Archive for the ‘Russian Blood’ Category
“Alarms” is now available for Rock Band 3 in the XBOX 360 store.
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.”
Check out the new Bandcamp Discoverinator video, featuring our new EP at #3 for best selling rock releases of the week:
More about the Discoverinator: http://blog.bandcamp.com/2012/06/07/behold-the-glory-of-the-discoverinator/
When you hear or read somewhere that an artist recorded his album in his bedroom, you’re probably thinking his songs are “chill-wave,” “lo-fi,” “dreamy,” or something along those lines.RIBS frontman Keith Freund recorded his band’s sophomore EP Russian Blood in his bedroom, but the EP itself sounds like it was produced for a much bigger space, like a ginormous concert hall, or the moon.
According to the band’s local publication The Boston Phoenix, RIBS (the band’s name should be spelled with capital letters only) is “rock’s great new hope.” Music nerds have read the quote everywhere, but what does it mean? Well, it means that the rock age isn’t over yet, and with the existence of a band like RIBS, rock can indeed make its comeback, past today’s hyped indie stardust and “bedroom” tunes. (Keep in mind, though, that by all technical definitions, the band is indie: They are unsigned, self-managed, self-produced.)
RIBS is Keith Freund, Blake Fusilier, Justin Tolan, and Chris Oquist. The four Bostonians have been playing music together for a few years now, having released their first EP, British Brains, in the summer of 2008. The release triggered a bit of social media magic, striking big on the platform Reddit, where users deemed the EP as “fucking awesome,” and “what commercial radio music should be if anyone really gave a shit.”
Considering the band’s public success with British Brains, it was clear that Russian Blood would be a tricky follow-up with lofty expectations.
Russian Blood (released May 29) is signature RIBS, showcasing a broad rock sound with minimal outside help in terms of production. When lining the band’s two EPs up against each other, the old EP hosts five longer tracks, and the new one boasts seven songs with more variation in mood, plot, length, and instrumentation. It is a movement forward. Compared to its predecessor, Russian Blood is a release that’s not as crazy and frustrated; Freund’s writing seems more pensive and emotional. And while the new EP doesn’t really feature a wild and crazy track like the previous EP’s ”Transversal,” it does include two songs with vocals from RIBS bandmate Blake Fusilier, whose voice really adds a lot to the record, sounding something like a young Lenny Kravitz or TV On the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe.
The first highlight on the EP is the single, “Kiss,” a fierce song about a past, failed love that never really evolved or blossomed. Freund sings about a girl with personal problems and relationship issues who “slip[s] away unfazed,” all while he’s trying to ascertain what it all means. The song pushes forward with grinding guitars and fast, pounding drums before it spaces out atmospherically at its ending, where it seems like Freund comes to terms with the present situation: “In a fog / In a dream / You’re in the clouds / You won’t come down / I’m out of touch / We’re out of time / You got your kiss now where’s mine?” The song’s a strong single with a lot of subtle background noises that slowly emerge with more listens.
One positive thing about releasing EPs is that there doesn’t necessarily have to be a long and drawn-out flow that a full-length record usually has. EPs can have more flexibility in terms of presentation. That said, Russian Blood really holds other songs that could serve as singles. “Gateway Drug,” “Alarms,” and “Destructo” are all songs that can stand on their own with catchy, driving refrains.
“Gateway Drug” is the powerful Fusilier written and sung song that somehow manages to incorporate multiple guitar parts, diverse vocals, piano, belting and soulful vocals with a bunch of sexy rock-like “oohs.” Even with a mid-point piano/vocal interlude, the song never really slows down…it just pushes, and pushes, and pushes.
“Alarms” is the EP’s most “popular”-sounding track in terms of its structure, with a basic introduction and focused lyrics that erupt into the signature RIBS swooping and grinding guitars and a thought-provoking chorus. The guitars in “Alarms” sound like they could be synths, but beware: “No synths or keyboards were used in the recording of Russian Blood. All synth-like sounds were created using layered instruments (bass, guitar, vocals) in combination with distortion, delay, reverb, and other effects,” the band says on its press release. “Alarms” can be interpreted as a “man vs. world” song that on the surface talks about today’s world and how, when one does make an effort to make a difference, it can become an overbearing and futile fight.
“Destructo” is the EP’s song that brings a new sound to the mix. Freund revisits the relationship in “Kiss” and gets right into it, going over the sad details of dissatisfaction in the said relationship, looking back and hitting it hard at the song’s hook: “How dare you tell me that I never cared / I wish you’d just say what I want to hear.” The track’s Strokes-like guitar riffs and breathy vocals are what makes it memorable, and both things really come together on the chorus; it’s like Freund has some kind of his own “hit” formula that he applies to songwriting, something like Rivers Cuomo’s Encyclopedia of Pop. Who knows what Freund’s up to in his bedroom while recording (hah), but he must have some kind of writing process that encourages such individually unforgettable songs.
The other EP tracks not yet mentioned are “Mercury,” “This Is Real (Kiss Reprise),” and “I Don’t Think.” All three tracks fit nicely in the EP. “Mercury,” track one, accurately opens the collection of songs for listeners, giving them a taste of the “RIBS” experience with a zoom in/zoom out production. “This Is Real (Kiss Reprise)” flatters the song “Kiss” pleasantly, emphasising the last parts of its mother track and stretching out the most poignant moments. “I Don’t Think” confirms in the listener’s mind that Fusilier can sing some really lovely songs.
To combine all the Reddit reviews in an attempt to sum up the band: If RIBS could somehow be the top-40 radio rock standard that we hold on to today, the world might be a better place.
By chance, but perhaps not, there’s a recent press photo of the band grouped together in Freund’s room, sitting against the wall below a hand-painted quote, “Spread the feeling that our best days are not behind us.”