airlie Beach’s Magnums, the Allenstown in Rocky and Harvey Road Tavern in Gladstone all in the week of Australia Day 2017.

2017 will also bring more another full-length album release. The Rubens’ creative process is less “from the jam,” in terms of songs taking shape in the studio, but more the members crafting ideas individually and then bringing them partially-formed to the rest of the band. I asked whether any of these new tracks were far enough along to make an appearance in the upcoming shows, or whether they were still a little embryonic.

“Oh, it’s a little too early for that. We’re definitely sitting on a lot of stuff that’s ready to compile for album number three, but at this moment we’re going to keep it under wraps for these shows anyway. They’re going to be our little secret.”

The band has only playead a handful of shows in regional Queensland, so this is probably great news if you haven’t seen them yet. The sets should be showcases of their catalogue so far, and given their recent schedule has been so full, and that they’ll be coming off Falls, I’m certain the gigs will be events to remember.

My final question for Elliott was a little off-topic. I wanted to get some inside tips of what emergent artists we may not have heard about yet, so given the festive season was just upon us I asked if he had any gift suggestions, apart from the acoustic EP and the Deluxe Edition of Hoops of course!

“Well, I really like a rapper, an American dude called D.R.A.M, really really liking his album at the moment. But it’s probably not the best album to give Grandma, and maybe not kids under twelve – there’s a lot of language on there. PG-wise, I don’t know, my playlist isn’t very PG at the moment, so I couldn’t recommend much!”

Although Grandma’s collection probably doesn’t already have any D.R.A.M. and so it’d be pretty unlikely she’d end up with a double-up, I reckon going any of the band’s own releases would be a smarter bet. Or better yet, tickets to one of the shows, if they haven’t sold out already.

Jon Niehaus

The Rubens play the following NQ Dates

Wed 25 January – Dalrymple Hotel Townsville www.dalrymplehotel.com.au PH 07 4779 6344

Thu 26 January – Magnums Hotel Airlie Beach www.magnumshotel.com.au PH 07 4946 6188

Fri 27 January – Allenstown Hotel Rockhampton www.allenstownhotel.com.au PH 07 4922 1853

Sat 28 January – Harvey Road Tavern Gladstone www.harveyroadtavern.com.au PH 07 4978 7102

Tickets: From the venues http://www.moshtix.com.au/therubensnorthqldsummertour2017 and www.therubensmusic.com/shows

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