Archive for the ‘Behind The Scenes’ Category
We wish Justin the best of luck and I’m sure you’ll be hearing from him in the future. More announcements coming soon.
Unknown in the UK and even unremarked in their home town of Boston, American alternative rock band RIBS have nevertheless made huge waves in their career so far. After an exhaustive, obsessive gestation period for their first EP, ‘British Brains’ frontman and architect of the band’s sound Keith Freund posted the download link for the recordings on Reddit. A flurry of activity later and RIBS were in possession of both a cult fanbase and the bizarre honour of claiming the most popular music post of all time on the service. Two years on and they’ve released the follow-up, ‘Russian Blood’, which again takes its name from the same Stalin quote as ‘British Brains’.
“He said that World War II was being won with British Brains, American Brawn, and Russian Blood,” explains Keith. “That said, we don’t have any plans for an ‘American Brawn’ EP. First off, we’re planning our next release being a full length. Second, as an American band, a release titled ‘American Brawn,’ without the context of the other two EPs, would probably be interpreted in a way we didn’t intend. Plus the word “Brawn” kind of grosses me out.”
Conceptually, there was a desire to move away slightly from the full-on, intense listening experience of ‘British Brains’: “originally [it was] going to be a vocal-based record,” says Keith, “I thought we could use our voices as the main compositional instrument, and treat the guitar as a harmony instrument to fill in the spaces–the reverse of how you’d normally do it.” Fans of their modern rock sound, fear not; the band that melded the transatlantic influences of Failure, Far, Vex Red and Hundred Reasons have not cashed in their chips yet. “We learned pretty quickly that they’re really not interchangeable at all. Even with distortion, the human voice is much smoother than an electric guitar, and less biting, less percussive.”
“You’ll hear hints of that concept throughout” continues Keith, contrasting the dynamics and tone with the first EP, “more rhythm, more riffs, less power chords. [You] get to hear Blake’s piano playing on ‘Gateway Drug’, acoustic guitar on ‘Kiss’, and harmony vocals from Justin and Chris on ‘Destructo’.” The lyrics are changed too – far from the veiled, passive aggressive metaphorical sketches of ‘Silencer’, ‘Even’ and ‘Queen of Hearts’ from their début, this time the specifics are writ large in the music: “My pre-RIBS songwriting was very responsible…’Russian Blood’ is very much the opposite. Most of these songs come from that immediate, irrational gut reaction. There’s a different kind of truth you’ll get in those moments that you won’t have looking back a year later. For example, I was at a club one night and got an idea for the bridge to ‘Kiss’. I walked outside to sing into my phone and write down some lyrics. By coincidence at that exact moment I saw the girl I was writing about walking away with her new boyfriend. So in those 45 seconds I was literally writing in real time.”
If that may sound overly dramatic, it only goes to illustrate just what a change has come over the band. It’s not just NIN-lite ‘Kiss’ that wears its genesis on its sleeve either; the anthemic high-water mark of the EP, ‘Alarms’, triggers another recollection.
“[That] was a reaction to hearing the song that the girl from ‘Kiss’ wrote with her new boyfriend. Their musical collaboration was how they got to know each other, and she left me for him a few months after that collaboration started. Anyway, I thought their song was absolute shit. In a moment of arrogance I thought to myself “I bet I could write a song that would just destroy their song”. I spent the weekend demoing out what I thought was my song destroyer and that eventually became ‘Alarms’. During the ‘British Brains’ days, I probably would’ve let the feelings pass first, to get some perspective on that situation. And I probably would’ve realized hey, maybe their song isn’t so bad, maybe I should be more understanding of why she had to cut me off, maybe those feelings were only a defence mechanism… but if I hadn’t allowed myself that moment of bitterness, “Alarms” never would’ve happened.”
Finally, there’s the subject of Reddit. It seems like every band, artist, brand, magician, school, magazine or business is trying to ‘go viral’ – so what’s it actually like to be an internet sensation? “Blowing up on Reddit only helped us, as a band” Keith remembers. “It didn’t catapult us to super stardom but it gave us a taste… and it’s quite a rush.” Taking from it “how important die-hard music lovers are”, the ones that are “motivated they are to tell everyone they know” has been a humbling experience in some ways – as well as a learning one. “These are not the same people who will turn your song off if the hook doesn’t come in within 30 seconds,” Keith states proudly. “Before ‘British Brains’ came out we thought no one would listen to ‘Queen of Hearts’ because there’s two minutes of droning at the beginning, but we’ve probably gotten as many fans from that song as we have ‘Brains Out’ – if not more.”
So despite the early successes it’s still clearly been a rollercoaster couple of years for the band; contemplating a long-player after two meticulous EPs, how do Keith and the boys stay motivated? “There’s nothing like having someone tell you that your music got them through a hard time or helped them in some way. I’m addicted to that feeling.”
This is our first interview with Atlanta press (where 3/4 of us are originally from). Moe Castro of latestdisgrace.com talks with us about growing up in the South and making the move to Boston.
