They’re the band whose debut album entered the ARIA charts at no.3, have sold out The Forum, and most impressively worked with producer David Kahne whose résumé includes the likes of Paul McCartney, Lana Del Rey and Regina Spektor.
I’m talking about The Rubens; Australia’s most acclaimed new band, whose success is growing by the day.
The band consists of Margin brothers Sam (23), Zaac (21), Elliott (19), and their friend Scott Baldwin who formed little over a year ago in the small NSW town of Menangle; population 327. The name is a tribute to youngest brother and drummer Jett, nickname Ruben, who is the one sibling yet to the join the band.
Today I’m speaking to lead guitarist Zaac, who has taken over at the last minute from Sam who is currently suffering from tonsillitis.
When I ask Zaac what’s been the secret to finding success so quickly, he keeps his answer short and simple,
“It definitely would be luck I reckon… And having all right songs I reckon. But mostly luck.”
For despite being such a seemingly seasoned musician, Zaac is still new to the life of a professional musician, and has to refer to Elliot who is standing by the phone on occasion. For this reason, Zaac’s answers are delivered in a no fuss short and sweet manner. Nothing is overthought or pretentious, which is a refreshing change of pace from the robotic like and staged interviews that often arise with musicians.
Zaac’s only focus is his guitar, which is indicated when I ask him the meaning behind the band’s current single “My Gun”. Although Sam is the band’s lyricist, Zaac has never even thought to question the inspiration behind the song he’s played countless times.
“I’m not really sure [what the song’s about], I think he was just…I don’t think it was about a particular relationship or anything I think he just, I don’t know, wanted to write a story about a relationship that went like that.”
At first glance, you could liken The Rubens to being Australia’s version of Kings of Leon. Not only do both bands feature three brothers, but both have also been labelled as indie bands before having cracked the mainstream market. Zaac lists Kings of Leon’s earlier music as an inspiration behind the band, jokingly stating,
“That’s why we decided to be brothers, because of Kings of Leon.”
Other inspirations are less prominent, and are debated amongst the band due to their diverse musical tastes.
“Well Sam doesn’t like us saying The Black Keys, but it’s obvious…They were a massive influence when we first started out and I really don’t mind getting compared to them,” Zaac says.
“Sam likes a lot of old soul kind of stuff. He likes saying we’re inspired by old soul people, and we kind of are.”
The inspirations are largely irrelevant however, as The Rubens want to be remembered for their own signature sound.
“No band just wants to rehash other people’s sound…They don’t want to be seen as a kind of rip off band, so we want to try and find out whatever our sound is and just try and work on that as much as possible,” Zaac says.
Unlike other bands who take years to make the transition into the mainstream market, this is has happened quickly to The Rubens.
“Yeah…I reckon it’s pretty cool that more people will be hearing our music and stuff. Yeah I reckon it’s good; it’s good for exposure. I don’t really listen to those sort of [commercial] radio stations so that doesn’t matter to me at all but it’s good.”
When asked if he’s bitter about being stamped with the ‘pop’ label he simply answers,
“Nuh, I couldn’t really give a shit. I don’t mind because I reckon we’re all right, so whatever people want to call us that’s fine.
If all this hype makes you think The Rubens are living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, you would be surprisingly mistaken.
Despite the hoards of girls filling their shows, the boys still live at home (with the exception of Sam who is between home and his girlfriend’s place in Melbourne, sorry ladies), and the majority of their songs were written in Sam’s bedroom, crowded around his laptop.
“We don’t have to worry about paying rent or anything like that so we can just focus on sitting at home and trying to write songs…So we’re really lucky,“ Zaac says.
“I really want to move out as soon as possible, but I just need to get some money so I’m going to have to wait. I think we all want to move out and we all want to move out together I’m pretty sure.”
As for the increase in female attention, not surprisingly, it’s been easy for Zaac to handle, but not for the reasons you would imagine.
He explains very modestly,
“I think it’s been easy! There’s not really much female attention on me, I just play the show and pack up my stuff…I think the female attention is mostly focused on Sam so we kind of get away with it. “
The whirlwind success of The Rubens can mostly be attributed to the attention they have received after working with music producer David Kahne on their debut album.
“He was pretty influential because he taught us a lot of things we didn’t know about recording. He really helped a lot with the structure of a couple of songs,” Zaac recalls.
The album has not only received a great response from fans, but also from critics who have been singing their praises of the blues and pop inspired album. Zaac, however, isn’t entirely convinced.
“We tried not to make it sound too polished but I think…I think it ended up sounding a bit polished,” Zaac says when asked about Kahne’s influence.
With the good news coming in by the day, many bands would take a step back to let it all set in. The Rubens, however, are still charging ahead at full pace, with a current tour, an upcoming support slot for The Black Keys and commencing writing their second album.
“We’ve pretty much already started [the second album]. Elliot and I have just been sitting at home trying to write new songs and I think Sam’s been doing the same over in Melbourne,” Zaac says.
“We’re not really going to have much time to be writing new songs if we’re going to touring so much.”
It’s hard to say what’s next in store for The Rubens, but they’re shaping up to be one of the best bands Australia has seen in years.