Frontman of Sydney’s The Ruminaters, Pencil sits adjacent with a permanent glint in his eye. Beside him their drummer Edward comes across as more easy-going, but there’s energy running between the pair which suggests that trouble is never too far away.
Catching up with the two at Brisbane’s Foundry Records ahead of their BIGSOUND performance revealed the bandmates’ views on The Strokes and their experience recording in the same studio as Radiohead.
The Ruminaters have taken Sydney’s rock scene by the horns, but their latest conquest is BIGSOUND. What do the fellas from the Rumies have their eyes on next?
While the duo was eager to discuss their upcoming EP I Used To Hate The Ruminaters, Now I Like Them, there were also hints of another full-fledged album in the works.
HAPPY: I’ve heard that the group are fans of The Strokes. Did you have a chance to listen to the last EP (Future Present Past)? What did you think?
PENCIL: I liked it all, until I heard Threat of Joy. It made me… not like the rest of it as much. I know they can still write stuff like that (because they just did). But they don’t do it quite as much these days.
EDWARD: Threat of Joy takes you back. It’s kind of frustrating to hear that song, it makes you think of those albums they were making early on. But I also respect how they, particularly Julian [Casablancus], pushes the envelope. He doesn’t just make music that people want to hear.
PENCIL: I really liked that Julian Casablancus+The Voidz album Tyranny. I was in America before it was released and saw the group live. Watching the band I was freaking out. I had a realisation that this is the way music is going to be from now on.
EDWARD: The future of music making!
PENCIL: But it didn’t really kick off, which was a bummer.
HAPPY: You’ve toured all over the UK and Europe. Where would you like to go next?
EDWARD: Japan and America.
PENCIL: Yeah, those two places.
HAPPY: Japanese fan culture is fairly intense. What do you think the Japanese fan reaction would be to the band?
PENCIL: I thought if we made a plush toy or a backpack with The Ruminators’ logo, maybe we could walk around as salesmen. I don’t know how the band would go.
EDWARD: I don’t know about the music, but I think the merchandise would work. A friend of ours plays in a band in Japan….
PENCIL: The Flower Travellin’ Band!
EDWARD: He’s lived there for three years or so. There’s a really cool scene over there.
HAPPY: You’ve been kicking around as a group for five years now. If you could sum it up in a single sentence how would you put it?
PENCIL: That’s just one word, not even a sentence!
EDWARD: [resolutely] Stupid.
PENCIL: I was just getting ripped on today by my mum because we posted a photo of me with a phone up [a comprising place]. I got off the plane to Brisbane and….
HAPPY: Enough! That is more than one sentence! That’s a paragraph!
EDWARD: I would say: “We’re the Ruminators and we’re havin’ a good time.”
HAPPY: If the four of you weren’t a hard rocking band, what sort of music would you be making?
EDWARD: Soft cute lullabies.
PENCIL: I wouldn’t mind making some soft cute lullabies or synth music. Synths are something that interest me; I just haven’t had the time to work them out.
EDWARD: Synth lullabies.
HAPPY: Bad Bad Things seems like a logical continuation of your mongrel brand of garage-surf-psych-rock and roll. What’s the idea behind the track?
PENCIL: I don’t think we’re bad kids at all, but on the other hand we do do dumb stuff from time to time. The whole thing is I don’t mind doing bad bad things. I don’t need to do them, I don’t strive to do them…
EDWARD: We don’t often do them!
PENCIL: But if they come up? I don’t mind doing them.
EDWARD: When we do do them they’re not that bad anyway.
HAPPY: I Hate The Ruminaters had this awesomely scrappy semi-live feel. Am I wrong I thinking the new singles are sounding a little more polished?
EDWARD: Absolutely not wrong.
PENCIL: The thing is we’ve learnt to record better since I Hate The Ruminaters. I think we’re just learning how to record. I mean we were still learning to play instruments when we first recorded, but we could always play live.
EDWARD: And even then maybe not.
PENCIL: In past we worked on capturing our live sound, but we’ve found it’s not always the best recorded sound. At times it can be too scrappy and raucous.
EDWARD: In past we’ve written quicker and not honed in on recording so much. Now we put more effort and intention into the whole process, start to finish. We recorded the new EP at RAK Studios in London, it was unbelievable! I mean Radiohead has done albums there, it’s real McCoy kind of stuff.
PENCIL: Before we were doing three or four songs in the studio per day, now we’re down to one or maybe two.
HAPPY: Where does that leave off with the new EP? What can we expect?
PENCIL: There’s only six songs on the EP, but every single one is different. It’s sort of a foreshowing. It’s showing where the next album will be going.
HAPPY: You’ve already got plans for a follow-up album?
EDWARD: We’re writing it now and we’re planning on going back to London and recording at RAK studios again.
HAPPY: Who were you working with at RAK? Did you have a producer?
EDWARD: We were working with a guy called Rob Brinkman. He’s an in-house guy there who has been there for two years. Originally he’s from Avalon in Sydney, which is also where we’re all from. It was a good environment because we had some of the familiarity of home. He’s the best person weave worked with so far. He’s a guy who understands what we’re trying to do. In every way he’s just been awesome.
HAPPY: Some producers can be overbearing figures. Would you say it’s important to work with someone who understands your creative vision?
EDWARD: Rob has been amazing in that way. He has the ability to see what we want to do and make it better. He doesn’t push his ideas on us.
PENCIL: Although… I did get a drunk message from him last night. I sent him a voice memo of a new song and his reply was: “DON’T SHOW THE BAND YET I’VE GOT ALL THESE IDEAS!” He was thinking about putting all these Everly Brothers harmonies in the background…We can’t do harmonies!
HAPPY: You can’t?
PENCIL: Well, I’m learnin’. I’ve been TRYIN’!
EDWARD: We might try one tonight or tomorrow night. The first show’s in our hotel room, 9.15pm.
PENCIL: Yeah! We’ll do practice.
If you’re keen for more Ruminaters (as you bloody well should be), you’ve got a chance this Friday to catch them at The Lord Gladstone in Sydney. The event, A Trip to the Moon, promises “a kaleidoscopic journey through mind blowing art, live tunes and bleedin’ good times.”
Feast your eyes on all the details below. RSVP is essential, so head on over to the Facebook event now if you’re keen.