Canadian rock group Born Ruffians is coming to Milwaukee Friday, April 27. The group is touring in support of their latest album, “Uncle, Duke, and the Chief,” and Marquette Radio had the chance to speak with frontman Luke Lalonde about the new album, touring and his acting career.
How are you doing?
I’m good, thanks. How are you?
I’m doing pretty good. Are you getting any snow up by you (because we have been hit by a ton of it)?
Really? No. I’m in New York right now actually. I’ve heard it’s pretty bad right now.
Hopefully it’s melted by next week.
So, you recently played five sold out shows at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. I even saw that Nirvanna the Band made an appearance at one of your shows. What prompted the idea of playing there for five nights, and what was your experience playing at one venue for that many nights in a row?
It was great. You don’t have to load in or load out. It felt like we just worked at Lee’s Palace basically, right up to the fifth day. It’s just like touring, but you get the exact same set up every night. There’s no wildcard. You get really used to it. We wanted to do something different. There are only so many ways to do your hometown shows. The biggest shows we do are at Toronto, where we’re from. It’s either you do one big show or a couple shows at the Danforth or something different like five nights at Lee’s. It seemed more appealing to make it more of a thing. It allowed us to play more songs over the course of five nights. It’s just more of a unique experience. You have that many more people coming to the show and maybe hearing a couple different songs than the people that went to the previous show. It allowed us to do more with the show.
I’ve noticed that you’re playing the whole album on tour. Does it feel any different playing a whole LP instead of a few select songs? And what has been the reaction from the fans for playing the whole new album?
It’s been good I think. We’re a funny kind of band. We have a decent following, and we love our fans. We love playing shows, but we’ve never had a hit. We don’t have that one big song that we have to play. Every show is a different crowd, and it’s funny. After certain shows people come up and say, “Why didn’t you play more off of ‘Birthmarks?’” or, “Why didn’t you play more off of ‘Say It?’” It’s always a bit of a mystery to us of what the crowd wants to hear, so we try to do a mixture of everything, but the new record is so short. It’s only like 32, 33 minutes. It’s our favorite record. We love all the songs, and we were like, “I think we can play the whole thing in our set.” I think it’s been going over well. People sing along to the new songs. It feels good to play it.
With the record being so short, were there any songs that you planned to go on the album but didn’t make it, or are all the songs the ones you wanted on the album and there wasn’t anything else?
No, it’s funny. Quite the opposite. We had enough material for a double album, basically. We went to the studio not knowing exactly what were going to do. We had a top five, and by the end of the session we had only done three out of those five. We did two other songs that we didn’t plan on doing, one that was only barely written. We did the whole thing in about 10 days. When we finished it, we felt like we had done exactly what we had set out to do. Even though we went day to day, it just felt really right. We just knew that was the record we were supposed to make. It did leave us with a lot of songs that we didn’t record, but that’s not always a bad thing. You can always revisit those. It might allow us to quickly follow that up with a second record. We do short records so we didn’t want put it as a double album that was over an hour long.
You said that this was your favorite album that you’ve recorded. Was there anything that you wish you guys could do differently?
Well, I think there’s always stuff that you’re going to want to redo. Every time I do a record, from what I hear other people say, it’s pretty common to want to redo certain aspects. This record has pretty minimal notes in terms of, “Oh, I would redo that.” For the most part it just felt like we got it right. There’s maybe a song or a part of a song where I’d go, “Oh, I wish we could do that this way.” Nothing extreme though. The whole record just felt good. It felt like we nailed it.
You’ve had three singles come out with music videos: “Love too Soon,” “Forget Me” and “Miss You.” I’ve really enjoyed watching them because they come together to tell a story. Why did you choose these three songs to create that story, and can you tell me a little bit more about filming those music videos?
The song choices happened pretty organically. We all liked the idea of the first song out being something like “Love too Soon” where it was a pretty casual, “Hey, we’re still here. Hey, we’re still doing stuff.” Not too much of a statement of like, “Here’s our big single. We’re back,” but just more so like a, “Hey, how’s it going?” type thing. The other two songs were more obvious choices. We just kind of knew from the get-go that we were going to want to put these out as singles and have videos with them. We had our friends, Peter and Leah, who play in a band in Toronto called July Talks come. Peter has worked in the past on music videos. I had a meeting with him, and he wanted to bring Leah on as a collaborator and they wanted to do this trilogy of videos. We were kinda ecstatic about the idea and just went and came up with this idea together: this sort of loose narrative where this dummy is the protagonist. Basically a love story between these two characters, but one of them is not human.
