Interviews > rubyhorse
Dave Farrell of rubyhorse
all photos courtesy of

   Hailing originally from Cork City, Ireland, rubyhorse is on the verge of success. With their single 'Sparkle' shooting up the charts and their major label debut, Rise set to hit shelves, the sky is definitely the limit for rubyhorse. Dave was nice enough to give me a call while on his way to a gig with Dishwalla and nice enough to call back after we got disconnected. We talked about the origin of the band, moving from Ireland to Boston, and even their touring with Flickerstick. <SPECIAL THANKS go out to Chemical Fusion, a dedicated member of the rubyhorse message board for transcribing the massive bulk of this....much love goes out to you>

Scott Hamilton (SH): How and when did you decide to move the band from Cork City, Ireland to Boston?

Dave Farrell (DF): We were playing together since 14 years of age and we were based in Ireland and you know, we released an independent record over there, and we kinda achieved as much as we could achieve you know, in such a small country. It was decision time, pack in the bags and get on with our real lives or come to America and see what we could do with it, you know. So we just packed whatever we had, packed up our bags, grabbed up our instruments, and just jumped on a plane and came over, with $1,000 between 5 of us, and with no gigs, no combination and we didn't know anybody, you know, and we just took a complete leap of faith, you know? And um, we set out on this crazy adventure that we're still on, it was a great great time for us.

SH: How long ago did you come over?

DF: 97

SH: So it really wasn't that long ago. How did you go about picking Boston, and setting up there?

DF: It was just coincidence really, and we had to find a company willing to sponsor us for our visas, and we found this company, and they were based in Boston, you know, we had presumed that we'd have to go to New York or Los Angeles, because you know, that's where the industry was. And this company sponsored us, and the president of the company said, you know, come to Boston first just because you know we're based there, and the transition won't be that extreme, you know. And so we moved there, and through a friend of a friend of a friend this guy put us up for a week, and then we had to move out, and then we just went to went to parties with sleeping bags, you know random college parties and just crashed on floors, and played shows at parties and just got to know people and basically survived off of generosity and good will and generosity for the first 12 months we were there, you know. It was a crazy, crazy time because we had no security and had no idea what we were doing. But we just had this crazy dream, and people really picked up on it and admired it. People were willing to go out on a limb and look after us and we played as much as we could, and just got a good fan base going up there and then we won 3 Boston Music Awards, and things really blew up then, A lot of the industry started taking notice, and it snowballed from there.

SH: You were originally signed to a different label, what happened when you were dropped? Did you ever think about packing it in and giving up music? Have you been happy with how your new label, Island Def Jam, have handled the band and the publicity for Rise?

DF: Yeah we were signed to Interscope for a year and a half or year. We recorded a record, and right when we finished, there was a big merger with Interscope and Universal, and A & M, and Geffen, and Harry Nolan got fired, who was an instrumental in getting us signed got fired. He gave us the option of staying with the label and finding a new A&R person & finishing the record. So we just took the opportunity of taking the record and leaving. That's basically the news, so essentially they just put the record out independently on a very college industry level, you know. The distribution deal with Best Buy and they stocked the record for us, and we just jumped in the van and toured with any shows we could get on. We toured with everyone from Culture Club to Flickerstick, you know. Any shows we could do, we just traveled around the country a few times, and basically lived off the CD sales at shows, which thankfully were always very, very good, we always sold between 50 and 100 CDs a night. CDs are what helped us survive and to live for a year and a half.

Dave Farrell of rubyhorseWe sold a lot of records, and we put two songs on mp3[], and they were at #1 for a number of weeks on mp3[], and that received a lot of attention in the nidustry press. And then Island stepped in and was like, well, we wanna buy these records and we were like, ok. Cause we realized that we did it on our own for the best part of a year and a half, and we needed the resources of a big company just to market the record get the record to as many people as we wanted to hear it

SH: I've been hearing a lot on the radio lately, Sparkle is getting a lot of rotation down here on various stations…are you happy with how Island has been promoting you and helping you guys out?

