Born Ruffians

Tell it like it is: Growing Up and the Importance of Communication

You already know Born Ruffians. The track Hummingbird from their previous album, Red, Yellow and Blue (2008) is instantly recognisable since it featured on Orange advertising campaigns and an episode of popular British drama Skins. Bassist, Mitch Derosier, is modest about this coup, musing that the successes, “were huge parts of us being able to tour the UK and gather a following. It came about because the director of the Skins episode liked the song and just asked us to be in the show.” You commonly find that when a song is so instantly catchy the follow-up album doesn’t live up to expectations, but if Say It is any­thing to go by, Born Ruffians has avoided the clutches of one-hit wonderland.

Things move quickly with Born Ruffians, and since we last caught up with drummer, Steve Hamelin, in June 2008, the band has been to the brink and back again, partly due to the pressures of the quickening pace. Following the intense Red, Yellow and Blue tour, Hamelin grew tired of the pressures and the close quarters and “decided he’d had enough.” Despite their confidence in the original three-piece line-up, both lead singer, Luke LaLonde, and Derosier had no hesitations about continuing the band with a replacement drummer until Hamelin was ready to return. Derosier explains: “He never left the writing aspect of the band, but we had a replacement when we were on the road. The unwavering, headstrong commitment comes from their earlier decision to leave university after the opportunity of a tour with Hot Chip arose. The Born Ruffians formed when they were 16, and had never experimented with different bands or line-ups until Hamelin’s temporary substitution, so it was a strange situation for them to welcome a new member into the band. Thankfully their commitment paid off and “it was a fortunate surprise when everything fell back into place during the recording of Say It.”

It seems fitting, then, that Say It (as the name suggests), comments on the need for communication and honesty. Derived from the band’s ethos, Derosier reveals that they “spend more time together than most families do, and when Steve decided to come back, we thought it would be a good idea to be honest with each other, and vocalise our problems instead of avoiding them.” The Ruffians’ earlier act of devotion to the band at the expense of other career paths makes this theme all the more important. Communication in all its forms is a strong feature throughout the album. When it comes to their sound, it is obvious that the Ruffian’s gather inspiration from The Strokes, with their lively, rhythmic riffs, coupled with Weezer-esque, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Born Ruffians retain a cheerful spring in their step, which sets them apart from their contemporaries. While some bands say that they’ve “grown up” with their second album, Derosier insists that each record is a stepping stone: “We’ve moved on two years, and similarly only aged two years, so we’re not going to start changing more than that just to make the record different.” The Ruffians are still in their early 20s and the inspiration for new material comes naturally: “These are the critical years in everyone’s lives, and there are bound to be big changes.” It is this philosophy that allows the band to produce such highly spirited songs. Derosier is optimistic that the next record will develop in the same vein: “I think the next album will be something different, in the writing or the recording, and that Say It and Red, Yellow and Blue will be paired together as ones that explored those earlier years.” The youthful sparkle in their eye and lyrics about chores and helping the family are what to make Born Ruffians the exciting, energetic, tour de force that continues to work so well. Born Ruffian’s Say It is out now on Warp Records.

Sophie Gordon