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Born Ruffians - JUICE
Midland-born, Toronto-based indie rock band Born Ruffians—guitarist/vocalist Luke Lalonde, bassist Mitch DeRosier, and drummer Steve Hamelin—are proof that a group of friends with a tireless work ethic and fierce, grassroots commitment to their labour’s integrity and vision can still go a long, long way. 15 years into their career, the trio isn’t slowing; instead, they’re doubling down on those designations with JUICE, their 6th full-length record. It’s a hyper, earnest, and affecting collection of rock and roll songs, written and polished over a three-year span then sewn together into a cohesive and uniquely enjoyable experience. It’s Born Ruffians as they’ve always been: on their own terms, heads against the wind until their work is done.
"Here’s the thing: you get further as a band when all members embrace the strength of their creative relationship, keeping the external demands and pressures at bay” says Lalonde. “JUICE kind of reflects that as a title. We’re squeezing more out of this bond that we've forged over so many years.”
JUICE, due on April 3, 2020 via Yep Roc Records, embodies the band's longstanding history, exhuming Born Ruffians' early days in Toronto, while dissecting their relationships with that time and the memories they hold. “Was it all the way it seemed? How I wonder what you see/In that wavy haze,” Lalonde belts on the chorus.“ It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Lalonde explains with a grin. Those days were marked by equal doses of anxiety and excitement, living hand to mouth in a basement in downtown Toronto. “That anxiety will exist forever, I think,” says Hamelin. “But the more you take your life into your own hands, it alleviates some of that anxiety.”
JUICE evokes this simplicity: the desperate appreciation for, and necessity of, major key melodies and camaraderie that’s prompted when your back is against the wall. Heard on their own, each single is a neon bolt of energy and storytelling, but placed alongside and tumbling into one another from start to finish, they’re recontextualized as interlocking pieces in a puzzle.
Our collective 21st century spiritual malaise requires a salve, and JUICE is just that: a sweet, delectable nectar from a band that’s lived longer than most. It’s bright and punchy, from the brass section blasts opening the breathless rock and roll sprint of “I Fall In Love Every Night” to the playful throb of Hamelin’s drums on “Breathe.” The plucky gait of “Dedication” completes this opening trio with whistles and percussion blocks framing Lalonde’s sardonic reading of dogged devotion to capitalism, rhyming off would-be Extremely Online listicles: “12 ways to die in a fire, 10 ways to be consumed by desire, 8 things you didn’t know about the all-consuming shadow of this empire.”
This beginning three-track suite is mirrored on the back end by the final three songs, an adventure capped off with “Wavy Haze.” It’s a four-minute wander through Lalonde’s foggy recollections of the band’s beginning hemmed in by cotton-candy guitars and rumbling drums. “Miss the stuff you did not need: attention headaches, nicotine, alcohol, and some amphetamines,” Lalonde declares on the verse. It’s almost like taking stock, counting chips before the next bet. “There’s a bit of pride in what we’ve done, and looking back and looking forward all at the same time,” says DeRosier.
In the end, JUICE is a testament to where Born Ruffians have come from, and a bold, pulpy mission statement for the future. However weird and overwhelming things get, Born Ruffians close out the record by reminding us that they’re in this for the long haul, as Lalonde sings, “You see a light come shining from behind, reminding you that kid is always on your back.”
Support: Plants and Animals
On the day Plants and Animals recorded the title track to their new album, it was one of those increasingly rare moments when everyone seemed to be watching the same thing at the same time. A judge was on trial. So they watched too, on somebody’s laptop in the front room of the building where the recording studio is. It was addictive and galling.
When you walk into the studio itself, sound sucks down into nothing because the walls are carpeted and you’re reminded for a split second that a river of thoughts has been flowing through your mind your entire life. The din fades in again.
They came to try and solve an old song that they had written for their last album but couldn’t get right.Warren punched in a beat on an 808. He picked up a bass, Nic picked up a guitar and they played the changes over it.Woody put down a motorik beat. Adèle Trottier-Rivard was with them that day. She sang and tried out different shakers running through Nic’s guitar pedals while he manipulated them in real time with his right hand while holding their baby in his left. Things fell into place.They wrote the words on the spot.The judge snaked his way in.
Plants and Animals work on instinct.They’ve been playing together for 20 years, so they basically started as kids.They were a big part of the mid-’00s Montreal music renaissance, when you couldn’t walk through the neighbourhood at 4pm on a Tuesday without spilling your coffee on the fitted jeans of a who’s who.They ran around sweaty all night and blew bubbles from the roof over Parc Avenue when they finished their first album.They became known for a ferocious live show and still are.They have just finished their fifth album.They’re parents now, and have been so for long enough to move beyond euphoria into anxious realness and bigger love.The world is a different place than it used to be.
“The Jungle” starts with electronic drums that sound like insects at night. A whole universe comes alive in the dark. It’s beautiful, complex and unsettling. Systematic and chaotic.All instinct, no plan. Voices taunt,“yeah yeah yeah.”This tangled time in which we find ourselves is reflected back in shadows.
Every song is such a landscape.The first one grinds to a halt and you become a kid looking out a car window at the moon, wondering how it’s still on your tail as you speed past a steady blur of trees.You watch a house go up in a yellow strobe that echoes the disco weirdness of Giorgio Morodor, Donna Summer and David Bowie.You get pummelled by a rhythm then set free by a sudden change of scenery—the wind stops, clarity returns.You’re under a streetlight in Queens, soft-focus, slow motion, falling in love.You speak French now too, in case you didn’t already. Bienvenue.
These are personal experiences made in a volatile world, and they reflect that world right back at us, even by accident. “House on Fire,” came from Warren’s haunting feeling that a friend who was taking too many sleeping pills might forget to turn his stove off. It was written before Greta Thunberg made the expression a rallying cry.
There’s one song Nic sings to his teenage son who was dealing with climate change anxiety and drifting into uncharted independence.The band carries it out slowly together into a sweet blue horizon.Warren wrote the words to another shortly after losing his father. It’s about the things
we inherit not necessarily being the things we want. In a broader sense, that’s where a lot of people find themselves right now.
Making music is their collective way of processing it. Plants and Animals are Nicolas Basque, Warren Spicer and Matthew Woodley. The Jungle is their shortest album yet and almost certainly their boldest. Eight acts in a world full of noise. It comes out in October 2020.