With a sound straight out of the sixties and an accidental retro look to match, the Ruen Brothers could be mistaken for being from another era. Make no mistake though, these Scunthorpe lads are as clued up on their contemporaries as they are the old favourites, and have a focused determination which is sure to see them shoot straight to the top before very long.
Down to earth and business savvy, this duo from the north have an authentic vintage vibe that may be born out of their love for the likes of Roy Orbison, the Stones and Van the Man, but their heads are firmly placed in the 21st century. They have their sights set on America, and a longing for separate bedrooms, however, if that doesn’t work out they’re quite happy to return to their Working Men’s Club roots, which makes them probably the most genuine musicians you’ll encounter this year.
WHERE DID YOUR LOVE FOR THE MUSIC IF THE 50S AND 60S ORIGINATE?
Henry: My Dad had quite a big vinyl collection and from a young age he would always put on things like Van Morrison, the Sex Pistols, Muddy Waters, all those old artists from the 50’s, 60’s and the punk era. We were brought up listening to it and when you’re brought up listening to it you absorb it all, so that’s were we get our influences from and it made us look deeper into all that music. Then we started discovering our own love for different artists in that era but it was very influenced by Dad’s old vinyl collection that we grew up on and that’s were we got our love for the 50’s and 60’s.
DO YOU COME FROM A MUSICAL FAMILY THEN?
Henry: My mum is totally tone deaf, she can’t even clap in time, which is quite amusing. My Dad did have 15minutes of fame back in the day. When Johnny Rotten left the Sex Pistols they still had an album to finish with Virgin/Emi – it was The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle – so my Dad went along with a few other singers and auditioned for Malcolm McLaren and they got the gig. So my Dad sang on The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, and there are also glimpses of him in the film. They were going to do an album with Sid Vicious too but that all went wrong obviously, and that was it. Then he went back up North and met my Mum.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE A CAREER IN MUSIC, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE CONSIDERED?, ANY OTHER POSSIBILITIES?
Henry: I don’t think so to be honest. We always thought if you’re planning for Plan B you’re not focusing on Plan A enough. I mean, as a kid I wanted to be a marine biologist because I like things underwater but that’s about all I’ve thought of.
Rupert: I thought to myself the other day if music didn’t work out I don’t know what I’d do. I’d probably do something in the music business or something related to the music industry. When I was younger I wanted to be a footballer but I had a very bad injury and it put me out. So we didn’t really have Plan B’s, we sort of thought, ‘I hope plan A works out or that’s it, we’re done for’. I mean, we can always go back to playing pubs and clubs and just about scrape a living but it’s a tough one.
SO WHAT ABOUT OTHER INFLUENCES OUTSIDE OF MUSIC – ART, FILM, LITERATURE, HAS ANY OF IT HAD AN IMPACT ON YOUR MUSIC?
Henry: That’s interesting because you’re quite the artist, aren’t you Rupert?
Rupert: I suppose. We were brought up looking at a lot of artwork and we would always go to art galleries – that was quite a nice part of childhood. I don’t know if we fully appreciated it when we were younger but it’s nice to be able to go to a gallery and it’s kind of inspiring when you see something nice or read something quite inspiring. I have a friend who’s an author and my Auntie’s actually an author too. She’s written a book that won the ‘Costa Children’s Book Award 2012’ for teen fiction. So all those sorts of things, when you read things like that it does inspire you. She’s got to where she wanted to get to quicker than we have. You think, ‘wow, look how much thought has gone into it’, it kind of kicks you in the backside and makes you think, ‘right, this is what I have to do to make this work’, so it kind of inspires you in a variety of ways, not only artistic but how people put things together. Film is also another inspiration of ours. We like to imagine our music fitting in with a film. Some of the music we try to create has a dramatic feel to it, like with our music video which has all those film clips, it just kind of fits alongside those black and white type films. Well, that’s what we think anyway. Casablanca and things like that, they’re inspiring, timeless. I mean, you never think a song is timeless but when you’re writing it and when you’re putting it together but you try and create something that won’t be dated in anyway, you just want it to be what it is.
WHO’S THE BOSSY ONE AND HAVE YOU EVER FALLEN OUT FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME?
Henry: I suppose I would come across as the bossy one because Rupert is quieter than me but in his head he has his evil thoughts as well I think, he just doesn’t air them. In public I’m probably bossier but behind closed doors and when we’re working Rupert’s probably bossier. It’s a strange thing, and as far as arguments go, the only time we really argue is when we disagree about something in the song we’re writing ‘cause we’ll always want our own bit in it. Or if somebody’s not done the washing up because we live in a bedsit and it’s really quite cramped, so if somebody hasn’t tidied away or washed the dishes then arguments will happen but we never fall out for longer than ten minutes because we can’t really. We’ve never ever had a separate room from each other in our lives, separate beds obviously, so we’re quite close. We never really fall out for that long. We’ll have an argument but it’ll be over quickly because we need to crack on.
YOU’RE FROM SCUNTHORPE, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CHANNEL 4 SHOW SKINT WHICH IS ON AT THE MOMENT – IS IT AN ACCURATE PORTRAYAL OF THE AREA?