Formed by Atlanta transplants Keith Freund and Blake Fusilier, RIBS is fast becoming one of Boston’s most popular and acclaimed bands. The group’s 2010 debut EP, British Brains, was lauded by both fans and critics alike for its dynamic blend of hard-edged aggression and moody atmospheric rock, an expansive sonic template that has earned the band comparisons to both forward-thinking alt rockers Queens of the Stone Age and Deftones, as well as gloom merchants Joy Division and the Cure. But long before the group could take the Hub by storm, Freund and Fusilier first had to make their way out of the ATL.
Growing up in Dunwoody, in the shadow of downtown Atlanta, the two longtime friends spent most of high school writing songs together and dreaming of the day they might escape their hometown. This was the early 2000s and Dunwoody offered few opportunities for an underage rock band. As a result, most of their music never saw the light of the day and the two rarely performed live. Even going to see shows was difficult.
“If you wanted to see all ages shows,” Freund recalls, “you had to go to Norcross or Marietta, which was mostly punk or hardcore. Blake and I tried to go to as many shows downtown as we could, but we weren’t old enough to get into most of the clubs, so we had to get to know the bands and convince them to sneak us in.”
For a couple of ambitious musicians eager to strike out on their own, it was an incredibly frustrating time. The Atlanta rap scene was at the apex of it strength and power and rock music had taken a definitive backseat in the city. As the two neared the end of their senior year at Dunwoody High School, it became clear that if they were serious about their aspirations they would need to move somewhere where their style of music would be more welcome and appreciated. So rather than fight against tall odds, Freund and Fusilier decided to leave Atlanta and attend college in the much more rock friendly city of Boston.
“When we moved to Boston in ’05, it seemed like the best decision in the world,” Freund confesses. “I remember telling people that the Atlanta rock scene was pretty much non-existent.”
The duo spent the next couple of years trading demos back and forth, sharpening the minimal, bass guitar-oriented sound they had developed in high school into something much louder and darkly energetic. After gathering a solid stable of songs, they recruited guitar prodigy Justin Tolan and drummer Chris Oquist to fill out the lineup. The musical vision, at least in Freund’s mind, was simple:
“Personally, I just wanted to write rock music that would give me chills, which usually involved something dark, and going from quiet to loud in a short period of time. A lot of my favorite songs do that — “Soma” by Smashing Pumpkins, “New Noise” by Refused, “Only Shallow” by My Bloody Valentine. That’s where most of British Brains came from. We get compared to bands like Deftones, Muse, Queens of the Stone Age. I’m fine with that.”
While British Brains brought RIBS significant local success, including being named one of Boston’s best new bands by the Boston Phoenix, the group was never quite satisfied with the record’s sometimes cold and mechanical atmosphere. They wanted something warmer and more organic. Something that, in the words of Freund, would contain “shades of optimism, things that are fun, things that are more rhythmic.”
The immediate result of this new focus is Locrian Singles, a two-song effort the band is offering for free on their website. Whereas British Brains was in many ways a traditional, guitar-driven rock record, Locrian Singles is much more informed by industrial and post-punk. It’s still dark and moody, but there’s much more of a dance vibe there, a Cure-like melding of hypnotic, effects-laden pop with goth overtones. It’s a considerable dynamic shift from their previous work, but so far it has been well embraced by fans.
“The response from Boston has been tremendous,” says Freund. “We’ve made some new fans, and it has allowed us to do more with our live sets, and play with different types of artists who might not have fit on a bill with us in the past. Some of our fans outside of Boston are asking what happened to the old sound, but there will be some British Brains-type material on our next EP, plus some new musical directions no one has heard before.”
As 2011 unfolds, RIBS will continue work on their follow-up EP, Russian Blood, due out later this year. The band also has an East Coast tour planned for May, a two-week stint that will include the band’s first shows in Atlanta and Athens. Given their history, you might think that the group would want to avoid Atlanta altogether, but Freund is emphatically positive when he talks about how much the city has changed since he left six years ago.
“It’s amazing to see how vibrant the scene has become since then! I love going to shows there now. The crowds are refreshingly open-minded. The vibe is great. There’s so much good music!”
How the band formed, Mongooses, etc.
Spent a day tracking drums for British Brains at the studio of Scott Riebling (Fall Out Boy, Cobra Starship, The Von Bondies) in Raynham, MA:
Chris built this kit entirely by hand aside from the Pearl Steve Ferrone Signature snare drum. Thanks to Scott, our tracking engineer Alex Prieto (above), and our drum tech Andrew Nault for making this happen.
More EP updates coming soon.
A few nights ago, RIBS had a writing session for Russian Blood, our second EP (coming 2010). We were working on an outro section for one of the songs when Chris stopped us in the middle of playing, paused for a moment, and posed a question to the three of us: “Are we just pushing a dead format?”
We responded with blank stares.
“You know… drums, bass, guitars? A ‘rock band?’ Isn’t this a dead format?”
“Yes.” And without another word, we went back to playing the new section.