So, it’s the last day of 2010. It’s been a great year – we got some great albums, learned some important life lessons, took chances, made mistakes and all that stuff. Tonight we’re all gonna party, get crazy, and in the morning we’ll all probably have some badass hangovers. Here’s a mix of some very soft, pretty tunes to get you through.
1. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey
2. The Velvet Underground – Candy Says
3. Yo La Tengo – Tears Are In Your Eyes
4. Cat Power – Lived In Bars
5. Cass McCombs – The Executioner’s Song
6. Feist – Brandy Alexander
7. Kevin Drew – Summer Time Dues
8. M. Ward – Undertaker
9. Ohbijou – Favourite Skin
10. Sandro Perry – Family Tree
Justice McLellan of Ruby Coast and I did a little phone interview a bit ago and talked about the band’s new album Whatever This Is (due out next year around ‘late Feb/early March’), writing more emotional songs, and persevering through emotional hardship when the show must go on.
M: So, I met you guys back in 2008 at the Halifax Pop Explosion. What’s been going on with Ruby Coast since then? How have you grown as a band and as people?
J: That was the first time we were on the road for a long period of time. We did a month tour with Tokyo Police Club and played SXSW and that was also our first time being in a confined space together – like a van, hotel rooms – for like, a while. We all got to know each other a lot better from that experience and we definitely grew as friends.
[More recently] we decided to take a break from playing shows to write. Playing live is great but the greatest part is coming up with something where you’ll be in a room playing and you’ll just look at everyone and share an energy that confirms that what you’re playing is awesome. We did that for a while, quite a long time. Then we went to Hotel2Tango and recorded with Howard Bilerman and Brian Paulson. It was kind of rough because our bass player Mark [Whiting], his mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer, so he was torn between wanting to keep writing and doing stuff with us, because he wanted to spend time with his mom, but she was really supportive of him continuing on [with the band] and going to record the album. She recently passed away – it’s been kind of a crazy time. But just playing music and stuff, I think it’s helped him.
M: Did you find that experience channeled into the music of the new record?
J: It wasn’t necessarily the subject itself but I think some of the intensity of the time leading up to it definitely channeled into our music. It was a pretty emotional time for everyone and the record feels a lot more emotional and that could’ve come from that situation.
M: Do you think that experience gave you guys a new perspective on things?
J: Yeah, especially Mark regarding whether to keep going [with the band] and having this sort of deadline of his mother’s life. He was obviously really torn between that. There were times when he would obviously be upset over the situation but his parents were also motivating him to come out. I think seeing that commitment was an eye-opener for all of us.
M: How did Ruby Coast begin?
J: I started playing guitar in grade 12 when I was 18 and I was in a co-op class with Nathan [Vanderweilan, guitar player in Ruby Coast]. My dad has this sort of makeshift studio and I had this teacher, Mrs. Nerling, and she was really awesome and somehow passed working in this crappy studio off as a co-op. Nathan and I started writing there and he was actually teaching me how to play guitar. And yeah, that was when we first started writing songs. That fell off for a few months after school finished, but then we got back to it and got everyone else in the band.
We were playing shows in Newmarket and they were going really well, so we decided to see if we could branch out a bit and go play Toronto. We played a No Shame show, and Lauren Shreiber [who runs No Shame] really enjoyed it and started putting us in her showcases. More people came and saw us, including our manager Bobby Kimberly. He saw us at the Drake and we talked, he was interested in getting us some shows, and then that just fell into place. Shortly after that Steven Himmelfarb, our booking agent, saw us play a few times and sort of signed up.
M: [Tokyo Police Club frontman] David Monks produced your first EP – how did you guys hook up with him?
J: He lives in Newmarket and Nathan was going out with his sister for a while. So he started coming to some of our shows and we became friends with him.
M: Was he like, “Alright guys, let’s go into the studio and make a record!”
J: Not really. We were playing some older material for a while before he was into doing anything. It was nice to have him come out to the shows and stuff, but we just kept writing, trying to progress as a band, and after a little bit he was like, “Oh, I like a bunch of these songs, we should go and record them.”
M: What was it like to go and record with Howard Bilerman and Brian Paulson in Hotel2Tango?
J: At first I thought it was going to be a lot more crafty and technical but it definitely wasn’t. We did all the tracks live off the floor without a click track, so it was just us in a rehearsal space, having fun, rocking out, but obviously being in a much better sounding room. There wasn’t too much that Howard and Brian changed when it came to songs. They were really great guys and we just worked.
M: What do you feel they added to the Ruby Coast or at least to the sound of the new album?
J: We did one mix at Hotel2Tango that was pretty pressed for time and we weren’t really happy with it. Also, I got sick so I couldn’t really sing one of the tracks. I went in a week later and did a vocal track to this one song that I didn’t finish and we sent it to Brian to get mixed and it just sounded way better than all the other mixes that were done at Hotel2Tango. So we asked him to remix a couple of songs that we weren’t really happy with, and once we received those back, you could see that’s where the record was supposed to be. He was really making them come to life with the live feel that we went for. So we sent them all to him and he remixed all the tracks. Brian found a way to make it sound like a band just playing in a room, whereas it was a bit mushy before – he just cleared everything out and made it sound great.
M: When I was listening to “Whatever This Is”, I felt like this was a much more emotional-sounding Ruby Coast then we’d heard before.
J: Well, I sort of ruined one really special relationship during the making of the record. It was just a mess and there was tons of emotion coming from that and…not being able to control situations, like Mark’s mom passing away. It was an intense time. With this album I was listening to a lot of music and discovering what songs really resonated with me, and what I really wanted to do with music. One thing that I came across was that it’s a great thing when you can put on somebody else’s song and they just say something the way it is. It can hit home and make you feel better rather than just hearing about some walking towel or something.
M: What songs in particular did you really connect with while writing this album?
J: I’ve been listening to Camera Obscura’s My Maudlin Career and I could relate to that album a lot, especially the song “Away With Murder”. “Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine – that song really connected with me while we were making the record.
M: What was it about “Sometimes” you connected with?
J: It just sounds sad. There’s this epic-ness to it that’s so uplifting. I don’t know if it’s a keyboard or something, but it comes in halfway through and it goes from this washy guitar to this uplifting feeling. I feel like sadder songs can be easier for me to connect with than a song like “Walking On Sunshine”.
M: Did you know that album, Loveless, was made while [My Bloody Valentine frontman] Kevin Shields and [My Bloody Valentine guitarist] Belinda Butcher were going through a breakup?
J: Oh really?
M: Yeah, that’s why it’s called Loveless, because their relationship had become loveless.
J: That’s awesome.
M: So what does the future hold in store for Ruby Coast?
J: We’re constantly writing and we’re going to tour this record as much as we can. With this record I feel like we tapped into a different emotional level compared to our EP. I guess we just want to keep growing in that realm and making songs that are really personal and connect with us and hopefully other people. Do what we do and not try and make something that’s contrived and bullshit, but human.
Ok, so I’m a couple years late on these guys. I saw the album cover above at Rotate This the other day and was like, “sick cover.” I almost bought the album (2007’s Beat Box) based on the cover art alone but then I cheaped out at the last minute. I downloaded it when I got home though and it’s this great italo-disco stuff. The song below, “Candy Castle”, was my posting choice cuz it’s got these badass synth horns and really sultry vocals courtesy of lead singer Ida No.