The Ruby Suns - Interviews - Soundblab

The Ruby Suns

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

The Ruby Suns formed in 2004 when Californian Ryan McPhun relocated to Auckland, New Zealand. They've released two albums of dreamy, experimental synth pop, 2005's eponymous debut and Sea Lion in 2008. This week they release the single 'Cranberry' and its parent album Fight Softy. Richard Morris caught up with McPhun to talk about swimming, touring and classic pop.

Your new single's called 'Cranberry' and is apparently inspired by a trip to Cranberry Lake on Fidalgo Island. Was that a special day and how did it inspire the song?

Yeah it was definitely a special day. We'd been living in Seattle for a couple months and we went up Anacortes to visit a friend that was doing an artist in residence up there. Although it was a rainy day, he took us to this amazing little lake where we were the only people there. We all went for a swim even though it was a bit chilly, but it was incredible!

How has recording for your new album Fight Softly gone? Apparently, the seasons took place in a few different locations - Seattle, Hungary, Auckland. Was this intentional?

It was, as usual, a slow process. Some of the songs were started over the past two or three years, but the rest were started and completed from May to August '09. I spent extended amounts of time in Seattle and Szeged, Hungary, and in the case of Seattle, was living there for a short time and I had nothing but free time, so I got started with some ideas there. In Hungary, we were staying with a musician friend and the plan was to setup heaps of stuff in his farm house and jam and record just for the hell of it. This stuff didn't really make the album, but it served as a creative catalyst for me when we got back home to Auckland.

Has writing and recording in different locations influenced the songs and the way they sound?

Not necessarily, I think the music will always be, in some way, representative of the music that I enjoy listening to the most. Often times the whereabouts of the sessions will influence what i want to talk about in the lyrics for a track, as in the case of 'Cranberry', 'Closet astrologer', 'Cinco', and 'Olympics on Pot'.

How would you describe its sound and what's influenced you in making it?

To begin with, it's much more electronic. I was wanting to further my interest in making electronic music whilst still retaining the pop sensibility that I've always relied on. But the 'sound' of the album is mostly a reflection of the music that inspired me the most in the last few years, most of which is electronic based.

Has your sound evolved from Sea Lion and, if so, in what way?

See above. With Sea Lion, it was very much me layering tracks on top of each other until the song sounded right to me. With this record I had a more simple approach. For most of the songs, I based the sound of the song, or even the structure, on a particular riff and went from there. For example, in 'Cranberry', I created a stabby synth loop out of notes I played on one of my synths and used that as the central theme of the song. The other parts of the song sort of became secondary to that synth. No double tracking of instruments, only in vocals. There is still a lot of layering on Fight Softly but each sound has a lot more room in the mix devoted to it.

What music are you checking out right now?

I've liked the new singles by Caribou and High Places, though they're strangely similar. Other than that, lots of older pop stuff. I'm obsessed with the new Alicia Keys single 'Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart'. I recently got the maxi single of Brandy and Monica's 'The Boy is Mine'. Such an amazing track. I've also been getting into Douster's stuff, and I always love Radioclit remixes.

You're doing a US tour soon. Excited to be going back?

Definitely. It's actually our first headline tour over there. I'm pretty nervous about it, but fortunately we're taking a really great band on tour with us called Toro y Moi. He's going to be huge!

Do you have a favourite place to play/crowd to play to?

Well, I think I've probably had the best times in Spain and Portugal.
Also, wellington, New Zealand!

Do you have any plans to play the UK?

Yep, we're coming back real soon actually. Going to do some festivals, like great escape and dot to dot, and some club shows as well.

Click here to read the review of the new Ruby Suns single.

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