Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview: THE RUBY SUNS - Shining Brightly

Saturday, March 08, 2008 

Ryan McPhun, "main dude" from The Ruby Suns, is feeling chipper. On the line from his stepmother's place in New Zealand and soon to embark on a US tour with Le Loup, he is slowly but surely seeing his group go from strength to strength with the release of their new Sea Lion album, and second single Kenya Dig It?. So, what is it with those names and the obsession with animals? "My stepmom is from Zimbabwe and she sort of chaperones tourists through national parks in Kenya - her and my Dad, they're like the middle-men between these rich, white, mostly American tourists and the animals." explains McPhun. "I think zoos are depressing sometimes. There are excuses for some animals being in zoos, but they're wild. I've gone on three of those trips with her now, they're amazing obviously, but it's upsetting to be around those Americans." Much of The Ruby Suns' music and lyrics has been inspired by people, animals and places, creating a rare state where a songwriter's subject matter becomes the trademark of the band more than any musical style. "Delay" is his only response when questioned about anything musically linking his releases so far: "I'm pretty into delay".

More revealing is where and how he finds inspiration. "I think it has a lot to do with the mindset you're in when you're traveling or somewhere new, where you don't have the responsibilities you have at home. When I went on that trip to Kenya, it was organised and I was with my folks so I had zero stress, that's why I was being creative at that time. I did a lot of writing there because I didn't have any peers or much in common with people on the trip so I talked more with people who worked at these camps. It was exciting. Kenya is so different to New Zealand. A lot of people go to Europe but it's not really that different to where they're from, it's still western".
With an output rate that would give Palace pause for thought, McPhun explains that though last year's self-titled LP (and subsequent EPs Lichen Ears, XFM Sessions and Sister Brother) is still finding new fans, audiences are often seeing entirely new material. "With Sea Lion we've been playing some tracks for over a year, it's frustrating because the album's not even out yet in the US or the UK and it's already unrepresentative in some ways. I guess I'm nervous showing people the newer stuff I've done. I know it's not similar to earlier albums but I also know I won't be able to make another song like any of those because it's something I've already done".

The three-piece electronic percussion-heavy version of The Ruby Suns which replaced the five-piece lineup that opened for The Shins last year has, unusually, coincided with the band garnering new fans faster than ever. "Being signed to Sub Pop just kind of validated what I had been doing so far." McPhun says of last year's inking to the legendary label. "I'm a little excited and anxious." he says of the new release. "With Sea Lion I'm just hoping that more people hear us and we can tour more. Musically I'm getting more interested in doing stuff on my computer and making music in a different way". This may go some way to explaining the unexpected 80s synth pop turns that Sea Lion throws up, along with it's purposive melodic soundscapes, rousing singalongs (such as first single, the all-Maori Tane Mahuta) and expansive orchestrations (Remember). It all seems like something that will go down famously with a certain well-respected website. "I'm pretty nervous to see what Pitchfork say about it. A lot of stuff they get into I really like too. I imagine they'll mention Panda Bear and this guy El Guincho. But I'm sure people will decide for themselves." As are we.

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