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The Rubens: Hold Me Back

ABOUT THE WRITER: A lover of all things music, a fanatic of sport and leisure time hunter, Trent Clulow loves chasing down new sounds and places to visit.

For emerging Australian artists, there’s one dream that every band holds for Australia Day – that maiden appearance in The Hottest 100 list.  It’s that next step from irregular radio play and a handful of fans singing your lyrics at alley-way shows to being recognised by the masses and getting showcased globally on the big day for Aussie music.  The Rubens got to experience this for the first time in January 2012, getting as high as #10 for “My Gun” from their debut self-titled album.  This year, they eclipsed all expectations to take the gong – the #1 spot – for “Hoops”, the title-track from their second album, released in 2015. 

The Sydney five-piece are now riding that high into a massive international tour.  They’re playing some trendy downtown venues across the USA before coming home, boarding the bus and joining the Groovin’ The Moo festival circuit.  Then comes the “Hold Me Back” tour where they’ll get the chance to play at some iconic capital city venues they’ve only visited as fans and give back to their many punters who voted for them back in January with some epic gigs.

By the time the ‘Hold Me Back’ tour comes around, The Rubens’ will have broken new ground, expanded their accomplishments and set new heights in their live performances.  Keyboard maestro and backing vocalist Elliott Margin took the time to talk of the rollercoaster that 2016 is shaping up to be.  From getting back on the gig train, giving back to their incredible fans, writing new music, and embracing these new experiences, Margin is peaking with excitement, ready to showcase their alt-rock sound and create some fun memories on the way.

Hey Elliot, you’re in LA at the moment?
Yeah, we got here yesterday, we’re just chilling out and catching a few shows so it’s nice.

You have your first show tomorrow?
We’re playing a small club which is exciting.  We haven’t played a show in a while so It’s something to look forward to…otherwise we’re just sitting around twiddling our thumbs.

How’s the band feeling with the international tour just around the corner?
We’re really excited! Obviously we’ve done a lot of stuff back home but this is new territory – It’s like starting over.  There’s a lot of energy and positive vibes.

It’s been a hectic start to the year for you guys…how have you dealt with the post hottest 100 hype in preparation for your tour?
We’ve just been riding that high.  We already had the tour planned but when the hottest 100 happened it ended up being something that we could really look forward to and a reason to put on an even bigger show really – ever since it happened we’ve been looking forward to it and thinking about how we could make the shows huge and be something that can really deliver on.

Where are you most excited about playing on this tour?
I think the Horton in Sydney is pretty special.  We haven’t played any venues this big before but the fact that the Horton is in our home city and where we go to see bands as fans.  When local acts and bands from overseas play, the Horton is where we would go.  It’s weird that we are the band playing there this time. It’s a bit of a mind f*%$, the fact that I’m usually the one in the crowd singing the lyrics but now I’m the one on stage…it’s kind of scary but really cool.

I guess with it’s a pretty massive tour with the States and Groovin’ The Moo…what have you got planned in your downtime between?
I don’t even know when our down time is but whenever we have down time it’s still music, if we’re not playing shows we will be writing for whatever is coming up next…we are usually bunkered down writing music.

You touched on it earlier but how have you guys felt the expectation with these shows with the evolution of the Hottest 100?
I think Groove is going to be the first time we will see if the Hottest 100 has had any effect on our shows.  Will more people come to the shows?  Groove will be the first time we will see.  It’s really exciting for us especially since Groove has such a great reputation as a festival. It’s almost going to be our homecoming after the States.  It’s going to be wild, we can’t wait!

Looking back what’s your best memory on tour since the formation of the Rubens?
We went to Melbourne for a show and we were completely unknown, all of a sudden we were on the radio and people turned up to our show and were singing the lyrics to our songs.  That was one of the coolest moments, it was like ‘holy shit, people know our music!’  We were all so young and the fact that people were responding to us was such a cool thing.

Was this like a penny drop moment when you guys realised this could be a career moving forward?
At the time we were making music thinking it was a hobby and I guess it was in indicator of it becoming a job. It was scary and new – music was just for fun and then all of a sudden we started to realise it could also be more.

How do you guys cope with one another on these adventures? Are there any annoying habits on the road?
We’re pretty good, three of us are brothers obviously so not only do we know each other’s dirty habits, and we are used to them. There are no clashes.  We get on really well and are compatible.  We have a lot of friends in bands who have clashes but it’s not like that for us. I think we’re just lucky and it’s fun.

It’s a big 12 months ahead, after Groovin’ The Moo and the Hold Me Back Tour, what’s next?
I’m fairly sure we go to the UK after that and of course in between it will be writing for the next record which is exciting because we’re always working on something but it’s nice to have something else to focus on besides shows.

Does it come fairly organic or do you try to be structured and aim to release a record within a particular timeframe?
We try to set a goal, we don’t want to leave it too long and we want to keep people engaged but we’re not going to put out a record we don’t like just to keep within a time restraint.  We work on it in any available downtime.  That’s our plan, we want to start writing on the road so we can get music out quicker than before.

Moving forward do you think your new material will evolve in some respect from your signature sound and do you think you will push the genres of the music?
You can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again.  We are super excited about the next record because there is an indication of where we are going.  When that came about we wondered if it sounded too different.  It’s nice to know people accept a different sound from us and we can push it further and go where ever we want to go and create new music that is continually exciting for us.

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