The Rubens don’t want to “Waste A Day,” also the name of their most recent single, and their first release since their #1 album 0202. The feel-good record shows the band’s talents in the most positive light, jam packed with emotion, romance, and things audiences all around the world can all relate to. Life is short, who wants to waste a day?
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, The Rubens is composed of 5 members: 3 Margin brothers, Zaac, Sam and Elliott, and good friends Scott Baldwin and William Zeglis. Together, each artist conjoins forces to contribute to the finished product, showcasing their ability to be songwriters and instrumentalists while pushing the boundaries of rock and pop.
In describing themselves, Sam states, “We’re a band that’s been around for almost a decade now, which is crazy. We’ve changed a lot over the last 10 years, it’s really hard to describe our music. Currently it’s in indie pop with a little bit of R&B vibe.”
Fast forward to 2021, the band celebrated a huge milestone in their career: obtaining the #1 spot on the Australian charts with the release of their February album 0202. Spearheaded by singles “Live In Life”, “Masterpiece”, and “Time Of My Life”, the project saw the band self-producing their own songs, recorded inside a studio that used to be a World War II Bunker.
Flaunt caught up with lead singer Sam Margin via Zoom, after they had released the new single and announced their hometown festival. Read below as we discuss the making of “Waste A Day”, their roots in Australia, how they came into fruition, signing early on, recording 0202 during the pandemic, the positivity from “Time Of My Life”, studio essentials, their festival in February, and more!
How did your new single “Waste A Day” come to be?
We wrote this one as we were finishing the album. The album was wrapped up, but we wrote this song and we really loved it. We were wanting to release something this year because we felt like our fans have been very patient with how much stuff we’ve had to cancel. Even though we put out a record this year, we wanted to release something at the end of the year to tie things off. We talked to our record label and they said they’ve been listening to the song and don’t know why we didn’t put it on the album. So we reworked it a little bit to make it feel more the direction we’re going. It has a hopeful sound to it, we wanted to release something that’s positive and ready. It’s our summer coming up, so we wanted something that’d give you a good feeling going into next year when everything’s about to start happening again.
What was it like coming up in Australia?
3 of us in the band are brothers: Zaac, Elliott, and myself. We never played music growing up but 10 years ago, we were really bored, all at different stages of our lives. Working in bars, Elliott was still finishing high school. We decided we were going to start writing music at home on our laptops. We didn’t really start being a band, but we started creating music and uploading it to a website in Australia called triple j Unearthed, which is the leading radio station for people to discover new bands. In the meantime, we got Will and Scotty, who are friends of ours from our hometown, to play bass and drums and we called the band The Rubens. That triple j Unearthed thing came from nowhere and we started getting play on the radio in high rotation within a few weeks.
How did you get the name The Rubens?
We have another brother who didn’t want to be in the band, he declined. He didn’t want to play drums because he didn’t like our music. Fair enough. [laughs] At the time we weren’t that good. My nickname for him at the time was Ruben. We were about to play our first show and we needed to come up with a name, we needed to think of something. As a joke to stick it to him, we named the band The Rubens. Things took off rather quickly so we stuck with the name.
When did you guys realize that you could be a band?
It happened really quickly. We were really lucky in that we didn’t have to fight, for years and years and struggle. We got noticed pretty quickly in Australia. From that radio play we ended up with a few record labels interested. Also a friend of ours who’s over in Europe doing some audio engineering, played one of our demos for this guy named David Kahne. He’s a big record producer in New York, and he really liked it. Suddenly, we found ourselves with this opportunity to go to the States and record our debut album. We didn’t have a record deal yet, so we borrowed money from our parents, flew to New York, got a place in the Lower East Side and lived on top of each other. Ended up recording at Avatar Studios in New York and spent a few months there making an album. During that time, we took meetings with different record labels and signed a deal. So luckily, the album was paid for. But we took some crazy risks.
How’d it feel to get a record deal that early?
