It was in 2012 that 5 boys from the small NSW country town of Menangle packed their bags and flew to New York City to record their debut album. They had 14 songs and only $20 per day to spend on food but Grammy winning producer, David Khan (Lana Del Rey, The Strokes) had heard their music and sent a personal invitation.  That was three years, a platinum album and numerous sold-out tours ago and now The Rubens are back with their sophomore record, Hoops and a tour just announced that hits Melbourne’s The Forum and the Westernport Hotel San Remo this October with Saskwatch and Winterbourne.

When they started writing songs for Hoops, they knew they had a lot to live up to. Their first record reached certified Platinum sales in Australia and its lead single ‘My Gun’ won the prestigious APRA Award for Best Rock Work and came in at #10 in triple j’s Hottest 100. They also won ‘Best Unearthed Artist’ and were nominated for ‘Best Album’ at triple j’s J Awards and received five ARIA Award Nominations.

While second albums can be daunting to most artists, The Rubens chose the path of action, says Sam Margin, lead singer:  “We started writing almost straight after the first album came out. We had 15 songs when we went in to record the first album, this time we had almost 40.”

The story of Hoops starts in September 2013 when Sam, Elliot, Zaac, Will and Scott packed their bags and headed from the country to the coast for an intensive song-writing sojourn. They would spend the next five months in their new songwriting sanctuary in Coledale on Sydney’s south coast and when they emerged, they had the makings of their second album.

After playing more than 120 shows on their first record, it’s no surprise that their live sound played a big role in how the band wrote their parts.

We put more of a focus on how the songs would work in a live setting for this album. We wanted to write songs that would be fun for us to play live as well as fun for our audience to listen and move to.”

When the band felt ready, they once again called on Kahne to begin work on production, this time, however, the band went in a little more experienced and with a more informed view of how they wanted things to work.

“We weren’t so green, we had a lot more confidence in ourselves and knew what it was we were trying to achieve in the studio. With that came a few clashes between us and David regarding differences of opinion, but never anything we couldn’t easily resolve between us. We managed to create something we’re all hugely proud of.” 

Once the album was recorded, the band decided it would be a good idea to call on fresh ears and brought in legendary producer Michael Brauer (Coldplay) to mix.

Lead single ‘Hallelujah’ is a straight up, stamp-your-feet, fist-pump-the-air, rock anthem, with a hook that will stay with you for days. As the thumping kick drum comes in, it’s no surprise this song started as just a beat:

“[Hallelujah] started out with programming a beat, putting it on loop and riffing on it until something decent came out of it. The song itself is about people trying to force their religious beliefs or ideas upon you, and in the process destroying what it is they’re plugging.”

While Kahne & Brauer were putting the final touches on the record, the boys returned home. Just as they were sure they had signed off on the finished album, title track ‘Hoops’ was written.

Perhaps the most surprising song on the record ‘Hoops’ is a song about “being in a relationship with someone who does damaging things to keep you close, when really their actions are pointless because you love them despite it all.”

Coming off more R&B than Rock N Roll ‘Hoops’ is prime example of just how diverse The Rubens sound is on this record.

The 11 tracks that make up Hoops showcase a band with a clear understanding of how to play to their strengths. Hoops is brimming with giant rock hooks, growling guitars, driving rhythms and that unmistakable, soul-drenched Sam Margin voice.

Rock ballad ‘Switchblade’ is The Rubens at their most soulful, with lyrics that tug at your heartstrings and a chorus that is impossible to not sing out loud. Though it’s one of the more heart-felt moments on the record, it’s funny to think that Sam barely remembers writing it at all:  “I wrote this song while really drunk. I woke up the next day and found it on my computer with no recollection of recording it.  I basically had to work out what the hell I was trying to say lyrically and when we wrote the chorus a few months later.”

The songs on Hoops are more assured and show a greater range of what The Rubens can do. The lyrics telling tales collected over two years spent on the road, fuelled by boozy late nights (‘The Night Is On My Side’, ‘Hold Me Back’) and that old chestnut, love (Hoops, Bitter End, Cut Me Loose).

With Hoops, The Rubens have shown that their previous success was not a fluke. Through months spent on the road and tucked away writing relentlessly and never taking themselves too seriously, it’s no wonder they’ve managed to write an album full of timeless rock tunes.

Hoops Out August 7!  The Rubens play The Forum on October 9th and the Westernport Hotel in San Remo on October 10th with Saskwatch and Winterbourne.