By Jasper Gape
In the wonderful world of Ruby Frost (born Jane de Jong) you are cordially invited into the headspace of one of NZ’s rising talent from pop to date pretty much in there with the likes of Zowie and Kimbra who we’ve interviewed on previous occasions and really dug their sound which is a strange anomaly as these are artists that are backed by majors with Ruby being signed to Universal.
We at Nerdy Frames pride ourselves as tastemakers of fantastic pop music and Ruby is certainly up there to break forth the glass ceiling and truly becoming a new discovery for those who chance their palette for the daring in new music, not bad for an artist whose daytime job at one point was on television on The Erin Simpson Show as their roving music reporter.
She has to her credit worked with Leno Lovecraft and Mt Eden as well as having worked with U.S. producer Chris Zane on her up and coming album VOLITION which is due for a 2012 release.
Coloring our world with sound and lyrics Ruby is truly a magnificent, harmonious singer/songwriter and we had to talk to her about her accolades to date, her thought processes and exclusive deets on her album as well as other things that are lined up for her in the new year.
Check it out!
Hey Ruby thanks for doing this interview with us at Nerdy Frames. So tell us how you got involved in making music and what were you doing previous to that?
I’ve actually always written songs… my parents have tapes of me chanting little things over beats when I was three. My Dad would loop his old drum machine, and leave the tape machine recording for me, and I’d spend afternoons making up nonsensical songs over the noise! And the songwriting just grew from there I guess. Alongside music I’ve done a few other things, like finishing high school, going to Uni (I have a Communications degree in Journalism), and then worked as the Music Reporter on The Erin Simpson Show for a year when I was still figuring out how to make my music work.
We have huge fanbase in America and I believe you did a couple of CMJ shows and played at the notorious Viper Room, tell us about that experience and did you manage to mangle in a following in America?
Yes, in late 2009 I won the MTV 42Unheard competition which won me and my band a free trip to play at CMJ in New York (and this is how I also got signed to Universal). We had such a great time over there. Our first show was at The Viper Room, and it felt pretty surreal playing there. The crowd was really receptive, and straight after we played a table of random Australians asked us to join them with a bottle of champagne! People were just really encouraging, and my drummer got so excited that (after a few more drinks) he decided to get ‘I Just Played The Viper Room’ tattooed on his leg at a tattoo parlour that was open 24-7 haha.
Then CMJ was cool, the first showcase we played there was packed out and we met some amazing bloggers and publicists who have helped us, but then our second showcase only attracted around 10 people. So I guess you never know what you’re going to get playing in a new place haha!
You have been adorned with some beautiful comparisons to artists like Bjork, Florence and the Machine and my personal favorite Kate Bush. I want to know what do think about the comparisons Ruby, do you find it complementary to compare you to those greats.
It’s always really encouraging being compared to amazing female artists. I am such a big fan of Bjork and Kate Bush, so if anyone can hear how they have inspired me then I think that is a cool thing.
It is funny though, I really want to establish a career as an original artist who can offer something different to those who have gone before me. Sometimes people compare you to an artist you’ve never even listened to before, or assume you’re similar to all the other ‘quirky female’ artists around which isn’t always the case…
When I had a listened to the music that you have put out there (I really liked it BTW), I sense an otherworldly feeling that you’re trying to convey with both the instrumentation and some of lyrics, what are your thoughts on that?
Absolutely, haha just wait until you hear my album!
For me, I find it easier to convey my deepest, darkest and most personal feelings in an abstract way. So my songwriting uses a lot of extended metaphors and illusions. I might write a song like ‘Odyssey’ which has lyrics about outer-space, but the song will always be about something deeper.
For instance, that song is about finding my creative voice again (after going through a hard time, and losing my confidence) and how that helped me feel like I was home again. It’s about my creative world, my personal ‘odyssey’ that I’d lost. Ruby Frost is a creative, conceptual character I made up (my real name is Jane!) to present these songs, so it does get a bit other-worldly. But the character is just a glittery extension of who I am.
With songwriting Ruby where do the ideas come from to some of your lyrics and with your early interest in poetry and writing short stories does that play into how you write your music?
I generally write songs when something has come up that I don’t want to speak about. Songwriting is the thing I do to process my thoughts, when I’m not sure what’s going on. So when I’m having trust issues with someone, or if I’m about to go through a break up, or if I’m feeling anxious about something, I’ll probably feel like I have to write. And definitely, I’ve always read a lot and enjoyed writing short stories so I think songwriting has just been a very natural thing for me to do. It’s become an important part of who I am.
Who are your influences and what albums/bands/acts/singers/etc did you listen to when you were young?
My family is very musical, and my parents always played MJ when I was young! So his songs are completely ingrained into my brain. And I also listened to a lot of bubble-gum pop when I first started buying music; stuff like the Spice Girls and S Club 7. When I got a bit older, that’s when I really started to get inspired listening to music… when I first bought Bjork albums, and Radiohead and TV On The Radio. It’s a mixed bag!
Its been said (probably from your bio) that you program your own beats, so my next question to you is what do you typically use in your studio and do you use any software to program those very beats?
At the moment I use ProTools 9, and I’m still figuring all that it can do! But at first I just took to Garageband, and then got into Logic… both are easy programs that allow you to get ideas down quickly, so you don’t have to lose momentum when inspiration strikes.
There have been some talks about your debut album and you working exclusively with U.S. producer Chris Zane. Could we perhaps get an exclusive as to how that is coming along and when it will be out?
The album has just been mastered! Which is the final stage of production, and it feels very surreal to have it done. I spent some time in New York with Chris in September, finishing off all the songs. It was such an amazing time, hearing these ratty ideas of mine spring to life and start to flourish.
He has an amazing collection of vintage synths, and I’m so happy with every single sound on the album! We’re planning to have it out early next year. I’m just finishing off some short stories that I’m writing for the album art, and working to get the artwork done now.
What’s in the pipeline for you Ruby for the remainder of the year and any plans for 2012?
I’m playing a few more shows, and then I’m going to spend a couple of weeks touring around NZ with Mt Eden (they’re opening for Six60 on a national tour). Mt Eden remixed my song ‘O That I Had’ last year, so I’m just going to hang out with them for the tour and jump up to sing that song with them each night. And then I play Rhythm & Vines for New Years!
2012… hmm I’m just trying to get lots of travel in, and get that album out, FINALLY.
Now before we finish our interview…would you like to end it on some wise words?
Well, the upcoming album is going to be called VOLITION so I guess I could explain that?! Volition is a song I wrote about standing up for yourself, being proud of who you are, and using your own ‘free will’ to live the life you want to live. Your volition is your ‘free will’… and that’s an important lesson I’ve learnt. Instead of letting life throw you around, or bad relationships define you, it’s so liberating when you stand up strongly and say ‘actually, I choose THIS instead’. Being a bit more aggressive is always a good thing, and not letting other people tell you who you are or what you should be.
And with that we thank you Ruby Frost