The Rubens was originally three brothers – Sam, Zaac and Elliot Margin – who were then joined by childhood friend Scott Baldwin. Hitting Australian radio in 2011, the band was signed by Ivy League Records. Their debut, self-titled album was recorded in the big apple, New York, and produced by the esteemed David Lahne in 2012.

The band earned two spots on the coveted Triple J Hottest 100 for their songs My Gun and The Best We Got. Now, The Rubens are back again, with the same producer – and Will Zeglis on bass – for their second album, Hoops.

I chatted to Sam Margin, about Splendour, their second album Hoops, and why you should never try to give yourself a nickname.


Where are you calling from?

I’m calling from Melbourne, I live in Melbourne now. We’re all from Sydney but I moved down here and the bassist moved down too. We live in different places, but it’s fine.

Are you getting ready for your Splendour in the Grass performance?

Yeah, we’ve been rehearsing heaps, we head up to Sydney for our rehearsals. I’m going up in a few days for a big rehearsal and then we have a couple media launch kind of shows in Sydney and Melbourne to preview the new record for people. Then heading up to Splendour, which will be really awesome.

Will you be performing songs from your new album at Splendour in the Grass? 

Yeah, the record won’t be out but we figured most fans would know all the songs that were on the radio…. there’s no harm throwing in the new ones they haven’t heard yet. A lot of them will be really good live, I think. Gives them a bit of a taster. Having two records to choose from now, should make it a really, really good set.

Which acts are you most excited to see?

Obviously Tama Impala, we’re big fans. Mark Ronson should be really fun as well. Pond, I love the psychedelic stuff. Florence I’m sure is amazing live but I haven’t really listened to her. Blur will be amazing too. There’s another Australian singer called Meg Mac, this girl who has an amazing voice. I’ve never seen her before, I’m pretty keen to see what she does.

Your sound has developed since the debut album, The Rubens. Hoops seems like an album destined to be played live, particularly songs Hallelujah, The Original and Hoops. Was the performance aspect that main drive for your shift?

Yeah, thanks. We wrote a lot of these songs thinking about the live setting. We’ve been playing them heaps and rehearsing them. I think they sound really good. I think that’ll be the next level for us and our performance, which is great because you make the record and you put it out and it’s done; the rest of it is playing it live. You have to make it enjoyable for yourself.

the rubens hoops

Aesthetically, the album cover for Hoops is really cool, what was the influence for it?

I designed that hand thing. We talked about having a cool symbol that people can reproduce in photos. The symbol of that hand is like a hoop. We got a designer on board, Gemma O’Brian helped develop that idea into something new, which is all the textures and the gold. We wanted something on this record… we can use as a theme across things like tour art, merchandising or whatever, even the colours that we like. For shows like Splendour where we can bring in our own lighting, we can do that black, gold and white theme. We can have it more thought out.

You’ll be opening for Imagine Dragons here in New Zealand before your big Australian Tour. Is this the first time NZ audiences will get to see The Rubens?

No, we supported the Black Keys at Vector Arena in Auckland and Wellington a couple of years ago. We also came over to play festivals before that… it was in these vineyards and had a waterslide. Rhythm and Vines! We’ve never been to the South Island before, so we’re excited to go down to Christchurch. Playing in front of huge crowds, brought by someone as huge as Imagine Dragons, which gives us an opportunity to convert some of [the fans].

We’re a great crowd here, so we’ll support you. 

I know you are. The highlight of the Black Keys tour was when we were about to go on stage, just as the support act, they put the house lights down at Vector Arena and the crowd just went mental. They knew we were the ones coming on stage and they had no idea who we were. I’d say five people out of 10,000 knew the band. Everyone was really, really into it; it was really cool.

Now I’ve just got a few quick band questions. First, what songs are you jamming to right now?

Obviously the new Tame Impala – Eventually is awesome. The new Kendrick Lamar is amazing. We all listen to a lot of hip hop. There’s a band out of Australia called Rolls Bayce, they’re kinda like that psychedelic sort of thing. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, your guys! Their new record is amazing.

In any group there’s always the messy one and the one who takes on the motherly role. Who in The Rubens is who?

I’d say the messy one is Zaac. There are three brothers and two mates in the band and Zaac is one of my brothers. Elliot, my other brother, is the mother. I’d say I’m the father.

You tag along and make puns? 

[laughs] Yeah, exactly. I think we all take on that role to be honest.

In the group, what are everyone’s nicknames?

We don’t really have any nicknames, Scott is just Scottie. The bassist, Will, was talking about all these different artists he likes, and all the artists that he liked had just one name. Like Sting. He’s like ‘I need one’, so we gave him one and he hates it. We call him The Hog. It’s hilarious. That’s what happens when you try give yourself a nickname.

Your favourite way to unwind after a tour?

After a tour, I’d say just sleeping in my own bed. Just going home and watching some movies and sleeping in my own bed. Just doing nothing.

Hoops is out now. Get it here and check out the guys’ website here.