DF: It's been amazing, as I was saying, we've been together for so long we know what it's like to go independent route, and we know how difficult it is. The major label, it's a means to an end if you work very hard for a band to survive, to get the music out there to meet new people and to create new waves as a band, and so far we have a say on how we market it, and what's done regarding our material, and they're very supportive of that. The thing with Island is, they merged with Def Jam, which is a rap label, and Def Jam was founded - it wasn't like a corporate machine, Def Jam was just set up by these guys who did everything different from corporate labels and they became hugely successful, and then they merged with Island, and they totally restructured Island. The way Island does business is different than a lot of other major labels, it's real teamwork, they got us street teams in different parts of the country and it's very dynamic… and they're really working their tails off for us at the moment, and we're getting a lot of love, and a lot of attention and as a result we're getting airplay all over the country. We were just driving to our show in Minneapolis on Tuesday night, and we were driving through Indianapolis, and on the radio, Sparkle comes on, and it was the first time we'd heard it, together as a band, and to hear that in the Midwest it was just the biggest prize for us. This has been a dream we've had for 14 years, and it's this great feeling of achievement, and we're not there yet, but we're on the right road, we think.

SH: How did your independent release How Far Have You Come? become Rise?

DF: That was a record we had recorded, and we were going to release that as it was. But it had been a year and a half, two years since we recorded it, and we had these new songs - Bitter, Live Through This, Sparkle, and the new version of Lavender that we just felt really strongly about. That we said well we have this record but lets bolster it and make it stronger. So we went and recorded those new songsThe thing is that we didn't want to record a new record because not enough people have heard How Far Have You Come?, And we thought by having these extra songs we could really make a terrific album. I think it's solid with the new songs.

SH: How was the decision made to change up Lavender. It definitely a more rock version, morel ike how it was played live.

DF: That's exactly how it evolved. When we wrote Lavender in the studio, it was more of a relaxing environment you know, and then playing it live it was just getting such a strong response. so the song evolved, became more of a rockier song, and it's one of the highlights of our set, so when we got back down with Jay, our producer, to record it, you know, we just said let's record Lavender and see what happens, let's do a really live thing, so it was pretty much recorded live, with just a few over dubs, and I think as you picked up on, we got that rock/live feel from it, and we just were just really happy with it, and thought that it give more balls to the record, and pick up the pace.

SH: Do you have any favorites on the disc?

DF: Teenage Distraction is one of my favorite songs, and Any Day Now is a song that means an awful lot to us and Live through this. those are mostly my personal favorites. Just because of what they say and what they mean to us. how other people pick up on it, especially Any Day Now People is another highlight of the set. The lyrics in the song, people seem to pick up on in any part of the country. When we can make the connection with someone, then you know you're doing something right.

SH: What is your writing process like?

Dave Farrell of rubyhorseDF: Well Decky, the bass player, is the lyric writer in the band… and he tends to think of the arrangement of the song and then the 5 of us all have very different music tastes and we work in a democracy, and everyone has to bring something to the table, and we kick it around until it evolves until everyone feels they're getting as much in return out of it., you know. The main thing for us is we love touring, and it's always been such an important part of this band, and in order for you to get up on stage every night and perform the same songs, you gotta believe in what you're performing, you know? Especially in this country, people are very musically educated and you can't fake. Whenever you try to fake in that environment, you get caught up very quickly, so you really have to really feel those songs to perform them honestly. The main way the writing process starts is getting to that place where you really believe in what you do and what you're playing, because until you get to that place, it's not going to come across live.

SH: What are your thoughts about MP3s and the use of file sharing technologies?

DF: It's a double edged sword… I love the idea; we've got all our music online so you can stream it, and you have the option of listening to it. I think it's very important…. it's always been in music… You know when I was a kid back in Ireland it was cassette tapes, you know? And that's how music got passed around by kids in schools and stuff. At the same time, you know, America is about the right to work and the rights were living. and I do believe as an artist that we deserve to make our living. Record companies take their percentage and were left with small money, you know. and I think there has to be a way to make new rules, but I don't think that it's there yet, you know. I use mp3's and we share our music on mp3's with a lot of people and it's been beneficial to us, but we never received any form of payment, because there was no payment at the time because we were an independent band, and we were totally relying on live shows to survive to put food on the table and to pay rent. I just think there has to be some kind of a way, you know, especially for independent artists, to get some form of a payment, however small to pay bills, its what we do for a living. you know, and you can't ???? and expect to get it for free. I just think there has to be a way for the consumer wins whether they can download the music freely and especially independent musicians, because we were there for a long time and we struggled, and came close many times to getting jobs, and if we had gotten jobs, I don't think we'd be where we are now. Like I said, it's a double edged sword.

