Progress Report: Born Ruffians
PROGRESS REPORT: Mastering their album, Say It, for release early 2010. Recorded at Metalworks Studios in Toronto, and mastered at Rusty Santos’ studio in Brooklyn.
Born Ruffians spent this past Thanksgiving week working 12 hours a day. The Canadian band already had a Thanksgiving (October 12), of course, but there other reasons to work through the holiday. For nearly all of 2008, Born Ruffians were on an unplanned hiatus, which seemed to put them and any followup to their 2007 album Red, Yellow & Blue, on hold.
Back in 2008, after touring nonstop, the trio — Luke LaLonde, Mitch Derosier and Steven Hamelin — accomplished one of their big goals: they played a sold-out show at Toronto’s Opera House. They used to live together, rehearse in-house, and drive to that venue together when they first started Born Ruffians. But within a year of releasing their first album, the friends had all moved out of the house they shared. The sold-out show should have been a high point. The day after, Hamelin told his bandmates he no longer wanted to tour. “That was pretty shitty,” LaLonde says. But he and Derosier regrouped, recruited a replacement for Hamelin, and toured even more. They had started writing a new album that summer, but it was put on hold. Lalonde and Hamelin, who had been friends since high school, weren’t talking. Fast forward a bit, to Born Ruffians’ September 2009 shows. Hamelin rejoined his old band play Warp’s 20th anniversary in NYC and decided he wanted to give touring, and playing with Born Ruffians another try. All three members hashed out any lingering issues and doubts. And within Fall 2009, they had written, rehearsed, and recorded their new record Say It.
“We had a therapeutic talk and put everything on the table,” Lalonde explains. “We toured too much I think. A lot of stress within our band built up and got blown out of proportion.” They vowed to never let issues go unsaid ever again. To, you know, just say it. “So Say It has a lot of lyrics about communication and the difficulties of articulating ideas … like I’ve had talking to you this whole time,” Lalonde says. “That’s our new philosophy, to talk about things before they happen, so we know that we’re on the same page.” Though they’re more likely to talk out problems, Born Ruffians are feeling like themselves, again.
The same could be said for Say It. According to Lalonde, the new record will sound much like their first — any change is a result of getting older (they are still only 23), and realizing that they couldn’t go lo-fi. What they want is something cleaner, more straightforward. They considered briefly, building their own studio, then instead recorded in one of the biggest studios in Canada. Lalonde says they’re fascinated with “big hit songs” — not so much trying to write hits, but figuring out why they can be attracted to, say, Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The USA,” but hate the equally over-produced material from the Jonas Brothers. Songs they hear on the radio — Lalonde mentions Hall and Oates, Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” — launch band discussions on why those songs still sound good 10+ years later. They were excited to bring in some additional sounds — timpanis, mini-Moog, and saxophones — to expand their sound a little bit. They also recorded with Rusty Santos (Animal Collective, Beach House, Grizzly Bear), as they did their first album. “We don’t want to leave little mistakes on, we want to make it sound pretty clean and pop-music friendly,” Lalonde explains. “We’re trying to make a hit record but in the most genuine way.” But even that description feels false to him. “We just want it to sound like us live … but better.”
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