Turntable Interview: The Ruby Suns
On the Ruby Suns’ latest album Christopher, Ryan McPhun sang, “I never want to live in real life,” so we wanted to do an interview in Second Life. But since Second Life involves, well, hanging out in Second Life, we asked him to stop by Turntable.fm instead. We talked to McPhun about whether Michael Jackson would be a fan of the Ruby Suns, what inspires his synth solos, and how New Zealand is like the Lord Of The Flies of music.
STEREOGUM: Hello? Hi!
THE RUBY SUNS: Hello?
RUBY SUNS started playing “Yamaha” by The-Dream
THE RUBY SUNS: Hi thanks for having me. Pardon me while I try to figure this out.
STEREOGUM: Don’t worry you can only use this site in the US right now. I think. When you go back to New Zealand you never have to use it again :0
THE RUBY SUNS: Ha!
STEREOGUM: So you’re a fan of The-Dream?
THE RUBY SUNS: Yeah big time. I was going to play ‘tender tendencies’ but it came up with suicidal tendencies
STEREOGUM: Ha! What else is in heavy rotation for you right now?
THE RUBY SUNS: Been into the Fatima al Gadiri EP
STEREOGUM: I don’t think I know that one
THE RUBY SUNS: And recently found this record ‘Neuromantic’ by Yukihiro Takahashi, the drummer/vocalist of yellow magic orchestra
STEREOGUM: So you’re really into Top 40?
Melissa Locker started playing “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson
THE RUBY SUNS: You did NOT just play my NUMBER ONE MJ song! I mean, yes you did.
STEREOGUM: This is MY number one MJ song
THE RUBY SUNS: Whoa, cool
STEREOGUM: When he died I sat at my desk and listened to this song and cried
THE RUBY SUNS: That’s exactly what I did. I was at my studio though
STEREOGUM: I am raising a lighter in the air right now
THE RUBY SUNS: I’m raising my cup of coffee
STEREOGUM: I’m sure MJ would approve.
THE RUBY SUNS: Hopefully. Yeah, that was a weird day when it happened
STEREOGUM: Yeah, it really was a weird day. You’re in the US right now, right?
THE RUBY SUNS: Yeah, San Fran. Just played here last night. We could just DJ MF back and forth
THE RUBY SUNS: I can’t find the track I want!
STEREOGUM: Hi. Welcome to Turntable Interviews, where if the technology doesn’t get ya the questions will! Do you think MJ would be a fan of Ruby Suns?
THE RUBY SUNS: Probably not?
STEREOGUM: Why? You guys have some of those dreamy beats and fuzzy melodies
THE RUBY SUNS started playing “Tender Tendencies” by The-Dream
THE RUBY SUNS: Well maybe he would. Whoops I mean I really wanted to play another part of me but couldn’t find it in time, just karaoke versions.
STEREOGUM: You can do it next! Do you ever think of choreographing Michael Jackson-esque dance routines?
THE RUBY SUNS: I’ve not considered doing the dance thing myself. I’m not enough of a ‘performer’
STEREOGUM: I feel like someone could come up with a killer routine to “Kenya Dig It”
THE RUBY SUNS: Ha, maybe. That would be cool to see. Actually some people started working on a video for it but we kinda scrapped it. It had some dance moves in it. It was the people that did all the Go Team videos
STEREOGUM: Oh that would have been cool! Now I really want to see it.
THE RUBY SUNS: I think they might have a clip of it on their site.
STEREOGUM: So how was your show last night?
THE RUBY SUNS: It was pretty good. Had quite a few friends come out. Some of my more vocal ones, so it was good to hear some familiar yelps and light heckles. We just came from Europe and I think I’m still on that time a little, kinda crashing at 10pm
STEREOGUM: How long did you live in CA until splitting for New Zealand?
Melissa Locker started playing “Trouble” by Hands
THE RUBY SUNS: Beginning of 2003 I moved to NZ
STEREOGUM: What inspired you to move there? And if I say Hobbits will you kick me? (Virtually)
THE RUBY SUNS: To be with my girlfriend at the time. And no, I shan’t.
STEREOGUM: That’s quite a move!
THE RUBY SUNS: Sorta, half of my family is from there so it was always a bit of a second home
STEREOGUM: Ah, I see. So you moved for love and then were like, fuck it, I’m staying.
