On their third album LO LA RU, The Rubens effortlessly pick up from where their Hottest 100-topping single left off, using the success of Hoops as an opportunity to spread their creative wings, pushing their music into new territory that is exciting for them and having a bloody good time while they’re at it.
LunchBox sat down with Elliott Margin to chat about the release of their latest album ahead of supporting international pop sensation, P!NK.
LO LA RU drops today, and Elliott said it felt weird to have it out in the open.
“It feels surreal. Obviously, you make a record, then you sit with it for ages. Then you honestly almost forget about it, because now for us, it’s … you know, we’re playing live shows and touring. Then it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah. Shit. That thing we worked really, really, really hard on and the reason we’re playing shows right now is about to be out.’ It’s a weird time, really.”
Elliott said the album is nothing short of what you would expect from The Rubens.
“I think it’s a progression from what we’ve done before. We’ve definitely become more confident in our recording and songwriting. And it’s also going back to some sounds that… you know, that we started out with as well.
“There’s a lot of soul there. There’s a lot of gospel and stuff, as well as rock. You know, things that we listened to as kids probably crept into there. It’s got a mishmash of all our different tastes and songwriting and stuff getting on there… we’re super confident and happy with it.”
The album name, LO LA RU, is a catchy one and has quite the story behind it.
“The concept behind the whole LO LA RU thing was we spent this time away at the bunker recording this album, and we had a great time, and it was like we were in our own little world.
“So the idea was, why don’t we name the record after this little world that we’ve created. So we thought ‘Let’s just make a fake nation’, and came up with the name LO LA RU. LO LA means nothing, really. It’s nonsense. But the RU is for Rubens.
“We kind of wanted to sound like it was a Pacific Island, or something, just something tropical and beautiful and lovely.
“That was just kind of the nonsense name that we came up with. And then obviously, the album artwork is the flag for that country. And it was just kind of like a nice way to tie off the experience we had making the record.”
While the guys are excited to have their hard work out in the public eyes, it was the memories made along the way that meant the most to them.
“Obviously, we loved just hanging out and then trying things on songs and stuff. There’s a lot of good wine that was drunk. There was a lot of great Thai food that we’d eat together.
“It was just nice to be in an environment where you can just hang and create at the same time instead of being constrained, you know?
“If you’re in a big, expensive studio, you’re paying for hours and it’s kind of like, ‘All right, check in, check out. Get the stuff done in the time constraints.’ But there at the bunker, we’re on our own clocks. So we could just hang and have barbecues, and people could come round and see what we’re doing. And it was just a real, nice relaxed vibe. The whole thing is just, yeah, just one big, lovely memory.”
Never Ever is a collaborative single on the album that sees The Rubens in an entirely new territory.
Co-written with Sarah Aarons (the Australian songwriter best known for penning Zedd and Alessia Cara’s US #1 hit Stay and more recently Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey’s The Middle, as well as Peking Duk’s Fire on which she lends her vocals), Never Ever is the first time the band have collaborated with an outsider and the first time Sam has shared lead vocals on a Rubens record.
Written after the band thought LO LA RU was completely in the bag, and not expecting whatever they wrote with Aarons to make the record, the song immediately felt special, “mainly cos it was just stuck in my head for fucking ages,” laughed Elliott.
The band realised that it was too strong a track to leave off.
“It was fun. It was really fun. Sarah is a legend. It was the first time we’d met her in the studio recording with her. So you know, you never know what to expect, especially being put in a creative environment where you’re putting yourself out there and being quite vulnerable.
“She’s just so easy to work with and throws ideas around. So it’s just me, Sam, and her in the studio, and it was just fun.
“Also, there was no pressure because we’d actually finished the record when we met up with her. So we weren’t planning on making a Rubens track. We were just like, ‘Oh, let’s just write a song and see how it goes.’
“I think that really, really helped the writing process, because there was no pressure. It was like, ‘Let’s just write the best song we can and see what comes out of it.’ And we wrote accidentally a song that we loved and had to force onto the record, which is funny and lucky.
“We had to convince ourselves that it was a Rubens song, that it could be on a Rubens record, because it’s something we’ve never done before.
“But, you know, that was a deep conversation we had with the people around us, and it was like, well, if you boil it down – it’s like you love the song, and it’s written by us. It’s a Rubens track. So let’s just put it out there and see if people love it too, because if it’s something you love and you’re proud of, I don’t think there’s any point in hiding it away from the world or shying away from it.
“I think you’ve gotta back yourself a little bit and just put it out there.”
Never Ever may well be the most pop The Rubens have ever been, but the lyrical and emotional weight and creative, textural arrangement from the band gives the song an artful depth that makes it a universally appealing anthem of love gone sour.
“We’ve never done anything like this before and we’re so proud of the song as well,” Elliott adds. “It wasn’t forced. It wasn’t us trying to write a big Rubens/Sarah Aarons song. It was just us writing and having a good time with another person and I think people will hear that when they listen to it.”
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s no secret that international pop star P!NK is heading down under. However, this is also an exciting time for The Rubens who will be her opening act for the Australian leg, which they are quite nervous about. Can you blame them?
“Obviously, there’s that other factor that we can’t really prepare ourselves for, which is playing in front of tens of thousands of people,” he laughs.
“We’re gonna have to have a quick learning curve with that. But, it’s exciting, you know? It’s something that we’ve done a couple of times before. We’ve supported Bruce Springsteen and The Black Keys and stuff. But we haven’t done this scale of a tour before, so it’s nerve-wracking, but we’re also super excited to get out and play.
“It doesn’t feel real to be supporting P!NK. I don’t think it will feel real until we’re out there on stage. Obviously, our music’s very different, so I think we’re pretty surprised that we were on the tour.
“We’re just stoked to be able to be given the opportunity to play in front of so many people. Obviously, P!NK’s been famous all our lives, as long as I can remember, but it just seems ridiculous that this worldwide crazy artist is someone we’re gonna be supporting.”
“The big thing for us is feeling well-practised. Well-rehearsed means you can get out there and just focus on the performance and actually enjoy yourself instead of stressing about it.
“That’s one of the biggest things for us and it took us a while to learn that. Then the other thing is just making sure we have a couple of beers, and loosening up a little, and not taking yourself too seriously before you get out there.”
The Rubens are a busy bunch. They’ve just released an album, they’re on the road, but they’re still out for more.
“Once this record’s out, obviously, people get to hear it, and eventually there’ll be more shows. You know, there’ll be an album tour, and festivals, and things, and all these other things in the works that aren’t yet announced that are hush hush.”