The Rubens have quickly grown into one of Australia’s premiere rock bands. The five-piece band from Menangle, NSW have been announced as one of the many huge Australian acts for Splendour in the Grass 2019. Coming fresh off their MTV Unplugged Melbourne performance, with the resulting album released today, live performance is once again the group’s priority. With just over two months until Splendour in the Grass 2019, the band is caught up in a wave of excitement. Making their fourth appearance at the festival, they are working tirelessly on creating a memorable set.
“The most exciting thing about a Splendour set is talking about the set and the production and what are we going to do that we haven’t done before. What can we do to kind of just blow people’s minds?” said keyboardist and backup vocalist Elliot Margin.
The Rubens are no strangers to festivals. From playing as the side act, to headliners and every spot on the set list in between, they know to expect the unexpected. Compared to the numerous touring concerts they have conducted, there isn’t as much control at festivals and an added element of chaos. With no soundcheck, The Rubens go out into a “hectic, crazy environment where anything can go wrong.”
As a result of the unpredictability, The Rubens are not only more excited, but also more nervous. But what is it about Splendour, which Elliot describes as “Australia’s Coachella”, that is so much more special. Is it the size of the crowds? The media hype? Or just the atmosphere? According to Elliot, it’s a combination of all three.
“I don’t know how it’s become so huge but it is. It’s THE festival that everyone talks about. It’s a special fun time and it’s a weekend away from everything and you get to see the best live music in Byron. if you’ve been there you understand it because it’s a beautiful festival site as well. It’s a one of a kind festival, something special that we don’t have in a lot of other places.”
The last time The Rubens played at Splendour in the Grass was in 2015. Since then, they have released an additional two more records, the latest being 2018’s LO LA RU, and won the 2015 triplej Hottest 100, with ‘Hoops’. They also believe their live show has gotten “monumentally better”, which has always been the focus for them. Not only is this a combination of playing bigger crowds and learning how to work the audience, but also their growing repertoire. Elliot revealed that, unlike on the LO LA RU tour, this set will cover tracks from their entire discography. With three albums to draw on, the set will feature no lulls, just their greatest hits.
According to Elliot, it is the special memories that the audience attaches to certain songs that make them special.
“There’s all these stories and moments attached to these songs now that they’ve been out for X amount of years. Obviously ‘Hoops’ is a huge milestone for us so when we play it live it really is a moment in the set because a lot of people recognise it. For people who listen to the Hottest 100 they remember where they were when it played. Then like new songs as well. ‘Million Man’ and ‘God Forgot’ has really been going off live, which we didn’t really expect. Then there’s other songs in the set like ‘Elvis’ from the first record, which a lot of people will come up to us and say they’ve walked down the aisle to, which is crazy. It’s nice to have little attachments to the songs when we’re playing them on stage and see then in the crowd how people connect with them.”
It is clear that a defining factor in the Splendour atmosphere is the crowd. The complete devotion to the festival experience, being three days away from work, university and normal life, explains why “people go all out for festivals, they leave nothing in the tank.”
However, since their last Splendour appearance, festivals have come under fire from the NSW Government for the abuse of drugs and alcohol from patrons. This has led to the Berejiklian Government’s so called “War on Festivals”. Overregulation, such as the new music festival license increasing organisers’ financial obligations to pay for security and police, has caused many festivals to either not run in 2019, like the 10th anniversary Psyfari show, or be suddenly cancelled, like the Mountain Sounds festival in February. While calling the stories of overdoses and drug related injury “tragic”, Elliot had some choice words about the situation.
“As an artist you want people to be as safe as possible at these events, but I think the policies, which have come about to save lives, are just ridiculous. I’m not politically minded or very aware of what the solution would be but I don’t think it’s the right way of doing it. All these festivals are promoting live music and culture. It’s been an amazing opportunity for art to be put on display, but if festivals are put up to these standards where they can’t actually survive anymore and it disappears, then you don’t have that culture anymore. Yes, a festival as a business is going to lose out and crumble but whatever community that festival is being put on in is going to suffer as well, which is wrong. It’s sad.”
The Rubens’ MTV Unplugged Album is available online and in-stores today. The band perform at Splendour in the Grass 2019 on Sunday, July 21. Tickets are available here: https://splendourinthegrass.com/tickets.