Henry: We did actually grow up near that estate and we used to have to walk through there to get to college everyday. Yeah, it is quite a true representation of what one certain area is like. I think it’s a little bit egged up because television like that is always a little extreme and a little bit hammed up. I mean, Scunthorpe didn’t have an amazing name beforehand, Tinnie Tempah gave it a shoutout, and then after that along comes Skint, and people went, ‘oh , that’s why Tinnie Tempah didn’t go there’. At the same time, there are lovely parts of Scunthorpe and that’s our audience because we used to play in pubs on those estates. We used to play a pub called ‘The Pied Piper’ and that was always good fun. There’d always be fights or people falling over drunk or they’d grab the tambourine and try and play along with you, it was quite amusing actually. So, as far as the Skint programme goes, it does show some real-life situations in Scunthorpe but some of it is a bit OTT.
WHAT ABOUT APPEARANCE, WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON FASHION AND IMAGE?
Henry: As far as fashion goes, we don’t really get dressed up to go on stage, it’s perhaps just a smarter version of what we wear day to day around the house. A lot of what we wear isn’t really influenced from the sixties much, it’s just what we think looks appropriate and we’re not really the kinds of guys to look at the latest Grazia or whatever, and think ‘oh, let’s wear that because that’s what’s in’. We like the style of old musicians – Buddy Guy and old blues musicians, and Ronnie Wood. I think they all dress quite well. Those kinds of people, although they’re not recognized as style icons, I just like how they present themselves. Again, that comes from early influences, when you look at the way people dressed when they perform. I mean, look at Mick Jagger, he’s worn a right old variety of getups, so he’s quite an interesting character to look at and be inspired by but I don’t think I’d be getting myself into any spandex at any point. We’re not overly impressionable as people so I don’t think we’d change too much. What we wear we’ve been wearing for quite a while now.
WOULD YOU SAY IT’S YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE?
Henry: By accident, we didn’t intend for it to be our signature when we were doing it. I think sometimes when it’s over the top it looks great but not for us.
HAVE YOU HAD A CAREER HIGHLIGHT SO FAR?
Henry: Performing at Maida Vale for the BBC, that was incredible. To think of all the artists that have performed in there and here you are getting to do your own stuff, and it’s going out on Radio 1, it’s quite an amazing feeling. So that was definitely a highlight. Also, going to the South by Southwest festival over in Austin, Texas. It was our first ever time going to America, so our introduction to America was incredible. We decided that was where we want to live when we’re older – the weather was amazing, the people were lovely, the music was great, it was a great place to be, so that’s another great memory. And then Abbey Road studios, that was a pretty amazing feeling to be recording in a studio like that. Maida Vale, South by Southwest and Abbey Road.
YOUR MUSIC HARKS BACK TO A BYGONE ERA, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON LIVING IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
Henry: I think the recording process is very easy nowadays, which means you can approach things in a lazier manner to perhaps how people approached it back then. So perhaps things aren’t thought about so much but I can’t say that without knowing the way other producers work. At the end of last year we were working with a guy called Liam Watson at Toe Rag studios (he won a Grammy for the White Stripes Elephant album) and he helped us immensely. Everyone goes to his studio and says, ‘oh, it’s a vintage studio’, and yeah, he does have all that vintage equipment in there but when you record with him, you’re not recording to be vintage or trying to be vintage or old fashioned, you’re just recording what you are for your audience today. So I think it is what it is, when you lay it down and record it, regardless of where you record it or how you record it, if it sounds a bit vintage, it’s just been us playing on a track and that’s the way it’s come out. I think because we’ve grown up, week in week out, playing these pubs and clubs, and weddings and functions, and all sorts of things like that, and all the stuff we love from Roy Orbison to the Stones and Van Morrison, all these different artists, I think it absorbs into your own writing. Because you’re playing these songs it just naturally comes through. I think what’s great about today’s age is that music is so acceptable and you can put all your music out there, on spotify, youtube, and so on and so forth. But I think it’s strange how you have to have a credit card to be able to buy music on itunes, it can be very impersonal. You get your single and at the same time you can get a million other singles. I mean, we’re not nostalgic but I can appreciate the times when you were able to buy an actual physical CD, it made you appreciate it more. People would queue for hours to get the latest Chuck Berry single, which would stay in your collection for years whereas now you’ve just got your songs on your ipod and you can just scroll past it or delete it. I think in relation to our music, it’s nice that everything is so accessible but it’s also a little bit sad that it’s quite disposable.
WHO DO YOU ADMIRE IN THE PRESENT ERA?
Henry: I keep plugging her but there’s a girl called Angel Olsen and she uses Orbison-esque melodies and it’s really quite nice. She’s got a few tracks, ‘Tiniest Seed’ is one, which is really nice. So yeah, Angel Olsen is someone I’m quite digging at the minute. And Gabriel Bruce, he’s got a song called ‘Cars Not Leaving’, which I really like. So there are a few artists like that, which I’m listening to at the moment with regards to new music. There are some new artists coming through that are playing great music.
FINAL QUESTION THEN, WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?
Henry: I’m hungry for, at the end of the year, to at least have a separate bedroom. And also a bit of a standing in the world of music. It would be nice for our music to be out there so people can appreciate it a little bit. We’ve had a few experiences of people singing back our lyrics at gigs, which is nice. That would be a nice thing to hunger for, people singing your lyrics back to you.
Rupert: I think I’m going to go with Henry on the separate bedroom. If I can’t have that then I think I’ll give up.