Interview The Ruby Suns

‘We’re big fans of sea lions, and lions, and any kind of animal really. But both sea lions and lions are such massive creatures!’

New Zealand-based band The Ruby Suns are due to release new album ‘Sea Lion’ in March. It’s the follow-up from 2006’s self-titled debut, and coincides with the band touring the US, including appearances at this year’s SXSW festival, before heading back to the Southern Hemisphere for shows across Australia and their homeland.

Your new album is called ‘Sea Lion’. Are you particular fans of sea lions, or lions in general?
We’re big fans of sea lions, and lions, and any kind of animal really. But both sea lions and lions are such massive creatures!

More seriously, tell us all about the record.
Seriously? It was recorded at a leisurely pace in my basement and then later in my bedroom at a different flat. It’s a bit noisy, lo-fi, catchy, pretty.

It’s described as ‘classic summery pop’ - why not wait until it’s nearly summer to release it?
It was actually finished in July which is our winter and its released in New Zealand in January which is the middle of our summer. Its kinda the label’s decisions on when to release the record.

Song ‘Tane Mahuta’ is sung entirely in Maori: is that a rarity for New Zealand pop bands? Why the decision to include it on the record?
I think it is a bit of a rarity among New Zealand indie/pop bands. Not sure why. Probably because it’s not ‘cool’. But it seemed the obvious thing to do at the time, seeing how that particular tree Tane Mahuta is a big part of Maori history. It was included on the record because it’s a bit better than the ones that weren’t on the record!

The record was apparently intended to be ‘world music’. Were you wary of the connotations that might have inferred?
What connotations? That it might be interesting? That it might have a little more than drums, bass and distorted guitar? No, I wasn’t worried about it. When I was talking about world music I was really talking about rhythms. Maybe I should’ve talked about poly-rhythms instead.

You’re with Sub Pop in the US, and Memphis Industries over here: is finding the right label to release your work important to you as a band?
It’s definitely important. It’s great to be in good company and to work with people who have such a huge network of friends and colleagues.

You have an obvious DIY ethic: have there ever been situations in which you’ve wished there was someone around to take care of things for you?
YES! I’m getting really sick of ‘my’ sounds. At this stage I don’t really know how to create the sounds I want to create. Because they’re sounds I’ve never heard before! But I’m talking about the production of the music. As far as the running of the band, it would definitely be great to have someone sorting everything out for us, but I can’t really foresee the time when we’d be able to afford someone like that in the near future. Plus, Amee in the band is really good at organising and getting shit done!

And, are we likely to hear any of the tracks from ‘Sea Lion’ on TV advertisements any time soon?
Well it depends what the advertisement is for, but I hope so. I don’t think any of us particularly enjoy being poor.

You’re playing SXSW this March - what would, to you, make for a successful appearance at the event?
For all of our equipment to keep working throughout the entire show. That would be nice. For us to be able to hear ourselves, and for the audience to be supportive. AND for us to have a good time and relax.

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