Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Year of the Ruggs - EP Release - 7/23 - Sparklewood


The Ruggs’ genesis lies between Bonnaroo, Guitar Center and a Shark Attack.

Guitarist Ivan and bassist Rob’s somewhat-parallel high school paths finally intertwined after graduation when the former spotted the latter in a Fugazi t-shirt at a party; their complimentary instruments made jamming a no-brainer and they’ve been friends ever since (2005). In 2006, Ivan, 22 met Johnny, 21, at mega-music-fest, Bonnaroo, (in Manchester, TN, having been introduced by Rob, 25) – the two (Rob/Johnny) “tripped out” together according to Ivan and “sparks flew,” Johnny assured. From that night on, “the chemistry was there,” Johnny said as they regrouped back up in Detroit. “Two years later, that notion was actualized.”

Only they weren’t called the Ruggs – they were Oatmeal. And, yes, that was partly inspired by Rob’s year-long informal breakfast regiment. Now, to paint you a picture, while the Ruggs aren’t inspired by rug burns, a similar coarse sensibility could apply, their sound, like a rug-burn, with it’s distinctive scorch from an otherwise soft skimmed surface feels all too suitable a metaphor – as theirs spans the arch from tumbled stomp and howl garage punk to head-swimming delicate tone precision psychedelia to humble-shufflin high flying jangle-pop.

But, as “what-would-become”-Oatmeal started in 08, with their friend John (of Ann Arbor), the rough and the psychedelic were already there, but, mostly, it seemed to have a more palpable funk lean to it. Johnny eventually comes in for John on drums and the band changed their name.
“We’re not really opposed to playing certain songs that sound a certain way,” Rob says, shrugging over influences, “We wouldn’t be like: We can’t play this because this doesn’t sound like the Ruggs, or isn’t Ruggy-enough.”

“During the name change,” Johnny said, “there was no conscious effort or desire to change the direction of the music towards a different avenue, although, in retrospect, the music has kind of come into its own, stylistically, and in a kind of organic way since.”

Consulted separately, Ivan and Johnny both admit being moved by Beach Boys, Doors, contemporary crunch n punch garage pop bawlers like King Khan and Black Lips and the sweet, dizzying orchestral psyche of Swedens’ Dungen. Ivan adds Gustave Klimt, Marc Bolan and Roberto Bolano while Johnny also nods to Charles Mingus, Bo Diddley and Deerhoof.

Or, one could say, for The Ruggs, as aptly put by Ivan, “…colorful surreal garage punk artwork with heavy psychedelic and funk influences.” “Basically,” Johnny adds, “I just tell people we’re a rock band.”

So then, 05-07, Ivan and Rob play together in various bands with rotating line ups, classic bander adventures, and then Ivan moves to L.A. to attend Los Angeles Recording School (where he eventually gains the knowledge needed to set up/run his own home studio when he returns to Michigan in mid-08).

Ivan and Rob’s initial jammings and later their fluctuating collaborators, came to an end with Johnny’s equation solving addition. “The three of us have so much in common,” Ivan remarked, “from the music we listen to, to our senses of humor to our political standings, to our interests in science and deep space.” And Dungen. And Breakfast.

The best delineation offered for that name change, by all three, is that it subconsciously marked a “coming into our own” moment – as Johnny notes the strengthening songs and Ivan declares the honing of his recording skills. “We will always just be Ivan, Rob and Johnny.”

Those improving recording skills and sonic confidence builds have led to them getting “knees-deep in our first full length album, which is due out this October,” said Ivan. “It’s going to be a surreal mess of lo-fi raw beauty and power.”

Their first EP (Everybody’s Surfin or The Ruggs Go On A Diet, available this summer—with artwork by Ivan) offers some recordings with Brandon Wiard from Pretty Suite Recordings in the country store at Wiards Orchards.

From here, they want to plant themselves in Ivan’s space – each singing the praises of comfort, control and practicality of home recording: “it’s happening all around us and producing gems of lo-fi masterpieces,” Ivan surmises, who notes Ariel Pink and Daniel Johnston as personal influences. (Note: the guitarist has a solo album, Grass Grass Grass coming out soon.)

“So,” Ivan says, “there’s gonna be a release this month, and October and then work on our sophomore album. Besides that, we’ll just try to play really loud and make friends and get messed up and jam and fuck around.”

Indeed. The word mellow and laid back comes up twice in conversation with Rob, when describing all three members. “We don’t necessarily have an ego,” he said, “We don’t try to have small egos, at least, when it comes to the band, with each other. We really have nothing but love for each other.”

With these releases and new recordings, “The year of the Rugg,” is uttered by Rob, and I can’t help but jump on it.

~ More info - Ruggs

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