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Ruen Brothers: Meet The Boys Behind Burberry's New Ad Campaign

by Tom Ward
2 October 2013

Ruen Brothers talk Glastonbury, Harry Nilsson and recording at Abbey Road Studios.

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Things are looking up for The Ruens. After signing a major record deal, their new single ‘Walk Like a Man’ has been featured in Burberry’s new ad campaign.

The last time I saw The Ruen brothers was at their NME Homecoming gig at Scunthorpe’s The Priory. The bar had been transformed into a venue worthy of the best acts, a stage and full lighting rig had been set up over in one corner, and huge Jack Daniels banners hung everywhere whilst a guy with a video camera made his way around the room, zooming in on people drinking their free shots of whiskey, presumably for some instagrammed style promo video about JD being integral to music. Not bad at all for boys who slogged away for years, playing pubs and weddings under various monikers before finally finding their stride with their latest incarnation.

As usual, Ruen Bros were fantastic. The set was short, but the band gave it their all, a highlight being current single ‘Walk Like A Man’. I have to take a moment here to mention lead guitarist Rupert, who’s annoyingly good on guitar. His style is like no one else’s, a highly competent combination of lead and rhythm that gives a good deal of the songs their drive. His harmonica solo on Walk Like A Man is frankly, just showing off.

Drummer Charlie Hart also deserves a special mention. Without fail you’ll see him red in the face, singing along behind the drum kit, his arms and body shaking like he’s experiencing some kind of internal attack. I’m certain the addition of Charlie has helped the Ruen Brothers get to where they are today.

Next up came Walk Like A Man b-side ‘Hold Me Tight’, a song which begins as a beautiful little crooner number before kicking off into a cinematic foot stomper with a pounding bass line. The boys finished on ‘Aces’, meaning a few hundred people now have the chorus going round and round in their heads, and so they should, as it’s a flippin’ brilliant track. A swift encore followed to enthusiastic applause, then the boys slipped away backstage, victorious after their homecoming.

Backstage, brothers Rupert and Henry were busy being interviewed for the BBC, whilst bassist Gary had commandeered an ice-cream seller’s bicycle and Charlie got stuck into the complimentary Jack Daniels, celebrating his 19th birthday in style. After a quick (and fantastically improvised) jam with their old pub gig members, Henry and Rupert sat down to answer some questions.

How are things going? How did it feel coming back to Scunthorpe, sponsored by NME and JD?

Fantastic. We love playing here and we’re really grateful to NME and JD, as well as all the old fans who came out to see us. It’s been great catching up with some familiar faces.

Great. This seems like a busy time for The Ruen Brothers?

Things are going very well. Yes, we’re very busy: phoners, Glastonbury, interviews, radio shows, writing, recording… We are non stop at the minute, but loving it!

You started out paying your dues playing countless pub gigs and weddings. Have the fans from those days followed you into Ruen Bros?

They have actually. It’s quite nice that people who loved us for playing those Chuck Berry & Stones records have crossed over into enjoyed our own material… before we played tonight we had messages from old fans saying they couldn’t wait to catch us here, back home; it’s a great feeling.

What sort of gigs do you prefer? Small pubs or big festivals?

Tough one… The intimacy of what we are use to at small pubs is quite comforting and people really listen; the connection we get with the audience is great! However, saying that, the festivals we’ve done so far this year have been brilliant – packed – with new fans coming down and singing back our songs and general audiences getting into what we do is a very rewarding feeling. It’s difficult to choose as they both have great qualities…

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Things really began happening for you when you dropped ‘Aces’. What was the inspiration there? Was it a ‘This is it!’ moment when you thought you’d finally found your sound?

The inspiration came from watching a documentary on Harry Nilsson - Imagine… It was a late evening in Scunthorpe, and the documentary came on BBC4… I remember sitting through it with Rupert and feeling very empowered and determined to write a great song. I got the guitar out and strummed an E7, mumbled a few lyrics and Ru started working on a chord progression.

The 1st verse/bridge and chorus was written that evening… I think it was a ‘This is it!’ kinda feeling. It was honest and we felt the song was just something that came naturally. We didn’t try to write anything that wasn’t what just came out of us that night in our bedroom… The ‘This is it!’ moment for us is when the lyrics/melody and music all gel together to firstly make sense and secondly stick with you. If you wake up in the morning and the song is the first thing that comes into your head, then thats the ‘This is it!’ moment. ACES gave us that feeling.

You shot the video for ‘Aces’ in your North London flat and recorded some of the vocals inside the wardrobe, did you think then that you’d be going off to Abbey Road to record?

I don’t think we ever thought that it would lead to recording in the legendary Abbey Road Studio 3… We’ve always been so use to recording and doing everything from our humble room/bedsit, that ending up at Abbey Road was like something from a dream! Mind you we still took the audio files back to the bedsit to mix haha. We were like tourists on the first day, taking photo’s/videos. It was kindly organised for us by David Joseph the Chairman/CEO of Universal UK… So a big thank you to David for that. Hope to get back there soon.

