James Kirsch

12:27 16th June 2005


We’re sitting backstage with Reuben before their ‘Six in the City’ date at London’s Camden Underworld, and a parcel containing their new promotional frisbees has just arrived.  The band begin to get excited, but upon opening the package their anticipation takes a turn, and Reuben are stuck somewhere between disbelief and hilarity.  Cries of “Oh my God they look like ashtrays” and “We were expecting Frisbees…not this, what the fuck!?“ pass round the table.  To be fair, the frisbees are a bit shit; about the size of those mini-CDs that were fashionable for a while.  The band suggest that to make them look full size they could hire some midgets to catch and throw them.  It’s a long shot, but it might just work.

Before the release of their first album ‘Racecar is Racecar Backwards’ frontman Jamie Lenman, bassist Jon Pearce, and drummer Guy Davis were locked in seemingly endless negotiations with record labels.  Eventually settling on financing and recording the record themselves, their gamble paid off and secured them a deal with Xtra Mile Records.  To date their debut’s raw and uncompromising blend of metal, emo, grunge and pop has shifted 10,000 copies, and spawned three singles. A nomination for best newcomer at a magazine awards (involving some overindulgence, which we’ll get to later), and an incredible three Radio One ‘singles of the week’ later, they entered Razor studios in Wandsworth to record the follow-up ‘Very Fast Very Dangerous‘. 

