In support of Movember, The Rubens’ Sam Margin talks about the band’s new music, the upcoming ValleyWays announcement, and how new artists can find joy in their work.
Earlier this year The Rubens dropped their first new music since 2021 with single “Pets and Drugs”. It’s been a long time between drinks for the band, and the song was met with a full round of excited news stories announcing the return of The Rubens. For frontman Sam Margin, the new music is just as exciting as it is for the rest of the fans.
“Our next few singles are probably the most excited I’ve been for new music, maybe ever,” he says.
The band are producing themselves and they’ve had the time, says Sam, to really ‘get them right’.
“That hasn’t been the case in the past. This time we’ve spent a lot more time, particularly on the singles we’re releasing, not just settling for how the demo sounds, we were trying to make them better and better. So I’m really excited about it.”
There’s another single on the way in the next few weeks and the band have just finished their next album which is slated for release next year. It will follow 0202, their 2021 chart-topping album which was praised for its creativity and ‘infectious energy’. Following an album that was well received by both critics and fans must cause some anxiety, but Sam says the band feel so lucky to still be in a position to release new music, which helps calm the nerves.
“You get used to it, because we’ve been doing it for so long, and we really love what we do for a living. Whenever you finish touring and you’re getting close to releasing the next thing we all get those nerves and I never consider it a given that the fans we’ve got will still be there for the next thing. But we’re just hoping we can continue to keep doing this for a job.”
One of the reasons the band are so excited to be able to keep working together and releasing music is the connection they have, says Sam. When you’re on the road as much as they are and dealing with being away from your friends and family, it’s critical to your mental health to feel like you’re still surrounded by people that have your back.
“That’s one of the things that’s allowed us to get this far in our career. We are five band members who love each other and care about each other deeply, we know everything about each other and we are able to be there. That includes our crew as well, we have a lot of crew members that have been with us from the start, so we have this little core group of people looking out for each other,” says Sam.
“Every single person in our touring party has gone through something big over the last decade and might not have made it out the other side of it or continued having this career, or doing this as their career, if it wasn’t for the rest of the group helping them and pulling them through it. And that includes myself. The band has been really really important in my life.”
Having seen each person in the group go through hard times, Sam says it’s really important for them to get involved with organisations like Movember. Working in music opens you up to a lot of vulnerability, he says, not just your own and that of your band, but also in your DMs from fans, at live shows and through hearing what your music means to other people.
“I think as artists as well, we struggle quite a bit. I’m not saying we aren’t extremely fortunate to do something that we love for a living, but there is a huge amount of unknown. There isn’t a wage or a salary or anything, there’s not many sure things in our industry. So it is something we’ve had to contend with over the years.
“Artists have to be vulnerable, you do have to put yourself out there. To release something that you’re proud of you have to put your heart into it, but then you also have to just put it out there and you have to be exposed. Luckily for us, we’ve been able to make a living doing it and we have some really incredible fans that have supported us.”
For artists currently coming up, early in their careers, Sam says it’s important to get in early on taking care of your mental health. Streaming can be a really confronting metric to contend with, constantly feeling like the success of your art lives and dies on the numbers from a platform, but judging yourself and your work like that is never going to have a good outcome.
“If you can find the joy in doing just that, that’s the best place you can be. It’s a place I’ve struggled to get to, but if you can try and do just for yourself, to help you get through something, and remove yourself from what everything else thinks, that’s the dream. It’s a very hard place to get to.”
With the band and touring group being so close, they’ve gotten good at recognising what each person needs on tour. While in the early days, they did the typical rock and roll drinking and partying, they’re now more aware of the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep and keeping exhaustion at bay. Being overtired and missing your family when you’re away can be hard enough, says Sam, without adding in the late nights partying.
“It’s important to remember everyone is an individual with their own needs. Will, our bass player, he brings his goggles on tour with him so he can go and swim laps. For me sometimes I just need to go vintage shopping for half the day and be by myself, listen to a podcast, or stay in bed all day and sleep. Everyone needs to be able to take their own individual time to look after their mental health.”
Through work with organisations like Movember, The Rubens are hoping to be able to encourage other men to open up and be honest about their own mental health struggles. They’ve found ways to share their own feelings and be vulnerable and they want to encourage others to do the same and for their families and friends to help keep those lines of communication open and provide that important support network, like the band has done for each other.
It’s not just new music The Rubens have on the horizon this year. 2022 marked the inaugural ValleyWays festival, an event the band hosted in their hometown of Camden. In 2023, the festival is back with a ‘pretty sick’ lineup says Sam, which will be announced later this year.
Started as a way to support music in the Macarthur region, the band had always wanted to do their own festival, but just never had the chance to work on it. COVID brought about a lot of struggles for artists, but one of the benefits was the extra time allowed them to really sit down and plan how their festival would look.
Last year saw The Ruben’s joined by Australian music heavyweights Spiderbait, Skegss, Middle Kids, Slowly Slowly, and more. Highlighting local bands is really important too, says Sam, and they want to host local competitions to source opening acts. Being able to support the industry is a cause the band feel very passionate about, although now that the world has opened up again it’s getting harder and harder to source acts.
“It’s almost flipped since the pandemic, now it’s really hard to book artists, there’s so much live music. It’s great, people are spoilt for choice,” says Sam.
Aside from ValleyWays, the rest of the year hopefully looks fairly quiet for The Rubens as they reserve their energy for a new album in 2024 and the tours that follow.
“It’s about to get really busy. We’ve been in that sort of in-between time where the last record came out a few years ago, and we’ve been spending a lot of time writing and then doing a bit of touring, but we’re at that point now where we really are ready to get back out on the road,” Sam says.
“We might do a couple of shows here and there for the rest of the year, but we’re really focused on next year and getting around the world and promoting the new music.”