The Rubens: Gunning It

The Rubens
Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

Despite The Rubens’ swift rise to fame and sell-out gigs, Elliott Margin’s humble tone shows you can take the boy out of Menangle, but you can’t take Menangle out of the boy.

Consider this for a case of happenstance: last year in the rural NSW town of Menangle, the Margin brothers and their friend Scott Baldwin recorded a handful of demos in Sam Margin’s bedroom. These demos were released to the internet in the hope that a few people might listen to them. They certainly didn’t expect the song, ‘My Gun’, to traverse the Pacific and find its way to New York, where it invaded the ears of David Kahne, Grammy Award winning record producer whose clientele includes Paul McCartney, Regina Spektor and The Strokes.

Kahne loved the song instantly — its haunting vocals, surfy guitars and unique sound prompting him to produce The Rubens' debut album. After hearing the news, an awestruck Sam flew to New York to work out the intricacies of the deal while the rest of the band scrimped and saved until eventually joining Sam in the land of opportunities. The plan came to fruition and the four small-town Australian lads found themselves in The Big Apple.

“It was awesome,” Elliott says with genuine enthusiasm. “It was scary at first because obviously [David is] such a big producer, he’s worked with so many awesome bands and we had that in mind. We were a little bit daunted at first, but after the first meeting we just realised he was a really nice guy that wanted to make a record with us, and do it well and have fun. We saw eye-to-eye, so it wasn’t a struggle in the sense that we had different objectives and things. We were on the same page from the start, which was nice.”

Working with Kahne allowed The Rubens to use instruments they never dreamt they’d get their hands on. “We only brought one guitar with us because we didn’t have the money to bring over anything else. [Kahne] had a guitar there that I think was a 1960s Telecaster, which was worth a ridiculous amount — he had that just sitting in his studio, so Zaac used that for a lot of the guitar takes and I used a Hammond B3, which was awesome. It was crazy for us, because we never had good instruments, we never had access to that kind of stuff.”

This incredible opportunity enabled The Rubens to produce an album with sonic clarity that far outweighed their home-recorded demos. “The difference in the quality from the demos we recorded in our bedroom with our instruments, and then the songs that are on the album that we recorded in New York with access to this amazing amount of instruments, and all the cool sounds we got out of them. There’s a big difference once you hear where the songs have come from.”

So with Sam in charge of guitar and lead vocals, Elliott on keys / vocals, Zaac on lead guitar and Scott on drums, who is Ruben?

“We’ve got a little brother called Jethro who plays drums. When we started the band he was about 15 or 16, which is obviously too young to be in a band and go and play in pubs and clubs. His nickname at the time was Ruben, and so when we started the band we couldn’t think of any names so we decided we’d name it after him, so that’s where The Rubens came from.”

The Rubens’ undeniable talent and formidable stage presence has lead to a plethora of musical accolades, resulting in a reputation that would take most bands a lifetime to cultivate. This year was an incredible triumph for the band; having to add six extra shows to their national tour due to demand just the tip of the iceberg. Not only was their debut album nominated for Triple J’s Album of the Year Award, but earlier this year they supported The Black Keys on their sold out tour of New Zealand.

“It was amazing, everything about it was just awesome. Because they’re one of our favourite bands, we turned up to the shows and were just hanging behind the stage, and we knew that The Black Keys wouldn’t turn up until they actually had to play, but we were setting up for sound check and saw cases that had ‘The Black Keys’ spray painted on it and we were just taking photos thinking ‘maybe they touched that’. Everything about it was so exciting. And the crowd was lovely. None of them really had an idea of who we were but they treated us so nicely. The Black Keys put on an awesome show.”

With the new year a couple of days away, The Rubens show no sign of slowing their swift ascent. “Laneway [Festival] is pretty much the next thing we have apart from the New Year’s Show. Then we’re going to be doing a couple of overseas things. We’ve got a couple of shows in Asia, then we’re doing Europe and little things like that because we’ve really got to shop ourselves to the rest of the world now. We’ve got an amazing fanbase here in Australia and we’ve got to keep it growing. So that’s pretty much what the start of next year will be. Then I think around halfway through next year we’ve got another Australian tour lined up.”

Winding down after a big year, the Margin household will take on a Home Alone vibe this Christmas. “Our parents and the rest of our family have gone away, so we’ve got an orphan Christmas, which could be interesting. Because they left about a week ago there’s no Christmas decorations of any kind at our home, so I’m trying to get the Christmas spirit going. Usually it’s Mum that does it but I’m trying to do it. I’m actually planning to go get a Christmas tree today to try to get ourselves excited. It’s just going to be Sam, Zaac and I at home. We should probably set up a lot of booby traps.”

Despite the inherent burglary paranoia, Elliott wouldn’t mind a visit from Joe Pesci this Christmas. “That would be awesome, I’d just invite him in. I’d be like, ‘sit down, have a cup of coffee’.”

The Rubens Tour Dates

Mon Dec 31 — Coolangatta Hotel
Fri Feb 01 — St Jerome's Laneway Festival @ RNA Showgrounds (Brisbane)
Sat Feb 02 — St Jerome's Laneway Festival @ Sydney College Of The Arts
Sun Feb 03 — St Jerome's Laneway Festival @ Footscray Community Arts Centre
Fri Feb 08 — St Jerome's Laneway Festival @ Fowler's Live (Adelaide)
Sat Feb 09 — St Jerome's Laneway Festival @ Perth Cultural Centre
Sat Mar 30 — Hanging Rock (Woodend, VIC) w/ Bruce Springsteen & Jimmy Barnes
Sun Mar 31 — Hanging Rock (Woodend, VIC) w/ Bruce Springsteen & Jimmy Barnes

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