Ruby Coast

Ruby Coast
Together for just a year and a half, Aurora teenage friends Ruby Coast have yet to release a record, but already have labels fighting tooth and claw to sign their quirky indie pop. In an uncharacteristically calm moment at a downtown Toronto cafe, lead singer Justice McLellan and I sipped camomile tea and mulled over topics as diverse as stoned drummers and pesky record execs. (And yes, before you ask, that is his real name. Courtesy of parents "who like to party,” apparently.)

How has your sound evolved since Ruby Coast started out?
When we first started, we recorded an album that we never released. It was an exciting new thing, and we made it really quickly, but it was all over the place. We listened to it a lot though, and used it to develop more of a sound and see where we could go. Instead of those original heavy influences like Radiohead, we started getting into a lot of other music. Bands like Tokyo Police Club were a big influence on us — we really love the indie rock drums. We listened to a lot of Born Ruffians, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah too — bands with somewhat quirky singers.

It’s a bit of a coincidence that you are influenced by Tokyo Police Club. They come from the town just over from yours and now you are opening for them at these two shows. How did that come about?
It was really unreal. Dave Monks from TPC called us and asked if we wanted to play some dates with them, which was awesome. He’s been to a couple of our shows, and, weirdly, we are friends with their sisters, so that probably helped too. We actually played this talent show with them when we first started out a while back. I think we played a Radiohead song of something. It was a school thing.

You mention those particular indie rock drums. Was it difficult to find the right drummer?
It was really difficult to find somebody who could even stay in time! But the drummer we have now is awesome. Most of them would be stoned to shit when we tried them out and in parts of the song where the structure would change they’d look up and be like "what?”

How many songs have you got now?
We’ve been playing around nine or ten, but with these support slots for Tokyo Police Club we’ll probably only play eight. I’d rather do a hit-and-run style set. I’ve seen opening bands go on and on and, when you don’t know the music, it’s hard to take it all in. It’s been working for us to play shorter sets. People will ask for CDs and we give them a burned disc of a couple of songs and a piece of paper with some drawings on. People seem to like it — cute and kind of juvenile.

You’ve had a fair bit of interest from labels, any plans for a record?
We have a bunch of songs that we are organising and choosing carefully from for our EP, which we are putting together soon. Right now, we are deciding who we want to record with. A couple of the major labels were super-pushy, wanting us to do this or that — stuff which really isn’t our style. I went to some producer’s house and played some of my songs on the acoustic guitar. He was a bit of an asshole, totally trying to fuck with it. I wasn’t too impressed. It will probably be released on an indie.

Sounds like the typical horror story. Was he an old, sweaty guy in a suit with a bald head by any chance?
He did have a shiny bald head actually!

Why an EP, as opposed to a full-length?
We are trying to capture our hectic live shows. Our plan is to make a hit-and-run thing where you aren’t waiting for it to finish.

Your live shows have certainly been raucous. Didn’t a crowd-surfing fan kick off a ceiling fan at a recent Rancho Relaxo show?
That show was nuts. Crowd surfers were running on stage and unplugging our shit. We had to say a couple of things, but it didn’t stop, there were lots of bruises afterwards. All our shows have been wonderful, a lot of crazy kids going nuts. I’ve been to a lot of Toronto shows where there’s been a lot of standing around but our shows are about people dancing and having an awesome time.

Is that why you make music then — to have an awesome time?
Definitely, that’s a big part of it, being able to move to it. We are all really good friends, so we have the same interaction on stage that we have in our jam space. We don’t go out their trying to be super-cool, and let our faces do whatever the music does to them.

Where did the name come from?
It’s completely random. Ivory Coast was the name of a counter top I saw. It’s a country in Africa I think and Ruby just seemed more appropriate.

What about Justice? It can’t be your real name…
Yeah, it is. There’s no real story behind it and it’s a hard name to live up to.
What about dropping your last name altogether and just being Justice?
I don’t want to be a Cher or a Seal. Besides, there’s that band called Justice, and it might get confusing!

Do you write songs collectively?
I usually write them and I’ll have a pretty good idea of how I want it to sound in structure and stuff. I’ll bring it along and we’ll all start experimenting with it. People will add parts and they’ll give their opinions and we’ll work it out until we don’t think it can be any better.

Do you think the fact you’ve known each other since you were young is going to help you going forward?
For sure, I can read those guys like a book. Their facial expressions… nobody hides anything. I don’t like these images of ‘cool’ bands. That is not something we are really interested in.