"What would a modern album with Roy Orbison and produced by Phil Spector sound like?" Meet the Ruen Brothers
'From Orbison and the Everly’s to Pulp Fiction and Paris, Texas...' the Ruen Brothers put their old-school sound in context as they discuss their musical influences
While hip-hop and electronic music sweep the streaming charts across the world, a pleasant relief from the mainstream comes in the form of English rock-and-roll duo Ruen Brothers, who with their Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison influenced style are emphatically bringing back a forgotten genre to the spotlight.
Fresh off their debut studio album 'All My Shades Of Blue', which released earlier this June, the duo has gone on to add feather after feather to their caps. Whether it’s their collaboration with the legendary producer Rick Rubin at the inimitable Shagri La Studios, gaining nods from the likes of Zane Lowe and the BBC, or a string of memorable performances from the hills of Glastonbury to the deserts of Coachella, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter siblings Henry and Rupert Stansall, known by their amalgam-created moniker Ruen Brothers, are making a mark with a throwback rock-and-roll sound that intersects the early days of the genre with a dynamic present day act.
Inspired by their music aficionado father who raised the duo on a steady diet of The Rolling Stones and The Everly Brothers, the two would rehearse in the family kitchen while scrounging for gigs in their blue-collar hometown of Scunthorpe, England. The brothers’ artistic background and pedigree come into full focus on 'All My Shades Of Blue' produced by Rubin and featuring Henry on acoustic guitar and Rupert on electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica, and bass.
The album boasts some eyebrow-raising collaborations as well, including the talents of such boldface names as Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on
drums, along with The Killers’ Dave Keuning on strings and Faces and Small Faces legend Ian McLagan on keyboards.
'All My Shades of Blue is out now via Ramseur. You can stream the full album below via Spotify.
Meaww had the opportunity to chat with the Ruen Brothers via email for an interview where we discussed the debut album, the context of their vintage sound in the modern era, working with Rick Rubin and the A-list collaborators at the legendary Shangri La Studios, recording the howls of coyotes at dawn and much more. Check out the full interview below.
Meaww: I loved your debut album ‘All My Shades of Blue’. If you were to pinpoint one thing that you’re trying to achieve with your debut, what would it be?
Ruen Brothers: Something that would help us pave a career with longevity.
Meaww: I personally enjoyed the title track, ‘Finer Things’ and ‘Motor City.’ Could you tell us a little more about these three tracks?
Ruen Brothers: ‘All My Shades Of Blue’ was written on a cold winter night in Nashville, TN with our friend, Angelo Petraglia. It’s an emotional track - longing and yearning.
‘Finer Things’ was also written in Nashville, TN with our friend, Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs). This was a really fun process. Have you ever pictured yourself socially, financially or physically out of someone’s league? Well, then this is the track for you!
‘Motor City’ comes from a disaster of a journey while en route to Nashville! If you listen carefully to the lyrics, you’ll hear and picture our aeronautical ordeal...or better yet, come to one of our shows and Henry will give you a 15-minute play-by-play account! It’s a rock n roll-esqe number with some cool keys work from the fantastic, late Ian McLagan.
Meaww: Ruen Brothers' is a portmanteau of your first names, Rupert and Henry. How did that idea come about?
Ruen Brothers: Our sister, Scarlett, is the one to thank for that. I always call Rupert (Ru) and in the north of England, we get a little lazy with our ‘H’s and many other letters when speaking to one another. Ru often calls me (‘en or ‘enry’) and so was born Ru En - Ruen Brothers.
Meaww: Your music sounds and feels like a call back to the good old rock and roll times - especially reminiscent of The Everly Brothers. In a time when you keep hearing the phrase ‘rock is dead’ over and over again, can you put your sound in context for us?
Ruen Brothers: Cinematic, emotional, melodic and organic. We take a lot of influence from music and film over the decades. From Orbison and the Everly’s to Pulp Fiction and Paris, Texas...Imagine a sound that’s influenced by the above and played/sung by two lads from a steel town in England.
Meaww: You’ve come a long way from rehearsing in the family kitchen and scouting for local gigs in Scunthorpe. Could you tell us a little more about the early days?
Ruen Brothers: We were just two kids trying to get out and play shows, singing a mix of songs from artists we loved and some we’d penned ourselves. We’d sometimes audition — singing a cappella — for landlords and local drunks at noon in dimly lit pubs. We’d get the phone book out and call all the pubs and working men’s clubs in the area trying to get gigs. In the evenings, we’d stay up late writing songs, listening to our dad's record collection for inspiration. We’d take over the kitchen with band rehearsals, playing for hours on end. It was a lot of fun and a great learning curve for us. It helped us mold our writing and hone our playing skills.
Meaww: You’ve just put out your debut album and you’ve already worked with a string of A-listers. The legendary Rick Rubin produced your album, and you worked with the likes of Chad Smith and Dave Keuning. Was that overwhelming? What was it like working with each of them?
Ruen Brothers: It was surreal. Slightly nerve-wracking at first, as we didn’t want to be slouches when it came to keeping up with Chad during tracking. He’s such a nice, down-to-earth person that it made the whole recording experience a lot of fun. His timing is fantastic and his on-the-spot creativity kept everything fresh and cool. Dave came up to the studio for a day to overdub cello on the title track which was a very special moment for us.
We knew Dave prior to working with Rick and it was great to have him involved. He’d mentioned to us months prior about his cello and if we ever needed some he’d happily come and play for us. It all worked out perfectly!
Meaww: The intro to the album is called 'Coyotes of Malibu'. Is that a reference to recording at Rubin's Shangri La studios in Malibu?
Ruen Brothers: It's all part of the 'Shangri La' experience. We were in the studio late one evening, windows open, with sounds of ocean waves breaking against the shore. While listening through overdubs, we started to hear cackles and howls over the music. It was a pack of coyotes somewhere in the distance. Henry hit record on his iPhone. It’s a hauntingly beautiful memory and we wanted to transport listeners to that night in the studio with us. It sets the scene for the album.
Meaww: Speaking about the production of your album, Rick Rubin said: "The idea was, what would a modern album with Roy Orbison and The Everly Brothers produced by Phil Spector sound like?” What do you think about that?
Ruen Brothers: He pretty much hit the nail on the head. We've always added a lot to our recordings; there are no limits when recording nowadays, and when riffs, melodies, or harmonies come to mind, we try them. Once they're down, instruments can be added, doubled, tripled, much like Spector did in the 60s. It can produce fatter sounds, as there are always slight variations when playing the 'same' thing, and layering them creates a choral effect.
We appreciate the Everly Brothers' close harmonies and grew up singing some of their songs in pubs and clubs as teenagers. Similar harmonies come to fruition when we write music. Roy Orbison had a brilliant songwriting style and his music contains big crescendos and uses the full vocal range and dynamics. It’s great to learn from and an amalgamation of all that didn't seem like a bad thing to aim for!