American University’s The Eagle – Q & A: The Rubens

Occasionally, I also write for my university’s newspaper. I mostly right album and concert reviews. For my first piece, I had the great opportunity to interview the lead singer for one of my favorite bands, The Rubens. 

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The lead singer, Sam Margin, who I interviewed. Here, he’s performing at The Governors Ball Music Festival in June 2013.

Originally published: 09/30/2013 @ 9:19 p.m. on The Eagle online.

The Rubens have come a long way from recording demos in their bedrooms in Australia to releasing a successful debut album and playing several big festivals like SXSW and Governors Ball. Formed in 2011 by brothers Sam, Zaac and Elliott Margin along with high school friend Scott Baldwin, they left their small town in New South Wales to record their self-titled debut album in New York City with the help of Grammy Award-winning producer David Kahne.

Lead singer Sam Margin took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about touring in the U.S., a second album and being in a band with his brothers.

Teta Alim: How do you like touring in the US right now?
Sam Margin: It’s really good… it’s pretty different to Australia. Obviously we don’t have a following that’s big in America yet so we’re playing to Grouplove’s crowd, trying to start all over again and we know the fans gig by gig. But it’s loads of fun though, just traveling around here, van driving every day and playing small clubs and stuff, it’s been loads of fun so far. And the fans have been great. Grouplove’s been really, really nice to us. It’s been cool.

TA: Do you guys prefer festivals or smaller venues?
SM: I don’t know what I prefer, I think a good healthy dose of both is good and that’s what we get between Australia and America right now. I guess small venues and smaller shows you can try out new songs; you don’t have to just play the crowd-pleasing kind of songs.

TA: Whose idea was it to form the band and why did you want to start the band?
SM: I don’t know if there was actually an idea about it, I think it was me and Zaac… we were just bored at the time, every day we were working…I think we just wanted a way out or just a way to entertain ourselves. We’ve done other music things separately but nothing really serious so we just started demoing some song ideas. I think “Lay It Down” was one of the first ones, and Elliott would come home from school and he’d put his keys on and we’d just demo them onto our laptop and eventually we had a few demos and we wanted to play live so we called up Scott, a friend of mine from high school, and started jamming.

TA: So what are your musical influences?
SM: Me, personally, I’d say a lot of soul stuff. Al Green, Otis Redding, stuff like that. The rest of the band, probably Led Zepplin, older, blues rock. And there’s new stuff that inspires us too like The Black Keys and the new Arctic Monkeys record.

TA: Who is a dream person that you would want to collaborate with, music-wise?
SM: I think, at this moment, Andre 3000 or the whole of Outkast.

TA: So, you mentioned the second album before, where do you think the second album is going? What are your hopes?
SM: I think the second album will probably go down a dark sort of road when it comes to recording. I think it’s gonna sound kinda bada** really. I mean, the new Arctic Monkeys record is a benchmark of how you can make a record sound, sound cool…I don’t know, a bit more raw. It’s all about the songs, the challenge is getting the songs written.

TA: How’s the songwriting process?
SM: There’s not really an order to it. I write the lyrics except for a few lyrics here and there that Elliott has written. So that’s kind of my job and everyone else has their job and one of us will come up with an idea. We’ll be in a room together and everyone will put their bit down and do their jobs so I guess there’s no real order to it, how we come up with an idea, we’ll all come up with something and we’ll build a song from there.

TA: What are the best and worst aspects of being in a band with your brothers?
SM: I wouldn’t say anything bad about it at all, it’s all really good. With touring, obviously, we’ve been away quite a lot so it’s good to be with your family on the road and it’s also really good for the songwriting process because you got to be brutally honest sometimes when it comes to writing and I think being family you can do that.

TA: Is there anything about Australia you’ve been really homesick about?
SM: Not yet, it’s not been long enough. I think I’m enjoying this, the only thing I’m looking forward to about Australia right now is writing again which will be fun.

TA: And one last thing, how would you describe your sound to a new listener?
SM: I would say blues rock with a bit of soul.

The Rubens are opening for Grouplove at U Street Music Hall on Oct. 1. (The gig is already sold out!) Their self-titled debut album is out now.

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