By Joseph Hawkins
I’ve Been Thinking – the first EP from The Rubies – was released in January of 2019. This all-girl band from Provo features Aubrey Auclair on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Colette Macfarlane on lead guitar, keys, and backing vocals; Avery Davis on bass; and Esther Olsen on drums and percussion.
Prior to the formation of the band, Auclair and Mcfarlane had been writing music together with the goal of finding more members to perform with. After a year of writing and holding on to the hope of finding more female players, in the fall of 2017 they finally found Olsen and Davis with whom things immediately clicked. They have been together ever since, and continually strive to inspire others through their music and promote female success in the music industry.
The band has played local festivals and venues such as Kilby Court and Velour. Their music is a tasteful conglomerate of indie and pop-rock sounds, with a voice and style that remains uniquely theirs. There are those high moments that get your body moving & GRoooooving (best way I can describe the feeling I get) in time with the smack of the drums. I may be bobbing my head like a pigeon, but I promise it’s out of enjoyment! They also have the calculated musical builds that grab your earlobe and drag your attention through to when the choruses do eventually wash in. It’s a h*ck of a lot of fun.
So how about this short, 4 track EP? How does it stack up?
Frankly, it’s exactly what you want to see from a band with clear promise. Great execution for the most part, and for the moments where it may lack, there are easy solutions. Lemme break it down.
This thing just SOUNDS great. The drums smack me (nicely). The guitars feel like exactly the right choices for the songs, and for the most part are doing what they should to help fill out the songs. The bass does more than hold the groove: it amps the mood! Keys and other instrumental effects serve to walk us in the opposite direction of boredom.
The vocal performances really sell the music for me. A ton of dynamic range, depth, and character are apparent. Even the lyrics here don’t just sit idly by; breaking convention or rhyme at the right moments mean that sometimes the unsettling choice is the unexpected, yet wildly preferred choice.
Also, can I just say that the backup vocals are really tasteful? You never feel like you’ve got a choir singing back at you. While that does work in other contexts, it just wouldn’t fit the bill here, and they’re already on top of it. Even how they’re mixed is to add some further depth, but ultimately they do what they should: get out of the way of the main storyteller!
Every choice feels intentional. And that is exactly what brings me high hopes here for The Rubies.
But that isn’t to say this EP is perfect. Let me let you in on a widely known, but rarely believed fact: no music or song is perfect. Though as I mentioned before, my gripes here tend to have easy solutions. They come down to arrangement and vocal treatment.
The songs can suffer at times from their arrangement. In the big moments, it doesn’t necessarily feel like anything drastic is missing. It just feels like it got to the big moments too soon! If the measure of excitement sonically hits 10 in the first minute and a half, it makes it hard to go anywhere else for the rest of the song. So perhaps choosing key moments in verses, for example, to strip away some of the exciting elements and take it down to a 4 would give those times when everything comes crashing in the extra kick it needs to REALLY pound in the listener’s chest.
On the subject of vocal treatment, I’ll restate what I said previously. The vocal performances are killer here! But sometimes I felt like there wasn’t enough space to breathe and be alone with them. Pulling the vocal closer in the sonic space could do wonders in quieter moments. Or maybe if this is the big chorus of a song: layering the main vocal with a double or (if you’re feeling ambitious) adding doubles panned on both sides could be exactly what it needs for that main performance to stick out and have some weight.
Again though, both these complaints are hardly impossible to fix. And I’ve taken the liberty to listen to more recent material The Rubies have put out. Guess what? They seem to have already figured it out! So great job there.
The track that I kept coming back to throughout my multiple listens was “Leave Me Alone.” This song is such a vibe. The arrangement is the best of all 4 songs on the EP, showcasing a strong build to its highest moment. The vocal performance shows off Auclair’s vocal range and talent so well. The higher melody at the end is the cherry on top! And MAN. The sonic space we live in here is an atmosphere. Listen. If you want to get my attention, strings + verb = superb. *chef’s kiss*
Make sure to give The Rubies a listen on Spotify or wherever else you listen to music. They’ve consistently put out some stellar singles since this EP, so GET UP TO DATE. Give them a follow on Instagram and check out “Leave Me Alone” below.