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.”
On May 29th, RIBS released their second proper EP Russian Blood to a packed house at TT’s. I followed up with Keith Freund and Chris Oquist to talk about how their music business acumen is affecting this release, their online strategy, the success they’ve had with bandcamp and much more. Importantly, I also learned that they have yet to ever play their own song on Rock Band. If anyone reading this has an XBOX, invite them over to check it out! Get to know some of the minds behind RIBS in the interview below, and listen to Russian Blood in its entirety by streaming the new EP from the bandcamp widget at the very bottom of the post. If you like what you hear, download it from bandcamp or iTunes, or pick up a physical copy at Newbury Comics.
IA: You guys are well versed in music biz know-how. What are you doing to make this release special?
Chris: I honestly think that at this point the question is what our fans are doing to make it special. With British Brains, Reddit gave us a huge head start, but we still existed in a vacuum, more or less. This time around, we post a song on YouTube and we’ve got people commenting on it, people are sharing our Facebook updates with friends, fans write us and suggest places for us to play when we come through their town, people tweet at the Boston Globe thanking them for running a story on us. For a band that’s still completely self-managed, that’s gold – it enables us to do a lot with the very limited resources we have available. Yesterday, we were added to regular rotation on WFNX here in Boston–the station that first played Nirvana and Foster the People. When we posted that news on Facebook, fifty people liked it, shared it, and commented on it in various posts. That helps build momentum, it validates the music, it makes people feel like they’re in on something, and encourages other industry people to take the release and run with it.
IA: You “accidentally” worked on British Brains for 5 Years, falling into the perfectionism trap that so many musicians do. What did that experience teach you about writing and recording timelines? I take it the same process for Russian Blood was a much shorter endeavor.
Keith: If I could go back, I wouldn’t do anything differently with British Brains. It was maddening at times, sure, and we don’t have that kind of luxury anymore, but it was an interesting experience to leave two years between writing sessions, as was the case for some of the songs.
For Russian Blood, the writing process was condensed into two years instead of five, which seeps into the music I think. It’s a little more raw; it has a greater sense of urgency. Some of the songs sound like a race against the clock. Both methods have their place. Maybe we’ll write a double-album in five days next time.
Deadlines can be your friend and they can be your enemy. What we try to do now is divide our deadlines into smaller steps instead of saying “the record is going to be done by MMDDYY” when we haven’t even finalized the track listing yet.
IA: You’ve mentioned before that the name your own price model on bandcamp worked well for RIBS, with fans often spending 1.5x more than the minimum set price. Would you recommend the name your own price model to other artists or was there something special about your case?
Keith: As far as I know, there’s really no downside to setting a price minimum on Bandcamp and allowing people to pay more. I wouldn’t consider that to be “name your own price” strictly speaking. It’s more like, here’s our price, and you can donate extra if you want to help us a little more. As a buyer of music myself I prefer set prices. I don’t want to have to make that evaluation of “how much is this worth to me?”
All this “what’s the new model?” stuff… free vs name your price vs set price vs subscription… I think it would be a mistake to tell other artists what they should be doing. Different things work for different types of artists at different times. And another thing to keep in mind: sometimes how you release something becomes negligible past a certain point. Some albums will succeed no matter what and some will fail no matter what. It’s not like The Price Is Right where there’s a car behind door #2 and a bag of rocks behind the others.
With RIBS, we generally make these types of decisions based on what feels right rather than trying to guess which would be more profitable. It seems to lead to good things.
Chris: The value that–and I want to be fair to a lot of music listeners and say most people–the monetary value that most people place on music has decreased dramatically. It’s not a sinister thing–it’s a function of the way people consume music. It’s ubiquitous, it’s everywhere. You can search for a band on YouTube and watch videos for free in seconds, with Spotify you have access to a stunning array of music, in the palm of your hand, at any time. You could be in Earth orbit and decide you want to hear Janos Sebestyen play Bach’s Invention No. 13, and in seconds, you’re off.
And that just means that people don’t frequently come in contact with situations that make them think about what goes into creating music, so little things that remind people that music is what keeps musicians alive are all good. It’s expensive to write an album, it costs a lot of money and time to write and record and put into people’s hands. The Bandcamp thing is great because it’s not intrusive, but it’s a really subtle reminder that there’s value in music, and you can choose how to support its creation. One fan paid over forty dollars for British Brains, and we’ve had people email us and say “Hey RIBS, I pirated British Brains when it came out, and so when you released Russian Blood yesterday I bought both albums legitimately, and here’s some extra money – keep making songs.”
Live at Great Scott, May 2011. Credit: Mark Jenko for Ryan’s Smashing Life
IA: In an interview with the Globe you offered a sentiment that bands spend too much time in search of a silver, online bullet for their music careers. Is RIBS’ online presence more of passive one?
Keith: It was. Not anymore. Chris might explain this in a different way, but I think our early days of using Facebook centered around me not wanting to annoy or piss people off. That was when we maybe had 500 Facebook fans, a hundred email subscribers, whatever. I wanted to hang on to every last one of them even if it meant only posting once every few months. Now that we have more fans I’ve come to accept that you can’t touch thousands of people without pissing some of them off. So now I go along more with what Chris wants to do in terms of the frequency with which we post things. Because hey, anything is possible – nothing is certain. We might as well have a sense of humor about things, make mistakes, and see what happens. Plus Facebook seems to be getting pretty good at not showing crap posts to people who aren’t interested.