Is it overwhelming achieving such a rapid ascent to success? You’ve been playing for years and years, but ‘The Ruen Bros.’ is still a relatively new thing…

It is… At one point it was crazy! Before we appointed management, we were getting an unanswerable amount of emails in our inbox… The pace at which things move when the ‘penny drops’ is astounding. We played for many years, experimented with different sounds… Gigged the pubs/clubs of Scunthorpe and the surrounding local areas for 10 years, playing songs from artists we loved (Stones/Orbison/Van Morrison/Muddy Waters).

For the past two and half years we’ve been trying to move away from just playing covers, get away from the pub/club circuit back home and really focus on writing what was true to us and what we felt came naturally… 9 months ago we made the move to London, came up with the ‘Ruen Brothers’ name and made a go of it and if it wasn’t for the BBC Introducing scheme picking up on our song ‘Aces’ we wouldn’t have been catapulted forward so quickly, we have been very fortunate…

Can you tell us a little bit about Charlie and Gary. Who are they, what’s their musical history and how did they come to join up?

They are like brothers to us… Great guys! Charlie Hart (18) dyslexic and one heck of a kick ass drummer. You can always rely on him to give it 110% at every rehearsal, studio session and gig. Gary Cleaver (24) clean cut and sharp, faultless with his playing. I really think the rhythm section we have behind us are solid! They have both played in pubs/clubs with bands from an early age. I think Gary has led an almost identical musical life to Rupert and I, just in Swindon. When we moved down to London we knew we needed to put a band together, but didn’t know where we were going to find our rhythm section. We asked ACM in Guildford if we could hold a small audition to try find a bassist and drummer who would be interested in playing session for us… We didn’t have any money and we couldn’t really promise a lot, but we did say if you love the music and want to give it a go, we are going to make a push and give it everything! Just so happened we chose Gary and Charlie who were both the ‘Drummer’ and ‘Bassist’ ‘Of The Year’ at the academy…

Can you tell us a little bit about the song writing process?

Rupert and I will generally be twiddling around on the guitar, one of us will holla out a melody line and a couple of lyrics and we go from there… We never ‘TRY’ to write a song, they just come naturally. When you try it becomes forced and they rarely turn out the way you want them too. Once we have a rough chord progression – usually put together by Ru – we both work on a melody line and then I’ll take on doing a lot of the lyrics. It can be a very quick process, writing the main idea of the song; usually we get that down in half an hour. It’s the refining that can drag out over as long as month! We like to revisit and tweak our work right up until the recording process. I think the only time you can say a song is ‘done’ is when you’ve finished recording it. We tend to have quite a few songs on the go at once. That’s pretty much our process in a nutshell.

How much material do you have ready? You’ve just released ‘Walk Like A Man’ on (amazing) tricolour vinyl, do you have enough for an LP? If so, when can we expect that?

Thanks, glad you’re feeling the tricolour vibe! I’d say we have about 14/15 songs in bits and pieces… 7/8 of those fully written. We write everything ourselves and pretty much record/produce everything ourselves too, so it’s a longer process for us compared with the majority of artists in today’s industry who co-write and have a producer/engineer to whip their songs into shape over a couple of days/weeks. It takes time. I’d say we have enough material, it’s just getting it all down and finished. We plan to release our first album early next year, so we are excited for that. Our next single will be out around September time this year!

You’ve toured the country countless times. Any tips for surviving the road? I hear some of the band members are big fans of the Ginster’s pasty range…

Haha I don’t know where you heard about ‘Ginster’s’, being vege’s we don’t really indulge in pasties… We are trying to keep quite healthy, but it’s very difficult when all you have is a motorway service stop to re-fuel… We take a football along in the back of the van and on our stops we stretch our legs and have a kick about! It’s quite good as you get a bit of exercise in… Ru and I avoid drinking on the road as it’s not great for the voice… So we don’t go stir crazy cooped up in the ex-post van, pranks and the ‘What would you rather do’ game are favorites to pass the time!

You’re renaissance men. Why aren’t any other bands bringing this sound back?

I don’t know… I think it depends on what the artist has grown up listening too. What films they’ve watched, what artwork they like, books they’ve read etc… We aren’t purposely nostalgic, but the 60′s sound, and imagery that came out of the (40′s-50′s) period that we like so much, is timeless and what we’ve fallen in love with. Naturally it’s coming through in what we are doing… Artists such as Amy Winehouse/Jake Bugg/The Strypes all had/have influences that hark back to by gone era’s… It’s all dependant on your understanding of what’s past and whether or not that’s influenced you enough to try and create something for the future…

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Keep up to date with The Ruen Bros here.

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