What started off as a solo project, quickly grew into a talented 5 multi-instrumentalist band from Calgary led by lead vocalist and founder Reuben Bullock. The band members have evolved over the years but the current line-up features Shea Alain, Brock Geiger, Dillon Whitfield, and Kaelen Ohm. Their haunting indie-folk music exudes many different emotions and tries to capture the contrast between light and dark.
Since, the band opened for Hayden and Doug Paisley at the Danforth Music Hall last year, we’ve been hearing more about RATD in the Canadian music scene. After their North American tour with Australian indie-folk band, Boy & Bear, Novella had the chance to talk exclusively with Reuben about the bands’ latest album, Funeral Sky, their most memorable concert experiences and what’s in store for the up-and-coming band from Calgary.
There have been a few changes in band members, so tell me a little bit about the formation of Reuben And The Dark and how it’s evolved over the years.
It came from a solo project of me performing and recording under my own name. I put together sort of a back up band to perform the very first CD, which was the solo album that I had done with a guy in Calgary. So I guess I put together a back up band played the show and that kind of ended up being the last time I played solo, you know after doing that one show it was nice having these guys with me on the stage that I never went back to being solo for the most part. And that went on for a year or so until we started getting booked for bigger shows, planning more recordings and played so much as a band that Reuben And The Dark just became a way of saying this is a project instead of just a guy and a guitar. And the lineup has shifted and probably will continue to as life changes but yeah there’s definitely a chord that kind of remains from the beginning and then people have come and gone.
So right now you just finished the North American tour with Boy & Bear. How’d that go?
It was great. We just got off that now. I just got back to Calgary 2 days ago. It was good we were on the road for almost 6 weeks. It started in Austin and we did Austin City Limits [Music Festival], which was an honour to be a part of. Then we joined Boy & Bear in Montreal and played about 15 shows with them. I wasn’t very familiar with their music or them personally but we ended up getting along really well and there was enough in common with the audience. We could play to their audience every night and have a nice time. It ended up being a really nice tour.
It was definitely a good collaboration since both bands have that similar indie-folk feel.
Yeah and we got the chance to play some venues that we wouldn’t be playing if we were touring on our own so we stepped it up. We played a lot of theatres, ballrooms, which is kind of where I’d like to be for sure.
Tell me the process you went through making your latest album Funeral Sky.
Funeral Sky is kind of interesting because it was done over two years and kind of recorded and re-recorded a number of times. It was the first time that a real attention to detail was put into recording. I’ve never been one to stress too much being in the studio just a lot of times we go in, plugged in and play the song until it was finished. Now we tried a bunch of different things like some of the tunes are recorded in a basement with a tape machine, some of them we went up to the Banff Centre and got to use state of the art facility. And with others we worked with a producer in Toronto and a friend of mine from London came down, he’s a drummer in a band from out there, and he created the whole record for us and then we took all of those sessions and really looked at it to see what was going to fit the best under the theme of the album title. It’s kind of a curated collection of recordings more than a concept album.
The album definitely exudes deeper and meaningful emotions. What was your emotional state during that time when writing the songs, if you want to share?
Yeah, I don’t know I suppose with writing maybe more dramatic imageries and scenarios have always felt closer. Drawing from just life [laughs]. Not to be general but the idea though with it was to not just show things that are depressing; I wanted it to have its dark side but at the same time for it to kind of feel full of life too. You know for it to be sad but joyous at the same time. Trying to work with the duality of light and dark really.
Who have been some of your biggest inspirations in music and your writing?
I feel like because my writing tends to be more lyrical maybe content and story based, I think I draw from a lot of relationships, friends and the people in my life, stories I hear and tell. I mean the music really comes together in a way that my musical influences tend to be the people that I’m playing with in the band. I just sit down and play with an acoustic guitar and tend to write as much as I can and then we’ll get together as a band and the rest of the music happens in that way.
What’s your go-to album? Something that’s always iPod ready.
I listen to more records actually. I don’t tend to listen to much music on the run. The only time I get to really listen to music properly is when I’m sitting down at home. A record I listen to quite a bit is Muchacho by the band Phosphorescent. That one’s probably got the most spins in the last year for me.
What was your most memorable concert experience Reuben And The Dark played?
Playing hometown in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta has always been nice because the audience is always so great. I would say getting to be a part of Austin City Limits [Music Festival] was pretty massive just because it’s something that not a lot of many bands get to play that festival and we felt pretty lucky to get to spend 10 days in Austin. And then there’s so many in this year alone that had so many great highlights of just playing Canadian music festivals and sharing the stage with some of the bands. But the standout would be Austin City Limits.
You also played at Osheaga this year. Was that your first time at the festival?
Yeah, that was really nice. Montreal was nuts [laughs]. Yeah it was and I’d really love to go back to it.
What’s next for Reuben And The Dark?
Well we’re doing a west coast tour kind of coming up right away and then hopefully taking the holidays and a couple of the winter months to regroup and refocus for spring.
Will you be coming to Toronto soon?
Yeah, really soon. We’re actually moving up there. So there will be more Toronto in the future.
Funeral Sky can be purchased on iTunes. Get to know more about the band at reubenandthedark.com
Photo Cred: Photo 1 (cover photo) by Neil Van, Photo 2 & 3 by Mackenzie Walker