born ruffians


I like reflecting sometimes on the past, and that's something age affords you.

Luke Lalonde of Born Ruffians

Hi Luke and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Musicology.

Firstly, congratulations on the new record. Every album tells its own tale, what is Uncle Duke & The Chief saying to the world?

I guess if every album tells its own tale than the album shall tell it for itself! It's about love, life, death, these trying times and how to work with each other and use love to combat evil.

This being your fifth album, was there a feeling of confidence and boldness in how you approached this record or just as demanding and challenging as any of your previous LP’s?

I think each album is challenging in its own unique way. The challenge, ideally, is really fun though. It's an enjoyable sort of challenge, or a multitude of small ones. Overall I would say this album was the easiest to make. There wasn't a lot of obstacles in its way and we were lucky to find Richard Swift who helped guide us and the music perfectly.

Each time we make an album I learn lessons and move forward with the knowledge gained from certain mistakes. But each album demands different sorts of manoeuvrability and adaptation depending on the material and where our heads are at. I think for the past few years we've had the conviction that we sound best when we're recorded as a band playing our songs without a ton of stuff in the way and without all of the wrinkles ironed out.

In what ways did you want to push the sonic boundaries and for that matter yourselves in writing and recording Uncle Duke & The Chief?

I don't know how much we wanted to push sonic boundaries. I don't really get turned on by slick production as much as I do from good songs. To me it's all about finding the right way to present the songs, not necessarily the best or most futuristic sounding way. I like innovative recordings but I don't very often hear that paired well with strong song writing, and I mean truly innovative studio work. I hear stuff that sounds like it's going for a slick, modern studio sound, but that has become boring to me. A lot of modern rock records go in the studio with the best intentions, using the studio to the max etc... But I find the end result is overwhelmingly a sanitized version of how that band likely sounds in real life.

Your single Forget Me talks features the beautifully poetic line “Someday a white light will come for you, to comfort you. While I’ll put my shades on, shield my eyes, that’s what I’ll do and I’ll face the light with you”. Can you elaborate on the background on this track and why you chose it for your lead single?

Thank you! I really like that line too. It came first and the rest of the song followed. I wrote Forget Me the day David Bowie died. A friend told me in the morning he had passed away and I wasn't really able to sit alone and think about it until the evening when I got to our rehearsal space. I listened to Hunky Dory, and Ziggy Stardust and cried. I found his death heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

It's funny because we all know the end is coming but only some of us are able to prepare for it (and I know for many that would be a terrible nightmare). Bowie knew, for a while, that he was dying. I think I found that inspiring, and also the feeling that we're all dying one day and we're all walking that same path together.

In the year leading up to writing this song my dad had gone through chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer. I hadn't dealt with that or written about it and I think some of my feelings towards it were coming through in this song too.

There is a really eclectic mix of songs on this record; ranging from the psychedelic swagger of Side Tracked, surfer rock Fade To Black and reverb rich Love Too Soon. Was there a clear destination in mind when formulating these tracks and how you wanted the album stylistically to unfold or a much more organic and free flowing creative process that naturally unfolded into what came to be Uncle Duke & The Chief?

I'd say a bit of both. The general vibes of the songs that make it to the finish line tends to be similar. I think they all share kindred inspirations. I remember saying I wanted to draw a line from Buddy Holly, to the Kinks (or Beatles/Stones etc...) to Television, Talking Heads, and the Pixies... or something like that (I have deeper, more cred-worthy inspos but those are the big guns). But in the end you just write the songs you're writing and try and make them as good as possible.

We went day to day in the studio and chose whatever song felt right. Then we ran out of time. That was it. We didn't feel like we needed more though. We felt like we were done, like we had done exactly what we went there to do even though we didn't know what the fuck it was going to be at the outset.

Working Together was half formed and worked out in the studio the day we recorded it. Richard sat in on piano and it brought the whole song together. I had this other song that I inserted into it as its bridge... I love, love, love stuff like that, and having the freedom to explore that kind of thing. I hate going into the studio with demos that you're just recreating. It needs to be creative and fun or else there's no point.

You have been steadily releasing new material for over 10 years now and during that time has the subject matter you draw upon been an honest reflection of how you have evolved as individuals and as musicians?

As the lyricist I try not to think too much about speaking for the band or on behalf of the band but I also am always craving feedback/validation of lyrics from the guys... I imagine if they hated them they'd tell me. We have a new song we're working on that's sort of about our early days in Toronto as a band. I like reflecting sometimes on the past, and that's something that age affords you. You can actually start to look back and contextualize parts of your life, figure them out and how they might indicate elements of who you are (or whatever that means).

I think I'm usually coming back to this well of existential angst or something. It's a place that's been in the pit of me since I was really little, maybe four or five years old. It's kind of a falling off, tumbling endless black void that pulls you down and down and down and you lose your breath when you think about it too much. Sort of like my "upside down" or "sunken place."

Meeting so many different musicians and interesting characters throughout the years, were there any words of wisdom spoken to you that really resonated with you and altered the way you approach your craft?

I owe everything to my dad. He sings and made a go of doing it professionally throughout his 20s. When I started getting more into guitar and learning songs he (kind of uncharacteristically) came to me and gave me direct advice. He told me he always wished he'd found his own creative voice. He was an incredible imitator and would slay covers (and is still a very talented vocalist). He told me to write songs about literally anything. To write bad songs about the rain, or whatever... but to just keep doing it, and doing it. Who knows what I'd be doing if he didn't have that conversation with me.

What does the rest of 2018 have install for Born Ruffians?

We're going to tour the hell out of this record, as much as possible and to as many places that will have us because we are sincerely very proud of it and just want people to hear it. We're always working on new stuff too so hopefully a follow up won't be too far behind.

Uncle Duke & The Chief Out Now via Paper Bag Records