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The Ruby Suns

The Ruby Suns

Wednesday 24th November, 2010 6:31PM

The Ruby Suns are quickly (if not already) becoming one of New Zealand’s favourite bands, and, having released a brilliant new album, Fight Softly, earlier this year, the rest of the world’s too. Which is a good thing, because they tour a lot. Here front man Ryan McPhun discusses being on the road, future plans and the best things about summer.

How does it feel to be back in New Zealand after such a long break? What is the first thing you do when you get back to the country?

I'm not back yet! I only get back a few days before the shows. My Mother still lives in Ventura, California so I stayed a couple weeks extra to hang with her and see my sister in San Francisco and go surfing everyday. I reckon as soon as I get back I'll go to Jaffa Cafe around the corner from where I used to live in Grey Lynn and get a haloumi tofu sandwich. Best fucking sandwich you can buy. Then I'll probably go get some beer or a flat white or something.

Does New Zealand even feel like home any more? You are on tour so much it must almost feel strange to call one place home?

You're right. I definitely don't feel like I have a home sometimes. Since I moved to NZ over eight years ago, right now is the least attached I’ve felt to the country. We spent something like five months in Europe. a majority of that time was spent touring but we still had nearly two months of off time. I spent a lot of my time traveling, visiting friends and such. I got to know a lot of cities better than before. But I've still got my studio in Mt. Eden and I’m looking forward to getting started on another record. Plus heaps of friends are back in NZ for summer so it should be a good one.

Tell me about the tour you've just done - I know it was massive! Did you have any favourite places to play? Strange fan moments? Weird lost in translation episodes?

Well, we've been touring for most of the year so I couldn't really give you a brief re-cap. Often times what sticks out most to me about a show is what we did afterwards. For example, both shows we did this year in Washington Dw we went to Ben's Chilli Bowl and then to the White House and Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument and all that stuff on the mall there. We did a lot of karaoke at Monster Ronson's in Berlin and had a lot of time off there. A great town. I guess I could go on and on bout tour stories and parties and all that crap. Oh Misha Barton kept showing up at our gigs. Well, she went to two of them. but there's not so much weird fan stuff. We'll have to be properly famous for that.

What is your favourite thing about touring?

Pretty much everything I guess. I’ve always had a thirst for traveling. And it’s a really easy way to do it for free. Plus, all the other guys have jobs and other stuff that they do, but this is pretty much all i do. Touring is kinda the point of it. The front end of that thing you work on by yourself for a year. But yeah, travel, people, food, alcohol. The best things.

Least favourite thing about touring?

Lack of exercise. slow Norwegian speed limits. Baggage fees. No soundcheck at festivals. Voltage issues for fairy lights. Backline issues. When Finnish promoters think that a "1/5" of whiskey means a 1/5 of a bottle.

How do you think international crowds are responding to the new album? (When I was in Brooklyn I saw two separate people carrying it under their arm on vinyl - that must be a good sign!)

That is a good sign!
Well, I think it went better in some parts of Europe than it did in the States. We still had great full shows in the states, but Europe is less influenced by Pitchfork, which kinda slammed the album. We have our biggest crowds in Spain I think, but had the most people wanting autographs in Poland. Some of the funnest crowds were in England, which was a surprise.

Are you enjoying playing it live / touring it? Tell me what you're enjoying about the new songs?

I’ve definitely enjoyed playing all the new songs live. Most of them have evolved a little, and keep evolving if we think it's necessary. It keeps it fresh and fun for us. But on the down side, I’m singing so much more on all these new songs. I’m jumping between octaves like crazy and this is really challenging to do song after song. Especially when you're drunk. I haven't got in the habit of doing vocal workouts, but it's something I should look at.

How do you think you've grown as an artist from the early days of The Ruby Suns - first album to latest album what would you say the major differences were?

Well, there are still some similarities in the music. Most noticeably in the song structures, how they chop and change quite a bit and have abrupt interludes and all that. I still like the surprise in music. But most of the rest has changed. I’m a bit better at recording and better at singing. Plus I like totally different music to when the band first started so the sound has changed heaps of times. I think on the next record I'll sound like a 27 year old Justin Bieber.

It seems the latest album is a lot more sonically complex, particularly in production - way more blankety and atmospheric - would this be accurate?

You can probably describe this better...

I’d probably describe it worse. Like “I wanted to put more different shit in it. But then make it crisp too.”

I’m still actually quite happy with a lot of the sounds. I can't really compare a lot of it too anything. For me it can be obvious when I'm making something where the references are, like a nod to Fleetwood Mac, but then I tell people that I was trying to rip off Fleetwood Mac for a part of a song they look at me funny. Through time I’ve gotten some objectivity about the record and now I would've looked at me funny too.

If you were to say you were inspired by anything, metaphorically or musically, for the latest album, what would those inspirations be?

I was getting obsessed with late 80s and early 90s r&b/pop production towards the end of making the record and it came through on the first track. But the inspirations always came from different sources. Musically, it's all over the place, But in general, I sometimes get ideas when I'm travelling or relaxing, as if on a holiday or something. I get kinda stressed out sometimes and it kills creativity. Plus, good food gets me fuckin pumped. Not even good food, just food I like.

What do you love about playing New Zealand shows in summer?

Having friends around. People being stoked because its summer. Drinkin brews.

The Lil Chief Auckland community Ruby Suns was a part of seems to almost had its time, considering a lot of the artists are now doing their thing overseas. I see communities like these as really important for musical development - do you think it was a really important part of Ruby Suns development? What do you see, if any, the new community in New Zealand?

It was a mega important thing for me. Getting to know all those guys when I was still new to New Zealand definitely shaped my musical experience in NZ and elsewhere, since I met all the Sub Pop peeps through touring with The Brunettes. I think all of us Li’l Chiefers look back really fondly at that '04/'05 period when some of us were really starting to get going and all our bands were playing shows with each other and we were all in each other's bands. It was a great time.

I can't really say if there's that same kind of community vibe still in NZ cause I’ve been touring a lot over the last few years. but if there is, maybe it's just not having to do with pop music so I'm not interested in it.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?


Future plans?

Have a good summer. Record. Record. Tour. Break. Record. Tour. Break. etc.. Until all my labels drop me and I can't find new ones.

And lastly, your IDEAL summer holiday?

Going back to the Dalmation Coast in Croatia. or just get a bach up North maybe near Waipu or something. So I can surf heaps, but no kooks allowed on my wave bro.

Courtney Sanders


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