Chris: I think there’s a difference between understanding that there aren’t any shortcuts to success and being passive online. Early on, we were a bit bashful about intruding on people’s news feeds – who wants to get a bunch of self-indulgent stuff from a band? But it seems like the more we share, the more people react (as long as what we’re sharing is cool, and not just “Hey, please like my page.”) Understanding that has given us the confidence to be honest and kind of funny in our emails to fans, in our Facebook posts, on Twitter, and I think that brings fans into our world a little bit, let’s them in on the secret.
IA: Will your digital strategy stay the same during the course of Russian Blood’s promotion or not?
Keith: We’re focusing more on YouTube now. The British Brains/Reddit days were mostly about Bandcamp, unfortunately I didn’t even have the presence of mind to put our songs on there until after all that craziness had passed. I think more people go to YouTube first than anywhere else when they’re looking for music, and it’s also how I see people sharing music the most. Bandcamp is awesome, and we’re still sending people there to buy the EP, but it’s a more solitary experience when you listen to a band on Bandcamp. I think especially in our case there’s something to be said for solitary listening, but I think it’s good to have both. On YouTube people can interact with each other, give us feedback, see how other people are reacting, and get pissed off because we don’t have enough views on such and such a song. As a music fanboy myself, I know what that’s like. When a band I love doesn’t have the recognition I feel they deserve, I start freaking out and telling anyone and everyone.
IA: I saw “Brains Out” made it onto Rockband. How did you hook that up? Have you seen any promotional benefits?
Keith: Actually a Redditor hooked that one up. He works for a company that puts song in the game. We’ve definitely gotten some new fans, but we’re less connected to them (there’s no way to link to your band in Rock Band so far as I know) so we only see evidence of them here and there if they send us an email or leave a comment on YouTube. We’ve also made a little money from it. But mainly it just makes us feel way cooler than we actually are. And our fans loved it too, at the time it was our most popular Facebook post we ever had.
IA: Are you good at your songs on XBOX?
Keith: I don’t think any of us have played it yet. Can we come over?
IA: Will we see a RIBS tour anytime soon? I think a summer tour called The American Brawn Tour would sell really well in certain parts of the country…
Chris: Toby Keith and Alan Jackson with special guests RIBS.
Keith: Haha. Never trust a guy with two first names.
We are incredibly excited to announce that as of today, our new song “Alarms” has been added to regular rotation at WFNX 101.7 here in Boston. We are honored and proud to have the first station in the country to play bands like Nirvana, The Killers, and Foster the People, on our side, not to mention one of the last remaining defenders of new rock on terrestrial radio (The Joy Formidable, one of our favorite new bands, is also in rotation). For those of you outside of Massachusetts, you can listen online at WFNX.com or 92.1 in New Hampshire. More updates soon to come…
From the RIBS alerts email list:
There are a lot of things bands say in moments like this: We’re ‘super excited’ for our new record. This really represents a new direction for us. We’d love it if you share it with your friends.
We could say all of those things now–they’re all true. But there’s a bigger story behind Russian Blood than four guys trying to make a bedroom sound like a stadium. And the truth is, that story hasn’t been fully written yet.
For now, just know that this EP was self-produced (as with all of our records), and we have no PR team, no label, no manager. What we do have is you guys. But while the sharing and record sales allow us to continue to make music and tour, right now all we really ask is that you listen to this EP and decide for yourself what you want to do about it.
Listen and get it from:
Praise for Russian Blood:
“Thoroughly DIY … but it carries itself like a really big deal. There are cement-grinding atmospherics out of Trent Reznor’s playbook and canyon banshee wails echoed from long-lost U2 anthems.” – The Boston Globe
“Alarms might be the best song to come out of Boston in 2012.” – Michael Marotta, WFNX
“Primed for explosion … the entire record is a potent post-modern mix of layered riffs, space-shot hooks, and dizzying atmospheric sounds.” – The Boston Phoenix
“OMFG THE NEW @RIBStheband ALBUM COMES OUT IN A FEW DAYS :DD” – some person on the internet
We’ll see you on the road soon.
Keith, Chris, Blake, and Justin
On the spectrum of rock music, guitar-laden hard rock is underrepresented in the Boston — and, honestly, national — rock scene. Boston-based RIBS took action to change that on Friday night at their album release party at T.T. the Bear’s.
The energetic power pop pumped up the fairly full rock venue in Cambridge, a good showing for the holiday weekend. With cuts from their latest take, “Russian Blood” on full display, the punchy guitars of tracks like “Destructo” and the single “Kiss” called to mind alt. rock acts from the ’90s.
Other songs were simply straight-forward rockers with simple chord progressions… regardless, with a minimal, but effective, light display, a solid stage presence and an emphasis on the reverb, RIBS lock in their spot as one Boston’s top local rock acts.
BOSTON, MA: Friday 5/25/12 @ TT The Bear’s Place w/ Suicide Dolls & Yoga Girls
- 8:30 PM
- 10 Brookline Street, Cambridge, MA 02139-4152
- Tickets: http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=4494785
- FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/331885876860883/
- Press: Boston Globe | Boston Phoenix | Ryan’s Smashing Life