Friday, December 11, 2009

5 Questions with Simone Rubi

I used to book acts at Buffalo Records based in Ventura, CA. Simone was friends with the owner of the shop, John Healy. One summer night she brought in her keyboard and played some songs from an album she was working on at the time, called "Explode from the Center". I didn't see her again until a few months later in Stockholm. She showed me around the city and helped me get a show at a vegetarian restaurant named Hermans.

Simone Rubi is powerful. Catch her if you can. Look at your watch, whatever time it is, chances are Simone is up to something interesting. As half of the dance-pop duo, Rubies, you can hear Simone sing, and sing well. As an artist working on everything from album covers to art installations, you can see Simone create. Always creating, always collaborating. She is a true inspiration and a wonderful friend, just ask any of her friends.

1. What is the hardest part of having a band?

I think the hardest part is making sure everyone in the band is happy and fulfilled. Whether it's on tour, performing, dealing with royalties, or being sensitive to what works musically for everyone as individuals. Everyone is different when it comes to staying inspired and motivated to make the whole thing work.

There are so many facets to being in a band- it's very much like family or a relationship. Being conscious of what everyone needs. Kind of feels like a family business. Mixing business with pleasure. The other hard part for me is to handle most of the business side of things and also write songs. It's two very different mind-sets and some days it becomes very overwhelming to handle all aspects of a band, especially when you put a lot of expectations on yourself and set your goals high.

2. When you perform live, do you create the vibe or does the audience create the vibe?

Both. Some shows start very mellow and the audience seem very distant or cold- and that really pushes me to convince people through our music that what we are offering is a fun and honest place to be. Especially when we play places like Japan or Russia- where culturally it couldn't be more different- those shows are very challenging and often the most rewarding because we've not only accomplished performing our songs, which is very comfortable for us, but we've accomplished understanding each other and the audience in a whole new way.

The audience can sometimes encapsulate a very tiny version of an entire culture. The way they respond, or dance, or facial expressions and how they clap and cheer. Most often though, we like to bring a certain vibe to a place that is inviting people to dance and join us on stage. We want to bring everyone into our house (stage) and have a dance party in the bedroom.

3. What is your take on the current "music business"?

This is a hard one. There is no rule book. There is no real 'school of rock' for people that spend their lives devoted to make money playing music and writing songs. There is no guarantee ever. No consistent pay check. You work super hard to get a promise in the form of a contract- that keeps you going- and sometimes pays the bills if you get a song licensed for tv or film- but I don't think there is any real promise in the music business. I think it's completely up to the band or songwriter to believe in what they are doing and also have a smart marketing approach if you want it to be your career. I also think everyone is so completely used to downloading music for free- which is great to promote your music- but I also think at this stage, we can all figure out ways to still support musicians by still buying their music. Even if it's $1 a song. It's worth it.

A lot of the music business is based on response and enthusiasm that the band creates firstly with their songs and then the label or band has help with a publicist and some radio publicity. I think no matter what, it's really important to trust and like the people at the label that you work with. There is always a risk that they just want to be excited to work with you if you have some sort of buzz- but can also be very quick to forget about you and work with the next band that comes along. At the core, you have to be really happy with the music you're making and hopefully that will come across.

I've noticed a whole new strategy for making 'it'. I have friends that have been signed and received huge advances and then there was a ton of pressure on them and then they ended up disappointed and the songwriter became jaded and lost the plot. A better way is to do a slow build that isn't based on doing a bunch of press- gain your fans naturally but help them become familiar with your music. The fans that find you and the ones that will stay with you through your musical career. Not the ones that bands force their music on- or the fans that labels get you by marketing you as a trendy band.

4. What is your favorite album cover of all time?

I don't have a fave. I like so many.
I really like the cover for Studio's album 'Yearbook 2'
Also "History of Melody Nelson" by Serge Gainsbourg.
Also "Bare Trees" by Fleetwood Mac.
Hmmm...and dare I say, the Rubies album cover?
It's true. I really love it.

5. Is there a place in Europe that you don't care if you never see again?

Sometimes the really touristy spots of Europe can kill all romantic notions of old world historical Europe. Rome has changed a lot. The area near the Colosseum is just filled with cheezy tourists. You are shoulder to shoulder with obnoxious people. I love the piazza Navona area though and Trestevere there. I didn't love Faro in Portugal. It's hard though because I can find beauty almost anywhere. Even the dirtiest of streets and the most desolate of houses. I am curious and interested in the every place.

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