I recently caught up with Anglo-American duo Rue Royale, as they release their single “Set Out to Discover” in advance of their upcoming (September) album Remedies Ahead. The beauty of Brookln and Ruth Dekker’s talented husband-wife musical team lies in their strong lyrics and brilliant vocal harmonies.
Let’s start right back at the beginning. When did you guys get together as a band and how did it come about?
BROOKLN: We were already married for 3 years by the time we started making music together. We were living in Chicago. I had been playing in another band (Trevorside) that had just broken up. In fact, I think it might have been the very same night that I came home from a band meeting where we decided to dismantle the band that we wrote our first song together, ‘Even in the Darkness’ from a song-nugget I was already kicking around. It was a very natural thing. Our family had joked about us starting a band together but we had always thought it was a cheesy idea. When we wrote ‘Even in the Darkness’ we put it up on Myspace, I think the same night. We immediately were getting positive responses from friends and family who would easily tell us if they didn’t like it. It felt real and more importantly it felt good so we followed the thread.
RUTH: It had to happen that way, like an accidental happening. We never planned it and I don’t think anything would have happened if we had tried to “become” a band, it was a natural reaction musically and directionally to what was happening in our lives at the time. We were “whispery” folk because of the crazy neighbour upstairs who would yell at us for being loud.
Do you write most of your music together or separately?
BROOKLN: It’s an evolving process. Sometimes one of us writes more than the other of a particular song but we’re a team and always end up finishing the song together. We can both write songs without the other’s help but not Rue Royale songs. Those songs take both of us.
RUTH: It normally starts with Brookln pacing around playing guitar parts and murmuring vocal parts. I join in and we wrestle with it and each other finding meaning for the melodies. It is normally a very intense process.
What musical instruments do you play? (I’ve seen you play live a few times and can vouch for your musical abilities, so don’t be overly modest in explaining this one!)
BROOKLN: Well, for Rue Royale-live I play guitar, bass drum & vocals (may be playing with a bit more percussion and sampling soon)
RUTH: At this point I play keys, glockenspiel, percussion (shakers and snare drum) and a sampler. I do play the guitar albeit rustily at this point!
Who are some of your strongest musical influences?
BROOKLN: Our musical influences are always changing and we make a conscious effort to not mention other artists when we’re writing or producing in an effort to stay out of the way of what needs to happen or escape creatively. Saying that, I grew up on Gospel, rock and folk. I tend to listen to anything involving Mark Koselek, Thom Yorke or Fleetwood Mac members the most.
RUTH: I don’t know who actually influences my musical contributions to the band. I love the artists Brookln just mentioned but I also grew up listening to Brit-Pop and northern soul which I do hear in our music when I listen back. Electronic artists like Air really played a part in our journey at the beginning too. I really enjoy listening to jazz alot and can get stuck in that for months on end.
To describe your sound to people who haven’t heard you before, I’d call it “chilled, slightly melancholic indie singer-songwriter folk-pop sung in late night lamplight with unlimited coffee”. How do YOU describe your music, and how would you say it’s evolved since you released your self-titled debut LP in 2008?
BROOKLN: I don’t typically describe it. I normally cop-out of this question but for those who haven’t heard us I’d say we play harmony-heavy hypnotic, vocal, guitar and pulse driven songs of yearning. The changes to our music along the way the same as are those that life brings. Simple evolution. We still play our hearts out..
RUTH: I have recently quit coffee because it makes me crazy but I like your description! I think we have taken more risks as we have grown in confidence. I am playing a sampler right now which is a big leap from the early days but I can still hear the electronic influence even though it wasn’t played out during the first album.
Remedies Ahead is your third album, recorded with the help of Kickstarter. Can you tell me how that came about, and how it worked out for you?
BROOKLN: We had heard of Kickstarter before. We’d followed a couple of projects and saw how it worked. Basically, we couldn’t afford to make the album we wanted to make. We wanted to get into a studio with our buddy and co-producer Paul Pilot for a couple of weeks with nothing to do but make a record. Both of our previous albums were recorded in home studios where distraction is easy to come by. We had run a small pre-order to help raise the money to press our Guide to an Escape album in 2010 and it seemed to go really well so we thought we’d give kickstarter a chance. The Kickstarter campaign was a lot of work. I mean a lot of work. It’s not easy to send out enough reminders to family, friends and fans that they all see it and have enough chance to respond to it without annoying everyone who isn’t interested in responding or seeing these messages. But we got there and went over the minimum we were asking for. Our family, friends and fans are amazing.
You have a large following in Europe and the UK and your fans here have plenty of chances to see you play live. Do you have any future plans to tour in the US?
BROOKLN: It’s really tricky for us to get over to the States to tour because Ruth is English and we need a work permit for her to be able to perform (legally). We’re working on this but at the moment we don’t have any help Stateside. So it’s a bit tricky.
You tour extensively in Europe, but maintain a home in the UK. Where would you like to live, if you could choose anywhere, and why?
BROOKLN: Good question. We don’t know. It’s something we talk about a lot though! We have a dream of a small country house with a garden, a small orchard and studio but in what area/country we know not.
RUTH: We have spent so much time away from “home” and have friends all over the place it makes it hard to know where to be. We miss the seasons and the warmth of Chicago summers so wherever it will be it needs to be a little bit warmer!
You play a lot of European coffeehouses. Do you actually drink coffee?
BROOKLN: too much.
RUTH: argh! I am trying to quit…. I have tasted some incredible coffee and Brookln makes a mean cup in many forms, he is a true coffee fiend.
Watch the title song from their last album, Guide To an Escape:
Buy single Set Out to Discover