Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Beats, Bleeps and Bruises - an interview with Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees

Do you remember the days when electro wasn't just people with pretentious haircuts making music that harked back to '80s synth-pop? When electro meant dirty, sexy, sweaty filth which practically forced you onto the dancefloor? Yes? No? Regardless of your answer, if that sounded appealing to you, I think you might just like Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees. Their name might suggest some quirky indie-folk band, but their music brings to mind some hallucinogen-induced rave where the pounding beats and addictive riffs just keep coming. In anticipation of their upcoming UK tour, I had a chat with lead singer Rebekah Higgs, aka. 'Ruby Jean':

Tell us your names, what you do in the band and an exciting fact about each of you.

Rebekah - singer and gagettress

Jason - guitar player with amazing legs, and little short shorts

Colin - bass, beats, bleeps and blips; wizard with a turntable

Nathan - drummer, and champion of fun

How did you meet and decide to form the band? And, eventually, what exactly brought on the band name?

Colin and I met through mutual musician friends, and started getting loaded during the day, and singing along to the beats he made in his spare time. We made a 7-track demo CD of noise, and from there the band grew into the electronic dance band we are today. I decided I needed an alias, and took on the names of my grandmothers - Ruby and Jean. The thoughtful bees, in my imagination were the characters Ruby Jean might have met along her journey in a fairy tale.

There's a lot of indie dance music around at the moment, so what would be a selling factor for someone who'd never listened to you before?

My vocals are based on sound - a noise - and being as creative as possible with the instrument in my throat; I sing through different guitar pedals and gadgets to loop, distort and delay my vocals live in a show. There's a distinct metal influence in our music that comes from Jason - our guitar player, lovingly referred to as JVO - as he simulates all kinds of sounds through wielding his axe. But over all the band is about creating a party atmosphere for people to dance and feel as liberated as possible. As a motto I feel that if I am the craziest, weirdest dancing machine in the room, then the audience will feel less self conscious about their own dance moves and really be able to shake a leg. We try to blow people away with our stage personas and our abilities as musicians.

How's the music scene in Halifax? Any other recommended Halifaxian (we can pretend 'Halifaxian' is a real term) artists?

The term is actually "haligonian!", believe it or not! I'm in love with this new band of 18 year olds called YORK REDOUBT as well as another amazing Halifax band that never gets the props they deserve called DOG DAY, and Nathan our drummer also plays in YELLOW JACKET AVENGER which is an amazing 3 piece as well.

It's Halloween (well, it was) and you have to dress up - what would the band dress as and why?

I dressed up as LADY GAGA, Colin was ZEUS, JVo was the sexiest Vampire ever - with a mohawk, and blood gushing down his bare chest with the words "HATE FUCK" written across it. Nathan was a scary clown.

There's clearly a big dirty electro sound coming from your music - who would you say acted as the biggest influence on that?

The sound has been an amalgamation of Jason, Colin and I for a few years now; tweaking it, developing the songs, and how we play with each other.

I hear your live show is pretty wild - do you have any crazy stories from gigs?

This could end up being a very long question to answer. The short version is, YES, every gig is a crazy story. But let me just say that our rowdiness seems to be continuously growing, and if I didn't break my neck doing a back flip off the stage at the outdoor festival, Evolve, then there will probably be many more rowdy occasions and crazy shows.

You're heading to the UK this November - are you looking forward to it? Is playing here any different to playing back home?

It feels very different from playing at home when you play in another country; here there is an element of comfort, knowing what the crowd expects and being able to deliver that to them. But there is something incredibly liberating about playing in a new place - you are free to construct whatever kind of show you want as there are no prior expectations, but then there is the fear as well, because sometimes people hate the new... So I just hope we can have fun with the audience and evoke some kind of reaction - whether good or bad - because, when it comes down to it, art's only value is in the reaction it gets from others.

Highs and lows of being in the band so far?

The high is playing sold-out shows, crowd surfing, meeting so many other wonderful musicians. Lows are not being able to afford groceries and always being short on rent.

Tell us about the album.

The album was a year long process, for which we had many great times, many low times, a lot of arguments and tears, but in the end it's something we can be proud of. It's gritty, there is lots of vocal experimentation, and you should be able to dance and clean at the same time, all the way through the 8 tracks.

What we should be expecting from the band in the future?

We have loads of new material, and hope to start recording again as soon as we get back from the UK! We also plan on continuing to play lots of shows, and hopefully tour the UK again in 2010.

Any final words while you've got our attention?

I hope to return back to Canada with no less bruises then I did the last time I was in the UK.

...Ouch. And that's coming from me - someone who has a reputation for bruising ridiculously easily.

A massive thanks to the lovely Rebekah and the rest of the band, they're embarking on their UK tour so definitely go and see them if you can and help Rebekah knock-up that bruises count - find their tour dates [HERE].

Photo credit to David Waldman

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