Very very early, yeah. In hindsight, back then it was all exciting. I didn’t really know what was normal, but it definitely wasn’t your average story of how something went from a dream into making a living. We quit our jobs, haven’t had a normal job since we left for New York. It was a wonderful feeling. We signed with Ivy League Records out of Australia, then we signed with Warner Brothers U.S. soon after that. Then we went on tour and promoted that first album.
What does each person bring to the table?
Elliott and myself are songwriters. We’ll write songs individually and do group versions of them as much as we can on our own, then bring those songs to the band. We got a good system now, we’re 4 albums deep now. We realized that’s our strong point. We write the songs, then we go into our own studio. All the boys come in and replace all the crap stuff that we put in there, and do their thing. It doesn’t sound like The Rubens until the other guys have done their thing with it. It’s taken us a while to get to that point.
Talk about the creative process for 0202.
It was a struggle. It wasn’t a struggle to write the album because we wrote most of it before Covid hit. We recorded most of it as well, we were ready to go into mixing. We had a few more songs to do, but luckily we’d already done all the work before shit hit the fan. It was a hard one to decide whether we release it or whether we should bank on the pandemic fizzling out. We realized that it wasn’t gonna stop so we either had to hold on to an album indefinitely or release it during this time.
We weren’t sure if we’d be able to promote it and tour it in our traditional ways. We pushed it back, it was originally meant to be last year. It got to the point where alright, we have to make a call. Let’s release this thing and promote it in any way we can. That meant we couldn’t get over to the States or Europe. It meant we had to do a lot of online stuff, a lot of live-streaming stuff. Luckily for us in Australia, we were able to get 22 shows done this year on a tour to promote the album, which was a huge relief because it’s pretty hard to release music if you can’t play it live.
How does it feel to be back, doing what you love on stage?
It’s wonderful. It’s one thing to write music but my favorite part of this whole world we’re in is the performance and touring side. I like writing music, but I prefer to perform it. It was hard initially because when you write a song, even if you think you’re onto something good, it’s really hard to gauge how it’s connecting without seeing the fans’ faces in the audience. Often it’ll be a song from the album that you didn’t expect that everyone’s singing back to you. Without getting that feedback, I feel like we’re lost. It was beautiful to get back on the road, also to hang out with our best buds. Our crew and everyone that we’ve toured with for so long, they’re like our family. We haven’t seen them in ages, it was definitely a bit of a party.
Fondest memories from the “Time Of My Life” record?
We wrote that in LA. We were doing a few weeks of songwriting over there, that’s one of our favorite songs that we wrote over there. I find it hard to write songs that are purely positive and don’t have a certain element of darkness. I’m a bit of a pessimist at times. As much as I wanted to destroy it and put some darkness in there, we left it feeling nice, positive, and happy. During this time, we wanted to give the fans something to be hopeful for and not have to go back to the reality of life. [laughs]
3 things you guys need in the studio at all times?
We’ll always make sure we have a few beers there, but I’ll only have a beer once I’ve started to nail some takes and I won’t reward myself until we’ve got some work done. Zaac the guitar player always has to have incense going. He’s clouding the place up with incense and giving us all headaches. The studio that we work out of is a World War II Bunker, which is this huge, beautiful, cabinous space that was made to withstand a nuclear blast. It’s a really weird and interesting space. We’ll often have a fire pit outside as we’re recording into the night. We’ll eventually end up hitting save on the sessions and going outside to the bonfire, having some beers and hanging out together. That’s another thing.
What’re you guys most excited for next?
We’ve got this festival happening in February, which is in our hometown of Camden just outside the city. We’re about to announce the lineup for that. We have a bunch of rescheduled touring, then we’re about to announce a whole bunch more. Really excited to get back on the road, the first half of next year is looking extremely busy. We’ll be looking to get back and do some international touring as soon as we can. That’ll probably be your summer or possibly the end of the year. We miss the States. We’ve made 3 albums in America, we only made the last one here. We’ve spent so much time over there. Honestly it’s one of the things this pandemic has really screwed up for us: realizing how much we love being overseas. We’re really really looking forward to getting back overseas.