SH: Who are some of the bands/artists you are listening to now?

DF: There's a band called Clinic, their very interesting The Dove's new record, and Oasis's new record… Pete Yorn is great, some new dance music from Europe, and like I said, everyone in the band has different musical tastes, and everyone is listening to so many different things but any music that's got a heart, that's got a soul to it, we'll listen to it, you know, if it will moves us.

SH: Who were/are some of your influences? Was there one person who made you want to be a singer?

DF: Growing up when I was a kid, like 12 years of age, I remember watching the Police for the first time, and The Cure, and thinking, jeez man I want some of that, and all those 80s bands, like (inaudible), as I said the Stones the Beatles, … all the great bands you know… The Stone Roses, Oasis, Primal Scream another great band you know, any band that believed in what they were singing about. That's one word I use a lot you know, honesty, I don't care what genre of music it is as long as it's honest and I can believe what I'm hearing. And all those bands always had something to say, and always performed (inaudible). You know what I mean.

SH: How did owen get the nickname of vemo?

DF: (laughs) It was a gift from a fan of ours while we were recording the record, and uh, you know what? I think we've (inaudible) since then. It was a gift, from a fan, it's his name spelled backwards… (phone is cutting out) …(inaudible) when you spell it backwards, you know? It's the mirror image of Owen.

SH:. Do you have any advise for people who are just starting bands of their own?

DF:First to play and just to tour as much as you can, because that's really where you learn the craft.

SH: Are their any bands that you would have loved to tour with either past or present?

DF: I would have loved to have toured with the Verve, and just because Richard Ashcroft is an amazing songwriter and they are just a fantastic band. I like Oasis, and I'd love to tour with Oasis, but then again it might be a big disappointment to meet those guys, so who knows.

SH: You mentioned Oasis, and the press always keep up the rumors that Liam and Noel are always fighting, is there anything like that that goes on in rubyhorse, do you guys conflict with each other, or…?

DF: Of course we do, it's going to happen with 5 people living in inside pockets all the time, 24/7. The thing is we've got - we all grew up together, from the age of 4 we've known each other for that long, and we all went to school together, so we've got the sense that it's very much like a family, so we regularly have huge fights, but it's all forgotten about 20 minutes later. But it's actually funny because especially when we came to America, and people started working with us up close, and they'd see us have a huge screaming match. and they'd be like, Jesus, these guys are splitting up and 5 minutes later it's all forgotten. We have that history and that connection and that family fighting

LiveSH: Have you ever had songs come out from fights, like you guys were just so pissed off

DF: Of COURSE! The friction has got to be heat and any time there is heat it will inspire something Yeah, I mean if someone gets off your back over something, we're very competitive people by nature. So, if we have a fight we can only improve ourselves even more.

SH: Did your sound change at all from your move to the United States?

DF: I feel the biggest change is… when we were in Ireland, you know, if we did one show a week, or one every two weeks, that was playing a lot, you know? Because of the size of the country if you play 20 shows a year, you're flooding the market. So I would think that the biggest influence that America has had is that you can tour here, and play 5 nights a week for 12 months, and still have only reached half the country, you know? So, the size of the country and the states has been a huge influence on us. Influences, I guess… I think that when you're in it, it's hard to see the wood from the tree, if you know what I mean. I think that if you would have listened to our music 5 years ago, it's vastly different, absolutely, and whether that's because we're better as a band or whether we've been influenced by America, I don't know if anyone quite has a finger on that. But I think any artist is always inspired by their surroundings, you know?

SH: The late George Harrison played slide guitar on "Punchdrunk." What was it like working with a legend?

DF:It was done over the phone, sending the tapes, and we talked once on the phone, and we received a gift afterwards, drew us a cartoon and a handwritten letter, saying he loved the song and that he's quite proud of his piece on it and as an accolade for us as a band. I don't think, god willing, that we win some award down the line or whatever, I don't think we will ever receive an accolade or accommodation that will top that

SH: Should we expect any videos from Rise?

