Revenge, obsession, and betrayal are the themes of the music of the band RIBS. The band was formed by two friends with a common love of music in a high school in Atlanta. But soon after moving to Boston and fleshing out the rest of the group, they have taken the city by storm. Darkly energetic and possessing a shifting ambiance, the band has drawn approval in its year of performing for increasingly rabid audiences. We had a chance to talk with Keith Freund (lead vocals/guitars) and Chris Oquist (drums) about their best gig, their success with social media, and where they’re heading to next.
When/How did you first start playing music?
Keith: [Bassist] Blake [Fusilier] played violin when I met him. Then out of nowhere he picked up a bass and informed me that we were starting a band, and that I had better figure out how to play my guitar or else he would be kicking me out of our band. We played with a couple drummers throughout high school, did a couple gigs, but mostly focused on writing songs. Then we moved from Atlanta to Boston and met [guitarist] Justin [Tolan], who had just been featured in Guitar Player magazine as this shred guitar prodigy, so I didn’t think much of it until I heard he was actually into a lot of the stuff I was into at the time like Muse and Radiohead, not metal. That instantly piqued my interest. And Chris was the same way. He came out of the metal scene but was always talking to us about Paul Simon and pop stuff.
What’s the best gig you ever played?
Chris: Newbury Comics invited us to play their flagship store for Record Store Day this year, opening up for Circa Survive. We got to celebrate independent music, support maybe the best indie retailer in the country, and play with a band we look up to all at once. That’s probably been my favorite show so far.
Keith: Yeah, that one was a lot of fun. And it was an interesting contrast since normally we’re in some dark club with bright lights, going on late, but this was a bright, well-lit record store with a bunch of young kids that can’t wait to see Anthony Green a foot away at 4:30 in the afternoon. And all the guys in Circa Survive were humble, laid back dudes. I thought they were roadies until they hopped on stage and the crowd started going crazy.
How has social media affected the way you market/promote your music?
Keith: Social media is a multiplier of all the real-life stuff we do. When we play a good show, everyone can instantly Twitpic it and everyone that follows them can say “Oh wow, I didn’t know RIBS has live piranhas on stage. I’m totally bringing my grandmother to the next show because she loves wildlife” or whatever. And when someone gets a flyer from us, they can scan a QR code on it with their phone, which allows them to listen to us right there and RSVP to the Facebook event.
Chris: It’s like the digital and physical realities are coming together. Combining social media with the support we’ve gotten from local retail and press made British Brains a really successful debut release. It’s pretty crazy that our first album was one of Boston’s biggest releases that week. Things like Reddit have had a lot to do with that.
Keith: Yeah, we have to give a shout out to the Reddit community specifically. Reddit is a “social news aggregator.” Meaning people submit news stories from other sites, then users can “up-vote” the stories they find interesting and “down-vote” the stuff they don’t. After I posted our EP there, it became the top-voted music post of all time. 10,000 people listened to our EP in the first day. It was an unbelievable thing, really. I don’t think so much could have ever happened so quickly for us if this weren’t 2010. Reddit was our Ed Sullivan show.
What’s your prediction for the next big advancement in how we find/listen to/share music?
Chris: I don’t know if there’s one next big thing. Right now there’s this amazing convergence of places where music fans can connect with bands whether its tools for discovering new music, like Pandora, Grooveshark, Jango, or Shazam; ways to connect, like Facebook and Twitter; ways to sell music or tickets like Bandcamp and Eventbrite. That combined with the tidal wave of people who can now blog, post pictures or video online, and share new bands they’re psyched about are where we’re at right now. Finding out how to spin it all together to reach new fans and connect with the people who love your music is a really exciting thing.
Keith: I think from an artist’s perspective, we should all cross our fingers and hope that fans and bigger artists start using Bandcamp to share music instead of Youtube. And Bandcamp is making that prospect tastier and tastier every day by improving their widgets and not overcomplicating things. But I also think the music industry needs to calm down about finding the next big thing. Let’s improve the things we have. Facebook pages are getting really, really close to being amazing. And you’ve got to go where the fans are. If people could buy our music with one click on Facebook the way they can on Bandcamp, without ever leaving the page, I think it’d be unbeatable. I love the idea of Pandora and Last.fm, but I think what we’re finding now is that for people that aren’t music obsessive, word of mouth is still what people trust above everything else. That, and Grey’s Anatomy.
What’s your next big gig coming up? When/Where?
Chris: October 6th at the Middle East Downstairs in Boston. Pirate!, the Middle East, and Well-Rounded Radio put an event on each month called Rock Shop, where panelists and musicians get together to share ideas about the music business. Keith will be sitting on a panel talking about our experience with Reddit, and we’ll be playing the party afterwards. It should be awesome. We’ll also be opening for Helmet at the Middle East Downstairs on Oct. 20th.
Check out more on RIBS here.