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Ruby Duff: In Her Own Words

Photo by Josh Aberman

Bandmates Ruby Duff and Melker Be Nilsson are completely in sync. Talking to both of them, you get the sense that they not only know who they are, musically or otherwise, but also each other just as well. The pair operate as a trio with Johan Thelin to form Ruby’s band, creating an end product of ethereal alternative pop. The way they talk about music shows a genuine love of creative exploration backed by real talent— it’s difficult to keep track of all the instruments Melker can play as he lists them. This musical innovation shows through the way that Ruby uses every creative outlet she can, recently even producing a short film for her single Party. This is a band heading towards new musical horizons.

How would you introduce your music to a new listener?

Ruby: I used to really struggle with this question because when I studied music I felt like mine never fit into a specific category, so my answer is a spin-off of what other people have told me. The genre is dreamy, cinematic, and alternative-pop. A lot of people say my voice resonates with Lana Del Ray or Kate Bush, but sonically it has elements of older music like Joni Mitchell or something like F.K.A. Twigs with her electronic stuff. It's really hard to pigeonhole it because I grew up with so many inspirations. It really plays into the eclectic sound I have and use.

Who are your musical influences?

Melker: I’m a massive Beatles fan, I've always been brainwashed into liking The Beatles and all 60s and 70s Rock music. I just sang Yellow Submarine at school and walked around singing Beatles songs that nobody knew because I'm from Sweden, so everyone else was singing these Swedish nursery rhymes all the time and I was a little weird four-year-old idolising these old men. In a way, when playing Ruby’s music you get the idea that she’s been brought up on old rock music too.

Ruby: That is the funny thing, the way we play you can hear a rock element and it is because my dad was really into ACDC, so that’s what I was brought up on, as well as my mum being really into Joni Mitchell. If those two had a lovechild, this would be it. Ever since I was a kid though, my influence was Judy Garland. Once at school I even lied about my Dad being in prison and said that I had to change my name to Dorothy. That was a really interesting time for my mum. However, since I've been singing since I was four, I did have singing lessons and a lot of the songs I was singing at that time were Judy Garland ones, so I would say she’s a pretty big inspiration of mine. Vocally and artistically her voice was very true and authentic, which I don't think you really get nowadays. What you’re brought up listening to has a huge impact on how you sound.

What are your desert island songs?

Melker: ‘A Day in the Life’ by The Beatles, ‘Blue Moon’ by Nina Simone, and… something by Timbuktu.

Ruby: ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’ by Aerosmith, ‘Video Games’ by Lana Del Ray, and ‘Downtown’ by Macklemore.

What was the inspiration and thought behind your short film ‘Party?’

Ruby: Well, in the first short film I did, the creative director made it really stripped back. It was very much natural, and with this song I wanted to do the opposite—I wanted something really stylistic, so you could see we were on a set. I mean ‘Party’ is a song that is fun but has a dark twist, it comes through in the music but I wanted it to come through visually. I wanted to show that moment where you're having a really fun time partying and then you suddenly hit a point where it's really dark. A lot of people do songs about the fun side of partying but I wanted to put a little twist on it which really comes through in the video. I worked with this creative director Alma Rosaz, it was her first debut film, and she brought these insane visuals to life like throwing up glitter.

Melker: You came to see me afterward and there was glitter all over you—in your hair and your drink.

Ruby: Yeah, it was not a good time getting it off. I've created a Ruby Duff world with my music and I wanted to show this physically on a set. I always call them ‘films’ because secretly I really hate music videos! They make me cringe a lot whereas short films can have actual plot and storylines.

Photo by Josh Aberman

How would you say your music has progressed over the last couple of years?

Ruby: It’s hard to say, my first release was actually something that I never intended to be released. It was like an interlude, so it really surprised me when the label chose to release that song first. I think one of the reasons they chose that was because it’s so stripped back so it’s a good introduction to my music which gets more wild and hectic. The progression hasn’t been that personal to me because I’ve always had a large number of songs, but for listeners, it’s more stylistic.

Would you say the band has progressed together as well?

Ruby: Yes, definitely, this is the progression… adding Melker!

Melker: Ruby had been working with Johan who is the pianist and wrote Party, and I ended up living with him. It was a fluke that I happened to bring an Electric Double Bass.

Ruby: It was just me as an artist, and then me and Johan when we wrote Party together. That was great, just acoustically gigging in London for two years. We really needed to adjust the band set-up to reflect the sound you hear on the track. Adding Melker and the instruments he played really helped us to be more creative live.

Melker: Obviously, I don’t know how it was before but coming in and playing with Ruby and Johan there’s so much you can do. As a trio, you’re suddenly a band instead of an artist. It just creates a completely different sound.

Photo by Josh Aberman

What is important to you when you’re performing?

Melker: Having fun!

Ruby: I used to say technicality. I always wanted my voice to be flawless technically. It was actually my mum who said when I was really sick for a headline show and was panicking, ‘you are not canceling! You just need to have fun!’ I’ve never canceled a show. It's so true; if people see you having fun on stage, they will too.

Melker: Yeah, it’s a weird set-up with the piano and Electric Double Bass and then a crazy guitar effects pedal. Doing that is already a kind of ‘wrong,’ so you have to create something fun out of it. Live shows are always going to be different from what you hear in the recordings. People enjoy live music because anything can happen. It’s a different experience and it changes every time.

What would you say were your best gigs?

Ruby: A show a few years ago. Johan and I were spotting this French artist called Coeur de Pirate with Live Nation. We had done a lot of small shows so we assumed it was going to be something similar. We were running late and went straight on as the support act for 800 people. It was packed, which was such a great surprise.

Melker: With Ruby, it was definitely the last show we did. On my own… it’s hard to say. I've done a lot in my hometown in Sweden which is something I always really enjoy doing.

What is your biggest gig horror story?

Melker: It’s weird but I find that the gigs always work out in the end. Even if you feel there are going to be so many horror stories at the moment, when you look back it’s always with a laugh and a smile.

Ruby: I’ve got one that you just couldn’t make up. Johan and I had a tour in Ireland. We were up at 3 am for our flight, which was then canceled. The show was that night. We had to hire a car to drive to Bristol, to get a flight to Belfast, to then get another hire car to Dublin. We arrived right as we were supposed to be going on stage! The venue had been hyped up so much to us. We had been told that Ed Sheeran played there. We got to this busy pub and thought, ‘great, where’s the setup?’ and they took us to this private room with three people. So we set up, and the guy on stage before us asked the MC to tune his guitar for him and then made up his song on the spot. We then realised it was actually an open mic night. It was a complete nightmare.

What is your plan for your music in the future?

Ruby: I’ve just signed with an American team called HIFI Labs who are working with my UK label, so this time next year I should be in a better position. I feel pretty confident about the support I have coming into the new year. I am hoping for a support act tour or a small-scale solo tour. Next year I really just want to tour and maybe see my music on a TV show or in an advert. We will definitely be releasing new music, we’re just not sure in what form yet!

To keep up with Ruby Duff check out her Instagram, Youtube, or Website.


Edited by Josh Aberman, Music Editor


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