DF: We're actually just in the process of contacting directors at the moment, I think yeah, we'll record it in the next 3 or 4 weeks.

SH: Should we expect to see you on TRL anytime soon?

DF: ahhh, we haven't even really thought about those kinds of things, you know, our biggest goal is to get this music to as many people as we can, because we believe once people hear this music, there are going to be people who get off on it, you know, and we talk about what we believe in, you know, so, we want this music out there, we want people to have the opportunity to make up their own minds about it. I'm not going to sell our souls to Satan or anything like that, but you know, whatever comes up, if it means a lot of people get to hear this music then we're certainly going to consider it you know? But it's something we haven't really thought about to be honest with you.

SH: The one thing every band deals with is the notion of "selling-out" once they sign with a label. Do you even care about that?

DF: You know, this goes back to what I said about -- Well, first of all you gotta give some credit to the listeners, you know? I mean, if I believe in what I'm saying and what we're singing and what we're playing has got integrity and has got soul, then I don't care what music people get to hear, you know? I mean, I saw Sheryl Crow on TRL 2 weeks ago, and I thought she was fantastic. And I don't think Sheryl Crow is selling out. I saw U2 on TRL and they one of those great bands that has lasted 3 decades, and I just think the music industry has changed a lot and especially commercialism & ads and what have you, but if it means that an artist can get their music to just give people a chance to make up their minds about it, then I don't think it's a bad thing at all, you know? I have to give the audience some credit, for having some kind of taste, musical taste and knowing whether they like it or not.

SH: Some fans have stated or wondered if fame was going to change that ever gonna happen?

DF: We were talking earlier about mp3s, and you know, if we don't have people coming to our shows, and we don't have people buying our records, well then we don't have a career. And then I'm flipping burgers somewhere. And God willing that we never change, and if I don't think these things then I would never change, and I don't think we will because that's just the nature of who we are and where we came from and just he hard things that we went through to get to where we want to be. I don't think that will ever change, you know? And I think that is what this band is, and why we're here, and that we've stayed away and pissed them off in a bigger way then we don't have anything. We've got respect for people, and people that respect us and that basically is life education for everyone.

SH:Is there any rivalry between yourselves and Flickerstick?

Signing their DealDF: No, there's no rivalry, there's nothing but friendship there. We were in a really bad situation, before you saw us playing with them last June, we were in a really tight position. We had no cash, and our visas were running out, we had no more money to renew the visas, and it looked like everything we had hoped and dreamed for was coming to an end, and we had to pack our bags and go back home. And then we were offered 2 or 3 dates with Flickerstick, and we did those dates, and then they offered us a couple of more dates, and then their record label wanted to put this new band on the bill/tour and kick us off, but Flickerstick stood up and said no, we want to keep rubyhorse on the bill, and they sacrificed a lot and put themselves on the line for us and they really dug us out of a hole, you know? Then we toured with them, and we even signed our record deals together, at Birdy's in Indianapolis and we've just become very dear friends. And even last night, when we were in Chicago, and Brandin Lea just happened to be in town and he came on stage for Punchdrunk, and you know, there's nothing but friendship and love between both bands. We drink hard and party hard together, and we have a great time together, and there's nothing but admiration and love for each other.

SH: Are you ready for the success that I think will come from Rise?

DF: It's just so exciting for us. It's just so, so exciting. It's funny, even last Saturday we met the Counting Crows and their tour manager said come hang out, and we got on the bus, and we're sitting there with the band and they didn't know anything about us, so we kinda told them our story and where we are at the moment, and they just got so passionate, they're like oh my god man, enjoy every moment of this because coming up is the most fun you know? When you hit, for a lot of bands it can be the start of a demise, start a lot of troubles and complications, and troubles with it. Its just part of it when you start seeing your break and the numbers pick up, you have to see some of these clubs Scott, it's incredible, you know, it's fucking electric

I want to thank Dave and everyone at the Island Def Jam for hooking this up. I can not wait for rubyhorse to tour so I can check out the band once again. They are wicked nice and wicked talented and Rise is exactly what they are going to do. Keep an eye on rubyhorse, we didn't name them as an artist to watch for nothin. Check out to see if rubyhorse is playing in your area!