Australian alt-pop faves The Rubens, weren’t going to let the grass grow under the feet over the last twelve months. Instead, the band took the time to re-evaluate their sound with the end result coming in the form of their forward-thinking, alt-pop cracker of a new album, 0202, which dropped on February 12, 2021. Following the release of the album, V13 spoke to Elliott Margin (keys/vocals) about this exciting new chapter in their lives and where that drive to push their sound came from.

Thanks for your time, how is life treating you today?

Elliott Margin: “Pleasure! Life is good. Our album launch tour finished last weekend so getting back into the rhythm of home life again. Spent the last hour stirring a hoodie in a pot of dye on the stove just to give you an idea of the contrast. Rock and roll.”

You’ve just dropped your new album 0202, how much of the inspiration for the material came from your experiences last year?

“Thankfully, almost all of it was written in 2019 so the album content isn’t affected by the year that was 2020. We were in the studio putting the finishing touches on the record just as things started going to lockdown in Australia so we were very lucky there.”

For musicians, 2020 was a tough year, how would you describe it for the Rubens?

“It was the quietest year for us since starting the band. While we were still able to finish a record and plan its release we weren’t able to do our favourite part of the job, which is touring. Our Live In Life tour was pushed from April 2020 to October 2020, then pushed again to April 2021 and renamed the 0202 Tour for the album. It was tough but we managed to stay optimistic.”

0202 has been described as an album that sees you evolve as songwriters. Would you agree with this?

“Most definitely. Being four albums in if we hadn’t evolved there’d be no reason for us to keep doing it and even less reason for people to want to listen. We’ve pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones when it comes to songwriting, forced ourselves to write together more which is something we used to struggle with. It’s embarrassing to show a dumb love song to your mates.”

How do you think you have grown as musicians and what do you think you learned about yourselves as a band during the last twelve months?

“For this record, we took on the role of producers in the early stages which we’d never done before. Will, who plays bass, is also an engineer with a studio and plenty of amazing gear. The opportunity to do it ourselves was there and we felt excited by that, felt that we’d learned a lot from having spent plenty of hours in studios with world-class producers. We took a chance on ourselves and had a lot of fun doing it.”

Artwork for ‘0202’ by The Rubens

Do you think the fact that you’re not under the same pressures of putting a record out and then touring has given you the chance to explore new ideas musically that maybe you wouldn’t have under normal circumstances?

“I don’t think so. We’ve always tried new things when it comes to making the next record. Not as a conscious decision to branch out, but just as a natural progression in our journey through music. We love making music and changing things up keeps it interesting, not only for us but, hopefully, also for the listener.”

0202 has also been described as a new chapter for the band, where do you hope this chapter takes you?

“We’d love to reach new fans while keeping the old ones. To gain new fans overseas and eventually tour for them would be top of the list.”

In terms of the new record, is there anything on it that you think fans from your first album will be surprised by when they hear?

“I think even we would have been surprised at how far we’ve come since the first record. For no real reason, we had an aversion to synths when we started out and there’s loads of synth on this record. Not Gary Numan levels but enough to fill it out more than we could have as a guitar band. We’ve also embraced samples and drum machines in a way we probably never would have considered back then. I think young us would be proud though.”

Have you looked ahead to the next 12 months now the record is out? What are your plans?

“We hope to finally get this Australian tour underway, play as many shows as the law allows, find ways to engage international fans, and write more music.”

A lot of bands we’ve spoken to have said the forced break has allowed them to recharge away from the brutal music industry. Would you agree with that? If so, how has your life changed during the pandemic?

“For me, personally, I don’t think I needed a break to recharge. I felt comfortable in the rhythm that a lot of artists find themselves in, make a record, tour the record, take time off to make another, and repeat. By the end of a tour I’m ready for the studio and by the end of making a record, I’m ready for the road. My life’s changed during the pandemic in that I don’t get that pay off from a live show. It’s the reason we are a band, we love playing and touring so much.”

2020 was a backward year, on a personal level, how do you hope the world will change in 2021?

“I hope people appreciate the things we might have taken for granted before. Gatherings, pubs, music, dancing, toilet paper, whatever it may be.”

As we said, this album heralds a new chapter for The Rubens, what would you say the album and the band offer the alt/pop scene in 2021?

“We offer songs by The Rubens, which no one else can legally offer. Probably.”

Thanks for your time and good luck with the album. Over to you for the final words…

“Thank you! Listen to 0202. Eat a burger. Drink a beer/wine/non-alcoholic thing. Have fun!”

I have an unhealthy obsession with bad horror movies, the song Wanted Dead Or Alive and crap British game shows. I do this not because of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle it affords me but more because it gives me an excuse to listen to bands that sound like hippos mating.