I’m going to go all the way back to your debut album, “Red, Yellow, and Blue.” It seems almost impossible to find on vinyl. Do you have any plans on re-releasing it?
It is. It’s very hard to find. We sold all of them and then the remainder of the stock burned in a fire. There were these riots like eight or nine years ago. One of the things that was burned in the London Riots was this warehouse that held a lot of records, and I think ours were in there and they all burnt. There’s some evidence. It’s hard to find, and Warped Records should put it out. They’re being … I’m trying to figure out a way to say this diplomatically … but they’re being kind of difficult in the dialogue or conversation about reissuing the record for whatever reason. We’re not 100 percent sure why, but they are very slow to respond and to get on board with reissuing it. It’s all in their hands because they have the rights to it still. We would love to reissue it at the merch table, but I don’t know. If anybody is listening who wants it, e-mail Warped Records and ask them if they will reissue Born Ruffians’ “Red, Yellow, and Blue.”
I’ll definitely send them an e-mail. Going back to touring, how would you say it’s changed for you guys since starting?
For me it’s changed a lot. First of all, it’s pretty tough, but fun. It’s always been a fun thing, but I think I’ve learned how to enjoy it more over time, over the 10 plus years that we’ve been doing it. I think a lot of that has to do with growing up a bit. You learn to party less and get more sleep. Stuff that helps you with your picture of having better mental health and state of mind while on tour, which is a huge part of having better shows and a huge part of having a better tour and everything. I think back in the day we used to just be more day to day. We weren’t like huge, crazy partiers, but, you know, we drink or whatever. There’s just a lot of things when you’re younger that you don’t handle as well. I guess now I’m getting kind of rambly. I guess what I’m saying is as we’ve gotten older, we’ve learned how to do it better and have more fun. Basically, we’re wiser and not as stupid anymore.
I was going through some old YouTube videos of you playing acoustic versions of your songs. Have you ever thought of playing these at a show?
Sometimes we do. We busted out “Hummingbird” acoustic recently at a show. We did “Wandering Eye” which was an acoustic version of a song off “Birthmarks.” We’ll do that sometimes, if the mood strikes.
You probably get asked what’s your favorite song from the new album, and it probably changes all the time, but I’m going to go a little bit more in depth. What’s your favorite lyric from the new album?
The opening line is something I like. The way I wrote it, it was just one of those lyrics that sort of came out all at once, and I’m not sure where it came from. It’s pretty simple. It’s just, “Someday a white light will come for you, to comfort you. I’ll put my shades on to shield my eyes, and I’ll face the light with you.” I just like the image of that. Two people facing that thing, that ultimate end, or that ultimate whatever. Maybe it’s not the end, but facing that together. Like somebody saying, “Hey, I’ll put my sunglasses on and I’ll face that light with you together.” We are all doing that together. We’re all gonna die man. [laughs] I like to try and say something big in a way that you can picture or relate to.
I’m going to stray away from the album a little bit. I saw recently you were in a movie with Tim Heidecker, of Tim and Eric fame, called “Sundowners.” What was that experience like, and what was the process of getting cast?
It was honestly one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve never done anything like that before. An acquaintance that I met a couple times in Toronto, who is a director, basically reached out out of the blue and said, “Hey I’ve got this movie, and I’ve got this part and I think you’d be good for it.” I just kinda jumped at the opportunity to do it. He casted me, and the next thing I know I’m going to Columbia to shoot this movie. I got to do a couple days with Tim Heidecker in Toronto. That was one of the highlights because I’m a very big fan of his. That was very cool.
Are there any future plans to act in any other films?
Maybe. Not currently. There’s a couple things potentially on the horizon, but I’m not pursuing it in a big way. It’s a time consuming thing to act. That means auditioning and putting yourself out there a lot. I really enjoyed it and had fun, but I don’t know if it’s my ultimate passion. I would absolutely do it again if somebody came along and offered me something that sounded cool. Music takes up a lot of my creative energy and time. It’s definitely something I would consider doing again.
Last question. Do you cut the crust off of your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?
Hell no! I love the crust.
You can catch Born Ruffians at the Colectivo Back Room Friday April 27 and listen to their new album, “Uncle, Duke, and the Chief,” on iTunes and Spotify now.