If you’re interested in listening to new music from a band that might just be on the brink of hitting it big, then you’d better tune your headphones to Reuben and the Dark. This Calgary folk-harmony band comprises vocalist and guitarist Reuben Bullock, his brother Distance on the drums, guitarist Shea Alain and multi-instrumentalist Scott Munro. They’ll be releasing a live recording of songs on February 9 and a full-length album in spring or summer 2013 — all in collaboration with members of Luv Luv Luv Records (and in case you didn’t know, that’s the same label that signed Florence and the Machine).
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The story behind how Bullock connected with Luv Luv Luv Records is unexpected. A last minute flight and a bad breakup took Bullock to Mexico. One day, a song from his latest album Man Made Lakes was playing at a coffee shop when Florence and the Machine (FATM) manager Mairead Nash walked in. She then asked the coffee shop owner who was playing.
Bullock just so happened to be on the beach just down the road from the coffee shop. “I was physically there, which is the strange thing. FATM were coming into town with a bit of their entourage, and [Nash] said she really wants me to meet these guys, and that ‘I really want to book you a show.’ So me and Chris Hayden [drummer from FATM] practiced some songs together and played a show. It’s kind of funny — we got together, like, three times to rehearse. We were kind of pressured in winging it . . . you know, with a drummer that just finished playing on Letterman in New York.” They billed the show as Reuben and the Sling Shots.
There were certainly memorable things that happened in Mexico. Bullock and Hayden got tattoos on Christmas Day that say SSG, which is short for “Sling Shot Gang.” The name mainly came due to the fact that Bullock had a sling shot and bought one for Hayden, and the two carried them around wherever they went. He also stayed at a mansion-like home on the top of a mountain, where FATM was staying.“There was definitely a lot more stuff that happened in Mexico, but I don’t know how much of it I want to talk about.”
The funny thing is that Bullock heard of FATM just before he left on his trip. “It was funny — I was watching one of their videos just a day before I went. I was impressed, really impressed. It was funny that two days later I was staring at the drummer, who reminds me a lot of my brother.”
Now, Reuben and the Dark’s two releases set for next year will be done in collaboration with Hayden and Steven Carr, who is an independent sound engineer based out of London who’s also affiliated with Luv Luv Luv.
Bullock’s voice starts off smoothly on his band’s new single “Shoulder Blade.” It leads you through a sombre melody, mixed with a steady drum beat and acoustic guitar. The instrumentals are simple, but have you remembering the notes. Bullock mentions that the song was written in “a sketchy band hotel,” but the song is far from being sketchy, or amateur.
As for the name Ruben and the Dark, it just came naturally, explains Bullock. “We kind of just put a band together to do the CD-release show for the first solo album I did, which was Pulling up Arrows.” It only made sense, says Bullock, that their most recent release, Man Made Lakes, would fall under a name that includes the whole band. “I had released it as a solo, but when the band joined me at the [CD-release] show, it was so soon after that we decided to relaunch it under the band’s name.”