Interview w/ NJ Indies Ruby Bones
Kicking things off with an interview with New Jersey based indie rockers Ruby Bones. These upstarts have been getting a lot of notice lately with the release of their self titled debut LP that is equal parts indie and punk slammed into one to create a indelible and satisfying blend that you'll definitely want to have on repeat for some time to get the full brunt of. The trio of James Janocha, FC Spies, and Chris Nova were awesome enough to sit down and talk about their musical origins, how James's time in Twin Berlin laid the foundation, their experiences playing live in NYC, plus we go behind the recording of their debut album and creating the awesome music video for "Heart of Darkness" as well. Here is the transcript from our hilarious chat:
Give us your names and roles in the band?
Chris Nova - Vocals, Guitar
FC Spies - Bass, Vocals
James Janocha - Drums
How did Ruby Bones originate and how did you all meet?
James: Chris was in love with me for a while and when he finally asked me out, I said yes.
Chris: Kinda true. I was a big fan of James’s last band Twin Berlin and covered them on a blog I ran for a bit. When I was looking for a new drummer he was the first on my list. FC was a buddy from bartending shifts at work, and we just clicked immediately. He said he played guitar and I asked him to play bass. He reluctantly said yes and we’re all the better for it.
What were the bands that most inspired you to be musicians and how do they shape the sound of the group today?
James: There was never a particular band that inspired me to be a musician. I grew up in a musical family. My dad was one of 10 kids and almost all of them play an instrument. I think it was just ingrained in me. For a band that left an impact on me, like most drummers, it was Rush. I can remember the day I walked into my drum lesson when I was around 12 years old or so. I was finally starting to read music at a decent level and my teacher brought in the drum transcriptions for Neil Peart. He put on Tom Sawyer and my music life changed. From that moment on I grew into more progressive and metal. While these influences might not be prevalent on the record, I think if you heard Chris' initial demos, where the tracks were more folk inspired, you may see them shine through a little more.
Chris: You all ruined my cool folk songs. Father John Misty would cry. Then he’d probably write a minute long song about it and say something smug. I’ll answer this in the next question, haha.
Where do you usually draw inspiration from to write your music, how does the creative process usually work when it comes to writing songs?
Chris: I draw inspiration from pop culture, books, and movies, but it’s mostly other musicians. For this record I was really into Ezra Furman, the Walkmen, Spoon, and Desaparecidos. Songs, for me, usually start with strumming random chords and singing random or pre-planned phrases over them until something fits. Then it’s adding to that sketch by replaying it 200 times, hopefully building and arriving at a finished song. Then there’s the 200 times of playing it with slight variations until it feels its absolute best. After that, it’s learning the song with the band and adapting it until it feels perfect. Good songs take time; that’s the secret.
When a live set takes place, give us a sense of what the setting is like plus the energy and vibe of the people in the crowd and is there a real magic that takes shape?
James: It's the Garden on a Saturday night. Sold out. Fans lined up around the corner trying to score tickets from a scalper. We strike the first chord. The place erupts. It's beautiful chaos as they sing note for note every last word. Then we wake up and remember that we're a new band and it's a process that (while we've all been in previous bands) has to start over from the beginning again. I think the honest answer is that we lose ourselves. Chris has to connect with them, but I just like to zone out. It's a fun time, though. A little dancey, a little punky.
Chris: For me, playing a live show is one-third of the reason for the term ‘sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.’ All three invoke another state of mind; one where you need to be hyper focused, analyze every conscious decision, and simultaneously allow a bunch of things to run on autopilot. The playing and singing is usually automatic, while the rest of my brain is focused on the audience, the band, and how we’re being perceived. Afterward, I can never quite remember all the details and am usually too sweaty for my own good.
An open-minded crowd is always nice, but the goal is to get to a crowd who’s expecting you and knows exactly why they’re there and what you can bring to the table. Basements have always been the most intimate and rewarding experiences as far as I’m concerned.
FC: I get stage fright, drink a beer and forget to sing... but this has evolved into a loud, in your face, fun, fast, electric and entertaining show that we can crank out anywhere.
Take us behind the recording of your upcoming self-titled effort and what the process was like?
James: You ever start a project and then something pops up and so you pivot and then you pivot again and then you get new ideas flying at you and by the end of the project it turns out totally different than you initially anticipated, but in a weird way, where everything you had dreamed it could be was right there all along?
I think we ended up tracking this record in 5-10 different locations across New Jersey and New York City enlisting the help of some amazing friends who were more than willing to donate their time to the project. This all wouldn’t have been possible without them.
Chris: It was long and arduous and I’d prefer for the whole thing to be shorter in the future. But the result of it all is something we’re happy with, so unfortunately all that time was well spent. :D
What was your favorite song from the effort that really stands out?
James: The first single, "Heart of Darkness." When that song was written and we started learning it, I think there was that "Aha!" moment where we all looked at each other and realized that there was something here.
Chris: “Heart of Darkness” was definitely the Aha moment, but my favorite is a toss up between the swanky “Blackest Ice” and the Pixies-esque “Gone Gone Gone.” Both were me trying new things from a song-writing perspective that really paid off in different ways.
FC: Each of them has in some way been my favorite but now it's settled and 'no fun' wins.
Let's go behind the shooting for the "Heart of Darkness" video, loved the concept and the 'Weekend at Bernie's" homage to it! What was shooting the video like?
James: I honestly can't do that day any justice. It sort of reflects the recording of the album in a weird way. We went into the day with one idea, got to Chris' Winter Lake House and when we got ready to shoot we came to the conclusion that our initial plan wasn't happening. So an afternoon of grilling and having some beers, we looked around and decided to make the most of what we had. "Weekend at Bernie's" was definitely on our minds, but the creation felt very organic.
We had boats pulling up to us on the dock asking us to play them some tunes. And as a little piece of random trivia/pop-up video factoid - there's actually a piece of memorabilia from a fairly well known music video that appears in ours. See if you can figure it out.
FC: We got to kill Chris and dump his body in a lake. That's all I have to say about that.
How can people find out more about you online?
We are everywhere you want to be
Lastly, where do you see Ruby Bones moving forward?
James: If I know Chris, which I don't. He's already written the next five albums and they're probably in a plethora of genres that FC and I will undoubtedly change during the process.
In the short term, I'm just excited to get these songs out there, play some shows, make some new friends and if people are enjoying the music, then we've done our job.
Chris: Who is this James guy? Haha. Well I have at least two records written at this point, but wanna try writing with the band on some unfinished ideas to see if any magic can happen. My goal is to make varied records in a few different genres, but we’ll see. Bombay Bicycle Club have a career arc that I’d like to imitate in a few ways.
FC: I see us moving forward to Studio at Webster hall on May 27th. Come party!
Thanks once again to James, FC, and Chris for being so witty and charming in doing this interview! You really begin to gain a sense of their personalities and what they're like in person just by hearing them banter about silly stuff, and it makes the guys all the more appealing and that much more visible to the concertgoer when they spot them on stage during a concert. Please check out Ruby Bones at the aforementioned links above.