Henry and Ru Stansall, who combined their first names to create Ruen Brothers, are brothers from an industrial town in Northern England who make vintage, classic country-style rock inspired by their father’s record collection and old movies. Songs like “Summer Sun” and “White Lies” off of Point Dume are reminiscent of Johnny Cash or Roy Orbison. We had the opportunity to chat with them before their show at Middle East Downstairs on November 21st.

Could you talk about Scunthorpe, the town you two are from?

HS: Scunthorpe is an old steel town on the northeast coast of England. It’s an interesting town, and we owe a lot to it. We had the freedom growing up to make a lot of noise: band practicing, guitars, amps full volume in our parent’s kitchen. We didn’t get noise complaints. Also we had the freedom as well to start gigging in pubs and clubs from a very early age. Working men’s clubs. We’d literally go in and see landlords, ask them if we could do a gig, they’d tell us to sing something on the spot, and then they’d give the gig if they liked it or not. People were encouraging, supportive, and we were very lucky to have that experience growing up. So Scunthorpe did us good by that.

How did you two make the step from playing pubs in the industrial town of Scunthorpe to playing the American festival circuit?

RS: It was quite a long journey. We moved to London, we got a flat in London, and to pay for it every weekend we’d go back up north and continue playing these pub gigs. We moved out to London with the motive of getting our own music heard, the songs we were writing anyway. BBC Music Introducing over in the U.K. really helped with that. We uploaded our tracks to the BBC uploader. From there on, our music started getting played on the radio, on the national radio, on BBC Radio 1, and 2, and 6 and then some record labels got in touch and Universal Music got in touch, Republic Records, and that led to making a record and us going on tour and just getting visas and playing festivals.

HS: We’re very lucky. Our first ever time we visited America back in 2013, the very first place we went to was the chaos of South by Southwest. Austin, Texas was the first place we ever came to in America. We were like, “America is awesome.” After that, we ended up doing Coachella, ACL, just this year we did Bonaroo, and next year we’ll be doing festivals. We love it out here, and we love the festival circuit out here. We’re looking forward to playing many more, hopefully.

How do two brothers from North England end up creating classical country-style music?

HS: It came from growing up with our dad’s record collection. He had good music. It was Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Johnny Cash. The list goes on. So we had a good diet of music growing up and there was influences from country music, blues, rock n roll.

RS: We would cover a lot of the songs in our dad’s record collection, and it would always go down well. So when it came to writing music, I think we took on influence from all the songs we used to play every weekend at pubs and clubs.

Could you tell me more about what draws you to ’50s and ’60s music rather than music from the 2010s?

HS: That’s what our go-to stuff to listen to because that’s what we grew up listening to, that’s what we knew. We appreciate modern music today. There’s some fantastic artists out there at the moment. It was the ’50s and ’60s that made us fall in love with music and want to pursue a life making music.

RS: I believe also being guitar players, and going through the whole process of learning guitar from a young age, obviously you get shown by your teachers or your dad music appropriate for guitar. Eventually you want to move on to guitar solos and things which you don’t really hear that often nowadays, especially with a lot of pop music. So we had to go back and play Chuck Berry and figure out those songs. So I think all throughout our lives learning instruments really led to us writing the kind of songs we do and enjoying the kind of music which we do, simply because of the orientation of the instruments in our band.

A very common thing for people to say is “I listen to everything but country.” How would you respond to people who say that?

HS: A good song is a good song regardless of what genre it’s in. It can be a little ignorant to sort of be like “oh well I don’t listen to country music” and so forth. I don’t know why there is that stigma. There’s some great country music out there. It’s something that people should be able to enjoy. We love the old stuff like Charlie Feathers, Conway Twitty, all that stuff.

RS: I don’t think it’s a bad label to have. When I was young, briefly I wanted to be a cowboy. We’re kind of living that dream a little alongside the music, I suppose.

Could you speak more to how old films influence your music?

HS: We’re big fans of directors like Tarantino, Coen Brothers, Wim Wenders, David Lynch, the list goes on. We’re particularly inspired by visuals, so movies like Blue Velvet, like Pulp Fiction. Going back further, like film noir, all the old 40s and 50s movies as well. They’ve always got a sense of being haunting and often have great storylines. They all often share a similar look in that period. The soundtracks we heard on things like Pulp Fiction, like with the dancing scene with John Travolta and Uma Thurman, it was Chuck Berry in the background. That let us realize that our music has been taking inspiration from Chuck Berry. We fit appropriately on those songs so what we do when we write songs is we turn the sound of on the trailers and play our songs alongside, and that will allow us to gauge whether we’re on the right track to coherency between our songs.

Your latest single “Genevieve, Come Out Tonight” indicates a more modern sound. It sounds a little indie-pop to me. Do you have new influences, and are you trying to go in a new musical direction?

HS: We moved out to LA top of 2016 and a good friend of ours, Dana Nielsen, we were catching up and he said “hey guys, there’s some songs I’ve been working on, we should work on a song together” and he actually sent us a rough scratch of “Genevieve” so we were like “this is awesome, let’s work on this together.” It was just that it was a really great song, and we’re doing it with a good friend. It was a lot of fun. It came together really easy, we got some buddies to play in it as well. Chad Smith came in from the Chili Peppers and put some drums down. It just took shape from there. We weren’t trying to specifically go in any different direction from what we usually do, it just naturally went that way.

RS: It was a slightly different recording process, so “Summer Sun,” “Aces,” “Motor City,” and “White Lies”—those songs were recorded with Rick Rubin producing them, the same band throughout, we tracked it all live. The main focus of those recording days were two acoustic guitars, drums, bass, and the vocal line in a room. And “Genevieve” being recorded later than all those songs, that was a different producer. The initial building and structuring of the song was approached in a very different way. However, that being said, we are releasing our album which was produced by Rick Rubin. So it was all kind of sound a bit more like “Summer Sun” and like “Motor City” and “Aces” and all those other songs.

Speaking of collaboration, I read that you have written a song with The Weeknd. Will we see that anytime soon?

HS: Rick Rubin got in touch with Rupert and I. This was a few years ago. We were on tour at the time with George Ezra going around the US. We just had a MacBook on us and then basic recording stuff, and Abel was working on the Beauty Behind the Madness album and they sent us over a beat and they had a name for the song, but it was just a beat, a synth, and melody lines that Abel was singing. Rick said “hey can you guys help us with this and do you want to put your touch on this?” They basically just said you can do what you want. I was like, “Can we add in a chorus sections?” And Rubin’s just like, “Do whatever you want.” We did, and we sent it back, and I think they liked it. I know Abel tried to cut it at least two or three times, but I think the Beauty Behind the Madness at this point was already in full motion and he already had three number ones off it, and I don’t think any of the songs were used, so it might get used in the future. You never know with some of these things. The song can come out in a year from now, two years from now. Maybe it would be nice if we could put it out and have a feature if he’d be willing to do that.

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