BORN RUFFIANS EP release with EASY TIGER at Neutral (349A College), tonight (Thursday, October 19). $5. 416-926-1212. Rating: NNNNN
Justin Timberlake may be bringing sexy back to top-40 radio, but the Midland, Ontario-bred members of fast-rising trio Born Ruffians are doing an even better job of returning an erotic frisson to the notoriously asexual indie rock scene.
It's not that Luke LaLonde, Mitch DeRosier and Steve Hamelin are consciously trying to heat up dance floors packed with awkward, gangly types. Nor is the manic, hiccupping jangle of the tunes on their fab new self-titled EP particularly conducive to getting laid.
But the sad-sack frustration of LaLonde's desperate plea, "I need a girlfriend / I'm lonely / Someone to love me and fuck me" on lead track This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life and the virgin/whore dialectic on the character study I'm One Of Those Girls map out the tentative, semi-repressed sexual anxiety of the indie scene with humour and pathos.
"Are we bringing sexy back?" DeRosier laughs self-consciously. You can almost hear him blushing over the phone. "I don't know about that. I mean, I'd love to see more people dancing at shows. I saw Cadence Weapon opening for Islands a little while ago, and he kept trying to get people to 'do the indie rock,' which he demonstrated as standing still and nodding his head. Livelier crowds and shows are more fun to be part of and to play to.
"I suppose I'd like to think we're part of bringing energy back to Toronto shows," he continues, trying to subtly shift the subject. "Local crowds have a bad rep, but at every Henri Faberge & the Adorables show, every person is dancing and jumping and tackling. "
Lyricist/lead singer LaLonde allows that the Ruffians' songs are projections based on primal impulses close to his heart.
"I didn't intentionally mean things to sound so sexual. Any song I write about a girl is imaginary. They're usually girls I make up who are better " he catches himself, "or worse than any girl who'd exist in reality. I think I end up writing more about inferiority complexes. Or things that a lot of people can identify with, like being frustrated with not knowing how to find happiness."
Whether or not their jittery jouissance is intentional on a lyrical or sonic level (check out LaLonde's breathless vocal ejaculation or the deflating-balloon effect on I'm One Of Those Girls), Born Ruffians have managed to capture an infectious, volatile energy that evidently can't be contained in their adopted hometown of Toronto.
With less than two years of performing as a proper band behind them, the Ruffians have snagged improbable international deals. They're signed to XL in the UK and can boast the dubious honour of being one of the handful of pop/rock bands (like Grizzly Bear and Maximo Park) picked up by Warp Records in the label's attempt to evolve beyond being just a techno headquarters. They've even pulled off a European mini-tour before releasing a proper album - or venturing much further than Montreal on Canadian soil.
Not so bad for a group of three boys who hail from a small Ontario hamlet best known for winning a Communities In Bloom gardening championship.
"It's weird to think they're playing us on the radio over in the UK while we're here playing video games and having breakfast," says DeRosier. "The first time I'd ever been on a plane was to travel over there to play shows this summer."
DeRosier acknowledges that the Ruffians have to thank a bunch of fortuitous hookups - they're managed by Kieran "Four Tet" Hebden's sister Leila, who's well-connected in the UK, and impressed their future label reps with low-key festival showcase slots - for the fact that people are already talking about the barely 20-something trio before their first official release.
"It's weird to have advance-of-anything buzz before there's much to talk or write about at all in the press.
"We have a Pitchfork review coming this week," he continues somewhat apprehensively, brushing off the suggestion that the internerd assessment could be the Born Ruffians' big break.
"With Pitchfork it's not so much make-or-break as it is make. If you get a subpar Pitchfork review, people still make up their own minds. And if you get a stellar review, people will buy your album. I prefer this sort of article, where people just get to make their own decisions about us after reading our story."