RUBY SUNS: Well, we were together for almost 8 years but then that finished a couple years ago and since then I’ve not been as psyched to stay there, but that’s home.
STEREOGUM: And now you get to talk about it in band interviews forever.
THE RUBY SUNS: Yeah! There’s always got to be an angle right
STEREOGUM: How hard is it to get your band noticed from New Zealand?
THE RUBY SUNS: I’d say almost impossible
THE RUBY SUNS started playing “The Reflection Of You” by Bear In Heaven
THE RUBY SUNS: But I suppose things are changing heaps all the time. I love this song
STEREOGUM: Yeah it’s amazing. So how did you do it?
THE RUBY SUNS: Well I was touring as the drummer for the Brunettes and we did some tours with the Shins. We (Brunettes) signed to Sub Pop for one record and I started sending them (Sub Pop) my own demos. I had half of Sea Lion done by the end of 2005 and they dug it.
STEREOGUM: It’s a dig-able album. What’s the scene like in NZ?
THE RUBY SUNS: Hmmm, uh, varied
STEREOGUM: Varied, huh?
THE RUBY SUNS: There’s no money to be made in NZ and hardly any ‘profile’ to gain so everyone is free to do exactly what they want. That’s how I feel about it
STEREOGUM: So it’s kind of Lord of the Flies of music? That must be kind of liberating though?
THE RUBY SUNS: Ha. No one’s getting eaten though. But, yeah it really is. The first two NZ bands that I got into were the Brunettes and the Tokey Tones and not long after I moved there I joined both. They’re the best NZ records to me.
Melissa Locker started playing “Cool Yourself” by Thao With The Get Down Stay Down
STEREOGUM: Is there some big NZ band that has made it and everyone aspires to be like?
THE RUBY SUNS: Hmmm Neil Finn?
STEREOGUM: He’s from NZ?
THE RUBY SUNS: Nah, kind of a joke, but he’s been so successful.
STEREOGUM: Is that NZ humor?
RUBY SUNS: Not sure. He’s a seriously good dude though. I wonder how many seriously successful musicians are as nice and helpful as him
STEREOGUM: Now I just want to listen to Crowded House
THE RUBY SUNS: Totally. Try “True Colours” by Split Enz too
THE RUBY SUNS started playing “Drip Dry Eyes” by Yukihiro Takahashi
STEREOGUM: Do you think it gives your band a bit of a creative edge to be removed from other musical influences?
THE RUBY SUNS: Yes I think so.
Bands are free to be as idiosyncratic as they please, whether anyone else likes the stuff or not is another story
STEREOGUM: Your new album sounds completely contemporary, like you could have made it in California or Connecticut.
THE RUBY SUNS: Right. Well I was going for a hi fi thing. I go through phases where I think the most dull thing one could do would be to make a ‘lo fi’ record, but that’s cause I’ve done that before. I never want to repeat myself. I’m thinking either an orchestral or a Noisy Liars-esque record next, but my vocals will always be the same. Maybe.
Melissa Locker started playing “Something So Strong” by Crowded House
THE RUBY SUNS: Ha!
STEREOGUM: Do you get bored? Or do you just not want to repeat yourself?
THE RUBY SUNS: Both I guess.
STEREOGUM: Oh this is a weird live version
THE RUBY SUNS: Yeah.
STEREOGUM: It’s like we’re watching them live!
THE RUBY SUNS:Totally. The next song I’ve got queued up, he played at this great music festival in NZ, camp a low hum, with his sons Liam and Elroy and I was so psyched I got up on stage and stage dove. Wait a minute, past tense of dive. Dove?
STEREOGUM: Dived? I have no idea. But you stage dived?
THE RUBY SUNS started playing “I Got You” by Split Enz
THE RUBY SUNS: Dived, got it.
Yeah, it was awesome
STEREOGUM: I don’t actually know if that’s correct. I love this song! And so appropriate for Valentine’s Day
THE RUBY SUNS: Oh yeah! I forgot it’s Valentine’s Day.
STEREOGUM: Do you not have to put up with this nonsense in NZ? It’s worth moving just for that!
THE RUBY SUNS: Yes NZ is becoming more Americonised by the minute. As are many places.
STEREOGUM: Do you have Valentines Day then? What about Halloween?
