The Rubens happy being a new kind of themselves on 0202

HOME MADE: The Rubens self-produced their fourth album 0202 in their Camden bunker studio. Picture: Giulia McGauran
HOME MADE: The Rubens self-produced their fourth album 0202 in their Camden bunker studio. Picture: Giulia McGauran

ELLIOTT Margins admits he and his Rubens bandmates would have thought their new album 0202 was "crazy" if they'd heard the tracks back in 2012.

In those days the five lads from semi-rural Menangle on the south-west outskirts of Sydney were another bluesy rock guitar band, albeit armed with Elliott's soulful piano and Hammond organ.

Their self-titled debut led by singles The Best We Got, My Gun and Lay It Down announced their potential before the title track off their second album, Hoops, rocketed them to the top echelon of the Australian music scene by topping the triple j Hottest 100 in 2015.

Hoops was the beginning of The Rubens' transformation towards a more pop-orientated R'n'B sound.

Album No.3 Lo La Ru (2018) accelerated the shift, but was critically panned. It was a record of a rock band masquerading as a R'n'B pop group.

Finally with 0202 The Rubens sound comfortable being the band they've spent the past six years becoming. Elliott's synths drive the sound, creating a fresh soundscape for his brother Sam's soulful vocals.

"We'd probably think it was crazy," Elliott Margin says when asked what The Rubens would have thought of 0202 when they started out.

"On the first record we were mainly a guitar band. I played keys but if I wanted a sound I'd choose piano or a electric piano sound and a Hammond organ.

"It wasn't something we would have expected to do as a band. As the years have gone on we've experimented more and branched out and embraced more synth sounds and drum samples and had fun with different sonic soundscapes.

"We've been doing it a long time and experimenting with what's fun for us and it keeps it fun for listeners as well. If we made the same album again and again nobody would be listening to us."

Plenty of people are listening to The Rubens, too. In late 2019 they released 0202's first single Live In Life, which has garnered almost 35 million streams on Spotify and is zeroing in on surpassing Hoops' success.

The proceeding singles Heavy Weather, Time Of My Life, Masterpiece and Muddy Evil Plan have continued to whet the appetite for 0202, which was originally scheduled for release last year.

The fans' reaction to the new material has matched the confidence Elliott and his brothers Sam (vocal) and Izaac Margin (lead guitar) and old friends Scott Baldwin (drums) and William Zeglis (bass) felt in their own ability leading into 0202.

For the second straight album they opted to record in a friend's studio in Camden, a former World War II bomb shelter.

On Lo La Ru they called in Little Shalimar and Wilder Zoby, the instrumentalists behind acclaimed US hip-hop group Run The Jewels to produce.

However, this time around The Rubens backed themselves to deliver exactly what they desired.

BLUE STREAK: The Rubens have moved towards a synth-pop sound.

BLUE STREAK: The Rubens have moved towards a synth-pop sound.

Zeglis, the most "tech-savvy" of the band, served as the engineer and the rest were co-producers.

"It was a much different experience," Elliott says. "It was, 'Everyone in the room right now, it's only band members, so whatever we say goes'.

"We also got to take all we've learnt from working with other producers over the years and figured out how to do it ourselves.

"We feel we've come far enough and the opportunity was there for us to do it ourselves, so we tried to back it.

"It was honestly a really fun experience to try things and feel like we could take those risks, because we weren't on anyone else's time. It was just us in the studio recording these songs.

"It was a little bit of a tester at the beginning to see if we could do it, and then halfway through we realised we're building a record here and it's working."

With the album finally released, more than 12 months after its completion, Elliott says the opportunities are endless for The Rubens.

"The fact we've proven to ourselves on this album that we can do it locally at home and self-produced is at least confirmation for us that we can continue to do that in a relaxed way," he says.

"We don't have to go away for three months in a studio in some foreign country and work on it there. We can work on it close to home and hopefully get more music out there more quickly."

The Rubens' new album 0202 was released on Friday.

The Rubens play Port Macquarie Glasshouse (Saturday), Anita's Theatre - Thirroul (February 20), Crooked River Winery - Gerringong (April 3), Bar On The Hill - Newcastle (April 17), Riverlinks Westside - Shepparton (April 28), Saloon Bar - Launceston (May 22), Beer Deluxe - Albury (June 9), The Whalers Hotel - Warrnambool (June 10) and Torquay Hotel (June 11).

This story Rubens embrace homemade craziness on backwards album first appeared on Newcastle Herald.