By Emilie Medland-Marchen
CALGARY – After tearing a chunk out of 2015 with their last album Ruff, Born Ruffians are back to it on their latest foot-stomping indie rock record, Uncle, Duke & The Chief. A sunny collection of folk rock shakers, the album brings the outfit closer to their roots with the return of drummer Steve Hamelin. The band recently hit the road to promote the record, embarking on a global tour that will start in North America before reaching the United Kingdom this summer.
A definitively Canadian band, the international success Born Ruffians have enjoyed is taken with a large slice of humble pie by vocalist Luke Lalonde.
“It’s not something you can do for a lot of Canadian bands — that you can actually tour for so long. And we’re lucky to be able to do it,” Lalonde says.
It’s also safe to say that, all of their extensive touring hasn’t diminished Born Ruffians love of small-town Ontario. The band now calls Toronto their home, but they still frequently look for inspiration outside of the big city. In fact, Lalonde started conceptualizing the new album in 2016, writing some parts in a converted chapel in Kincardine, Ontario.
That all-natural aesthetic resonates on Uncle, Duke & The Chief. Rather than focusing on trendy ‘80s-inspired synth and R & B sounds like many contemporaries, Born Ruffians prefer to make music the good old-fashioned way: from scratch.
“There’s a lot of lines in the sand that you can draw with rock bands and how you record your sound,” Lalonde says.
“You can break it down in two ways — you can record live off the floor, or take things one step at a time and build tracks. We just realized that our band sounds best when we do things live.”
In an age of interdisciplinary sampling and experimentation with genre, Born Ruffians pay homage to‘60s and ‘70s era of classic rock. It’s a formula that works well for them. Warm guitars sync perfectly with Lalonde’s raspy vocal range, punctuated by handclaps, tambourine chimes and full-hearted whistling. The record recalls 2008’s Red, Yellow & Blue. Released at the height of the folk revival, it occupied a sonic space shared by Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers and Fleet Foxes.
Welcoming Steve Hamelin (who took time away from the band after their first album to complete a degree) back into the fold infused the band with a contagious energy and self-confidence on display throughout their fifth studio album.
“It’s been really great having the three of us back together again,” Lalonde says.
“We started the band together when we were 16, so it’s very much a life for us now. Now we’re in our thirties and we’ve spent half of our lives doing this one thing. There’s a lot of nuance to it.”
Uncle, Duke & The Chief was released on February 16. The Born Ruffians will perform on April 29 at the Park Theatre (Winnipeg), on May 1 at the Starlite Room (Edmonton), and on May 2 at the Gateway (Calgary).Born Ruffians, Duke & the Chief, Gateway, indie rock, Park Theatre, Ruff, Starlite Room, Uncle