An Interview with Born Ruffians

Friday, 30th May 2008

Originally written for Culturedeluxe magazine.

Having signed to Warp Records on the strength of their debut self-titled EP, Born Ruffians released their debut LP 'Red Yellow and Blue' this week and shortly before taking to an Aberdeen stage we got the chance to catch up with bassist Mitch Derosier. Like his bandmates, Mitch is as far from a born ruffian as you get, he's a gentle Canadian gent but he's on the lookout for some sandpaper.

Jokingly I ask if he needs it for some Sonic Youth bass experimentalism during the show but its merely to sand down a groove on his bass and prevent him breaking a string tonight, something which beset him the previous night in Edinburgh but didn't seem to affect the show.

"Yeah, it went really well actually," he says. "About two years ago we played the same venue (Cabaret Voltaire) and it was one of our best shows ever when we played there. Last night went really well too, we really got a receptive crowd."

Given the age of the band and their relatively low profile (sure to get much bigger thanks to a recent Orange advertising campaign), it seems strange to be talking about shows from some time ago. Time which the band have filled touring with the likes of Hot Chip, The Hidden Cameras, Cadence Weapon and now their second tour with tonight's headliners Caribou.

"We toured with [Caribou] in the States last fall and that was really cool, we've known them for a little while before that so we're used to touring with them," Mitch continues. "We've done a bunch of other shows with Peter, Bjorn and John and Akron / Family - my favourite live band. So is it all downhill from here? Yes, I'm retiring next winter. Tonight we've got forty five minutes so we're going to try to play as much as possible from the album."

So, to the debut album and Mitch seems pretty happy with it.

"We were really happy with how the whole album turned out but two really stand out for me. 'Little Garcon' sounded really different to everything else on the album sonically and 'Foxes Mate For Life' was one where the recording turned out not only like we wanted it to soundwise but better than we could have expected. Luke made an instrumental demo on his computer using a crappy casio keyboard with programmed beats which created a really long intro. Then, at one point a beat came in which changed the song, so we tried to recreate that in a live setting. When we wrote it we thought it was one of our more different songs and then Luke decided to write the most meaningful and positive song he'd ever written - just straight-up, happy go-lucky lyrics. Life lessons from Luke who's 22. It's about how foxes actually have a partner which they continually mate with for life. Something we can all learn from? Yeah. I don't know if any other animals do. Seahorses do? Maybe some other creature like a crab, lobster or some other crustacean of some kind."

Much has been made of the Born Ruffians signing to Warp, the legendary Sheffield label best known for faceless bleep techno. Mitch has been asked many times before to defend the band's decision to join the roster of an unlikely label. Although, in today's musical climate, is it really all that unlikely?

"I think we share ideals," sighs Mitch. "We're trying to make interesting music. Also, they're entirely independent which is kinda rare these days. They've no other major label backing of any kind. For us to take any flack for it is expected but also strange as Warp approached us and it's them changing direction. I think it's silly to question it too much because they're still doing what they were doing back then, pushing boundaries and making people think, challenging music. But with bands like Grizzly Bear, Battles, us they're moving on - even Jamie Liddell's doing different stuff from what he used to do. Warp have their own Youtube channel and they uploaded our video to it and they had a couple of hundred subscribers of hardcore Warp fans who instantly go and check it out. Within the first day there were loads of negative comments which I laughed at. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives and it's been amazing to be on the label...like an honour roll, it really gets intimidating when you see the other artists."

Another advantage of being on Warp is the label's continued finger on the pulse of music promotion in a time where music TV and product placement is key. Earlier this year, the label managed to swing an appearance on influential Channel 4 youth drama Skins.

"We were asked to do it and we'd never heard of the show before. We played 'Hummingbird'. We watched the first episode or two and it was a lot better than any teen drama I'd seen on American TV. The episode we were on we filmed in New York and it was a fun day. Did we have to play it over and over again? Yeah, for all the different angles. People have been on our MySpace page saying they found us through Skins."

And are the band looking forward to playing in Aberdeen tonight?

"Well, we've never played here before so it should be interesting to see who shows up. I think I'm starting to get a cold all of a sudden, I was so close to being cold-free on this tour."

Oh dear, perhaps the result the dangers of living on the road? But, despite the sniffles, Mitch loves it,

"It's fun travelling in the same huge giant cube van. You can stand up straight in it as it has such a high roof. It's got a shelf which one person can lie on and everyone else sits staring at each other throughout the ride until its their turn to lie down."