THE RUBY SUNS: But really companies are just figuring out they can get more cash by doing these things
That’s the NZ spelling of ‘Americanised’ btw. As my initial interview anxiety is wearing off, I’m digging this interview format. Plus I’ve had lots of coffee
STEREOGUM: ME TOO. I’m from Portland, so I’m 90% caffeine at all times.
Melissa Locker started playing “With A Girl Like You” by The Troggs
STEREOGUM: Do you have an accent now that you’ve lived in NZ for awhile?
THE RUBY SUNS: People say I do. Kiwis ask where I’m from, Americans ask where I’m from. I’m fucked either way. Nah, not really. it’s a little funny is all. Pardon the swearing. I love swearing
STEREOGUM: Who doesn’t?
THE RUBY SUNS: Catholics? Sorry, bad taste. You can omit that if you’d like
STEREOGUM: I’ve in NYC where “fucking” is just an ordinary adjective. And there’s no need to omit, but I will if you want me too.
THE RUBY SUNS: No that’s quite alright
THE RUBY SUNS started playing “Walk On By (Radio Edit)” by El Perro Del Mar
STEREOGUM: Where are you heading to next on tour?
THE RUBY SUNS: Portland actually
Tomorrow night at Doug Fir
STEREOGUM: Oh cool! Have you played that venue before?
THE RUBY SUNS: No, I’m excited. We’ve stayed at the hotel next to it and had the breakfast sandwiches there, but not played there
STEREOGUM: They do make an excellent breakfast sandwich
THE RUBY SUNS: And they have veggie sausage patties. I used to love the meat ones when I was a kid.
STEREOGUM: As you tour do you find yourself judging places based on their food?
THE RUBY SUNS: YES. Portland = A+
STEREOGUM: Portland has great food. Every time I go home I have a list of places to hit and just make myself sick eating.
THE RUBY SUNS: Nice. I think I do that when I come to the States in general. And basically I just get fat every damn time
STEREOGUM: That seems reasonable. How long will you be touring this time?
THE RUBY SUNS: We’ve just started a month long tour with our new buds Painted Palms
Melissa Locker started playing “Waiting Room” by Fugazi
STEREOGUM: Wow, a month in a van, getting fat. That sounds awesome! Are you going to SXSW?
THE RUBY SUNS: Not this time. We finish the tour just before but have a show in Austin the week before
STEREOGUM: Good choice! Stay out of the insanity and still eat breakfast tacos
THE RUBY SUNS: Yep
THE RUBY SUNS started playing “Winter Sadness” by Kool & The Gang
STEREOGUM: Are you already writing songs for your new album? Or are you just enjoying the tour?
THE RUBY SUNS: There’s a synth solo coming up
STEREOGUM: Oh that is NICE
THE RUBY SUNS: Uh, I’m usually stressed on tour just trying to keep on top of emails and stuff. I haven’t started writing yet. I’m starting to conceptualise though
STEREOGUM: Maybe this synth solo can inspire you
THE RUBY SUNS: Oh it has
STEREOGUM: It’s pretty inspiring
THE RUBY SUNS: There are actual solos on ‘Christopher’ inspired by this, among many other solos
STEREOGUM: Thanks Kool and the Gang!
THE RUBY SUNS: Yep
STEREOGUM: There really aren’t enough saxophone and /or synth solos in music anymore, so I’m glad you are doing your part to bring them back
THE RUBY SUNS: Yeah not really. It can be very tastefully done. I guess some people will always think it’s cheesy or too OTT no matter what
Melissa Locker started playing “A Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins
STEREOGUM: Anyway, those are all my questions
THE RUBY SUNS: Oh nice! This is such a good song. We played before him at a festival in England a couple years ago. It was really good. This song was crazy and of course rip it up by OJ.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, I love this song. Although I thought it was David Bowie for years.
THE RUBY SUNS: Ha that makes sense.
STEREOGUM: Well thanks for chatting with me!
THE RUBY SUNS: Well thank you!
Christopher is in stores now. You can also catch The Ruby Suns on tour.
02/28 – Boston, MA @
Brighton Music Hall
03/01 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
03/02 – Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory
03/03 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
03/05 – Washington DC @ Black Cat Backstage
03/06 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
03/07 – Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
03/09 – Austin, TX @ Holy Mountain
03/10 – Denton, TX @ 35 Denton Festival
03/12 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room