Second records are supposed to be ‘difficult’, with bands supposedly settling on their laurels or caving in to label pressure to release more of the same.  But Reuben still have the purpose of a band with very much to prove on forthcoming album 'Very Fast Very Dangerous'.  Having already released the download-only ‘Blamethrower’, Reuben's current single ’A Kick In The Mouth’ is a mixture of pop hooks and those Foo-friendly riffs that have become the staple diet of any Reuben fan.
ReubenGigwise: So what’s the new record like?
Guy: "It’s a lot rawer, with straightforward rock n roll songs and simpler riffs.  But more diverse too, with softer songs and heavier songs.  I’ve always liked being in Reuben because I’ve felt we do a bit of pop, metal, punk. Its bits of everything.  You can’t do a 'Racecar' 2, you’ve gotta progress or change your style a bit”
Gigwise:  Has getting signed and working in a professional studio resulted in a more polished album?
Guy:  “Some people thought the last record was pretty polished.  The new one's quite clean sounding, not a filthy sounding record, but it still has balls to it.  It does sound wicked, I think we’re very proud of it.  It’s like Biffy albums, and stuff like that.  It's how the band sounds really.”
Jamie:  “Being signed meant we got to bring in a guy who knows how to do albums properly; Chris Sheldon who’s worked with Foo Fighter, Anthrax and Oceansize.’
Gigwise:  Will there be any Special Guest appearances? 
Jamie:  “Carl Middleton from Twin Zero came in to sing on ‘Alpha Signal Three’, he was formerly in Earthtone 9 who we’re big fans of.  You can listen to that one now [for free] at MySpace.com and PureVolume.com”
Gigwise:  What was the writing process like?
Jamie:  “I’m always in my bedroom…doing this.. [here he holds his head in his hands and rocks back and forth]. 
Jon:  “He only ever leaves his house for tours or rehearsals, we’ve made sure he stays in and writes.” 
                [At this point the wind-up starts in earnest..]
Jamie:  “I have a tube that goes in behind my gums and down my windpipe for food. And I have another from my penis and bum-hole for waste.  It just means I can be free of any concerns”.
Jon:  “We also keep a security tag on his foot so he doesn’t go anywhere without permission”.
Jamie:  “It’s a perfect system“.
Guy:  “He’s pulled his hair out though, you can see bits missing”.
Gigwise:  The lyrics on the last album were quite personal, have you written about similar experiences for the new record?
Jamie:  “I just thought; what do you know the most about?  Whatever you read up on, or you think, or learn about.  The thing you always know the most about is how you feel and what’s happened to you, so it makes sense to sing about it.  I know that Carl [Middelton], when he was in Earthtone 9 used to make a point of making his lyrics jibberish, and the first Foo Fighters album seems to be about nothing at all.  Everyone says Kurt Cobain was the voice of American youth, but even he was just writing jibberish.  He admitted he’d write something sincere, and then put something irrelevant next to throw people off.  I think its funny how lots of kids talk about how Kurt Cobain spoke for them, but what does 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' mean?  It’s a deodorant, it doesn’t mean fight against our parents and wear flannel tee shirts.  Its ridiculous.”
Here Jamie realises he’s in danger of entering a long rant on the subject of generation X and checks himself;
“I’m sorry; he didn’t want to start a fucking movement, he wanted to play songs.  My songs are about me and what’s happened. Because that’s all I can think of to say“. 
Gigwise:  When's the album out??
Jamie:  “Its out in August, or September.  We don’t really know exactly, but it will absolutely be out before the next Guns n Roses album”
Jon:  “What’s happened to him?  Axl rose just doesn’t look the same now”
Guy:  “It’s like Axl 2000!”
Gigwise:  What will the next single be?
Jamie: “‘Keep It To Yourself’, and we might release a song called ‘Nobody Loves You’ which is the softest we’ve ever gone. We didn’t use acoustic guitars though, that would’ve been too easy.  You can be soft without them”
Jon: “Jamie uses a kind of distorted clean sound that has a lot of character to it’
Jamie: “That’s why Chris Sheldon was so good to work with; he was aware that you can have a pretty song and still use electric guitars”.
Gigwise:  You’ve got a headlining slot on the Snickers Bowl stage at the Download festival.  Do you feel that you’re getting more respect and exposure from the industry now?
Jamie: “It’s great to hear our songs on the radio, it’s what we set out to do.  Its definitely exciting.  Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq have always been good to us, and Kerrang and Rock Sound too.  But things haven’t really changed as far as we’re concerned.”
Jon: “We still feel like we’re struggling.  We’re just trying to get out there and get people to hear the music.”
Guy:  “With the Download festival I think we should be higher up the bill on the other stage.  If you look at the line-up at Reading half the bands you’ve not even heard of.”
Gigwise:  Any chance we’ll finally see you play the Reading and Leeds Festivals?
Jon:  “I doubt it.  For the last couple of years we’ve been going to Reading as fans, and had people come up to us and say ‘why aren’t you playing?’.  It feels like the demand is there, but we just don’t know why it‘s not happening.  It’s a mystery, like the Bermuda triangle.  The promoter just doesn’t like Reuben.”
Gigwise:  How’s the current tour going?
Jon: “It’s been a breeze. We see friendly faces in every town.  There’s people who come to a lot of shows, some travel to a couple of shows each tour.  It’s amazing to think that we’re a band that people will really want to come and see, its wicked’
Guy:  “I think most Reuben fans are really into the band. There’s no half-arsed people really.  The fans we’ve met at gigs have a lot to say about us, and it's really nice to know. 
Jamie:  “There’s a couple of ladies who come to a lot of the shows, and they’ve become our friends. We call them the cake ladies since they used to make us lost of cakes, bring us food and all kinds of lovely gifts.  A lot of people raise an eyebrow when we talk about that kind of stuff but its all part of it, its cool”.
Guy: We went out on tour with Engerica a couple of years ago, and they’re really good mates so its nice to take out a band you enjoy listening to every night. 
Gigwise:  What really happened at the Kerrang awards?
Jamie:  “We got escorted out.  They had to carry Guy out.’
Guy:  â€œI had a bit too much to drink!  I remember fading to blackness and falling through a table of drinks.  The next thing I know there are two guys carrying me out the building, and I’m thinking I’ve obviously done something terrible!”
Jon:  “What’s cool is that there were two Reuben fans outside who looked after him before we loaded him in my car and took him home.  When we get to Guy’s house his key chain wouldn’t reach the door so we had to lift him toward it.”
Jamie:  “Guy gets drunk and spews a lot.“
Jon:  “Drummers are little bit more hardcore and resilient.  Myself and Jamie don’t drink“.
It’s almost disconcerting, but everyone on the Reuben tour seems to get along really well.  So well that at first you wonder whether there’s something far more sinister lurking under the surface.  Only, there’s not, it’s just that these people will look you in the eye and ask your name.  Many touring rock bands are a mess of over-inflated egos, drugs and drinking, but the three grinning grunge-metallers sitting opposite Gigwise don’t appear laden with any of those problems.  Reuben freely bounce jokes off each other like they haven‘t a care, but beneath this often self-deprecating sense of humour their sense of ambition is clearly evident. And despite acquiring a record deal, they still talk about getting their music heard with the fervour of the unsigned. Their struggle has carried them this far, and you wouldn’t want to bet against it taking them all the way.
Photo By Theo Berry

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