Ruby Bones is a newly formed indie party-pop band based out of New Jersey, featuring members from Twin Berlin and Boxed Wine. Their latest self-titled album (released in May) is a collection of upbeat and catchy songs that will have you dancing and singing along before you even realize it. There’s even a sexy saxophone appearance on a few of the tracks.
Chris of Ruby Bones took some time to chat with me about band names, his past projects, and generally just a lot of music. Read below:
Hi Chris! I want to start by staying that I was super excited to find out about Ruby Bones. I remember first listening to Boxed Wine a few years back and I was upset that there were no more releases.
Yeah, well that’s actually in the works – that was kind of just us getting older and drifting apart. We’re all good friends though, so it should be happening again soon. We probably won’t be playing any shows… unless people demand it.
I might demand it – if you come to the west coast ever.
Well actually a person just wrote us asking if we’d play Seattle (for Ruby Bones), and we were like “wow, someone actually cares about that.”
Have you ever played this far West before?
No, I haven’t – I have a few friends that have toured out in the west coast. But with all the bands I’ve been in, we’ve all had day jobs unfortunately, which has kind of prevented it. We’re hoping (as always) something might happen where we can actually go and play music for people. Maybe make money too.
That’s the dream.
Yeah, it seems to be impossible now unfortunately.
How did Ruby Bones start? Was that derived from Boxed Wine at all?
Sort of but not really. Boxed Wine was like a collaboration between myself and the guitarist, Ralph Nicastro. We were college roommates and we lived together for a few years after that. We decided that we both hated everything and loved Tokyo Police Club and a few different other indie rock bands but we’ve always skewed a little more dance-y. We wrote a bunch of songs and people seemed to like it. Nothing but happy about that. When that winded down and got less busy, I had all these songs – one of the things I do is continually write and keep track of everything I do. So I had all of these songs and just ended up needing to do something with them – and that’s where Ruby Bones started. I had a few friends that were down to play – there was FC who plays bass, James who plays drums – he was in a band called Twin Berlin from the Massachusetts/Boston area. I’d seen him play and thought that he fit the vibe.
Us three are kind of the core band and then we have our friend Denis Daley who plays saxophone. He played on the record which is really cool as well.
Is there any meaning behind the name Ruby Bones?
The band keeps telling me that I should come up with some sort of organ story but for the most part it was kind of two cool words that sound good together, and I like the imagery of it and the general vibe. Unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to think of something as clever and enjoyable like Boxed Wine.
Where did the Boxed Wine come from is that something that just came to you too?
We were arguing for months for what ended up being called Boxed Wine, and we could not figure it out. I was a big Hot Hot Heat fan – and I liked the idea of filling in “heat” with “wine”, and it would sound like something that would make people want to have a good time. I wanted to name the band Fine Fine Wine, but Brandon wanted to name it Wine Town. I still think that is the dumbest possible name for a band. Sounds like a Dave Matthews Band cover band.
Yeah, it sounds like some sort of band that I would not want to listen to.
Yeah when it comes time to name something – it’s really important. A name kind of says everything, and for Ruby Bones I wanted to do something that was a little folkier but also rock and roll. There are a few band names with the word “ruby” in it and tons of bands with the word “bones” so we just went with it. I like it because it sounds like a band that’s always existed. It’s not immediately disqualified as a silly band name. At the same time, there’s FIDLAR which is ridiculous, and even more ridiculous is Diarrhea Planet.
There’s different ways to approach naming a band/project, and I wanted to do something a little more serious with the name. What’s interesting about band names is that it doesn’t really matter once you actually have the name if you get anywhere. No one cares if there’s a band called Los Campacinos, Tokyo Police Club, or even Arcade Fire or Foo Fighters – like what the hell. And then there’s Arctic Monkeys – like imagine if you told someone you were listening to Arctic Monkeys without anyone knowing who they are – you would be laughed at.
Arctic Monkeys sounds kind of like a movie.
Or a video game.
When I first saw the album for Ruby Bones, the cover art looked like it fit with the name. Kind of weird when that happens – where did that artwork come from?
That artwork came from my really good friend Kelly Hartman. I had seen a similar image on a local zine cover and showed it to her. The image was a like fox made out of feathers and stuff and kind of exploding. The band name is a little folksy and the songs at the time were a little bit folksier so I figured going with a nature theme. She ended up choosing a raccoon, and I was like “great, you choose the one that steals garbage” but she stood by her decision and she ended up doing a really really really great job and we could not be happier with it.
It looks really nice. I wanted to kind of go back a bit and discuss your musical influences – you’ve listed a ton (all really great bands) – but is there any that really stood out, that kind of kickstarted you into making music?
In terms of actually making music – I had a friend in high school named Brian that played guitar, and I thought that was the coolest thing. I started playing because of him.
My father always played classic rock growing up and at some point he switched to electronic/techno from the 90’s? I do not know why – my entire childhood was listening to Led Zeppelin and The Who, and then one day it just switched to Darude’s Sandstorm and I couldn’t do it. That kind of forced me to find music that I was into – the first band that I had gotten into was The Strokes, right around the time that they were exploding, I think in 2002. Then there were some older garage-rock-revival bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I really liked AFI for about a year but I realized that they were way too angsty for me. At the time I was a teenager and wasn’t really someone that felt a lot of hatred towards the world or didn’t fit in – I was more happy-go-lucky. I ended up going towards bands that sounded fun and energetic – like Hot Hot Heat, Bristol Love, and all the other bands that Steve Bays has been in – Mounties, Fur Trade.
That’s a pretty big array of music, how were you finding all of these groups back then?
In college there was a site called DC++ – it was a way to steal everything. I was listening to everything from Arctic Monkeys to Wu Tang Clan. And all of the classic bands that were coming up at the time – like Spoon and Phantom Planet. Phantom Planet did the OC theme song “California Here We Come.” They have an interesting career path because they initially had these beatles-embedded classic pop songs that were almost ocean-y sounding. But then they switched and they have a really good self-titled record from 2004 that I could not recommend more. It was just the coolest thing ever and no one payed attention to it because everyone was just sick of the idea of garage rock, because The Strokes had blown up, along with Interpol and Franz Ferdinand. Phantom Planet fell into that category and they were called “copy-cats” – but for me, it was way cooler than their initial ocean-y sound.
Well during that time, the media was so restricted and there were just these big bands that everyone knew about but there are so many good ones that were really discovered later. It was harder to find them back then.
Yeah I can’t even imagine – there are so many great bands from the 80s and I want to say the 90s but I can’t really think of any from the 90s. In retrospect, I grew up in the 90s and everyone was always saying how cheesy and lame the 80s were. But now looking back on it especially with trends in music – it really does seem like the 80s were 20 times cooler than the 90s.
Oh yeah, for sure.
I mean, you had bands like The Smiths and Talking Heads. But when I think of the 90s, I think of Third Eye Blind, Goo Goo Dolls and Smashing Pumpkins, with all of their angst. The 90s had this weird toxic masculinity thing going on and everyone was coming off of hair metal and wanting to sound like Nirvana. But there was a bunch of cool stuff like Pavement and Guided By Voices that hung out in the background but never really got their do. And that’s where all of the indie rock that I listened to in the early 2000s came from.
Where are you from?
Well I’m from New Jersey and our drummer is originally from Delaware but now he lives in New Jersey. Our bassist was raised in South Africa and now he lives in Brooklyn. We didn’t really know where to say we were from and but we also didn’t want to be another Brooklyn band. To be honest, people shit on New Jersey all the time, but I really do call it home and it’s great. But everyone knows New Jersey for the Jersey Shore, and the fact that one part of the turnpike smells really really bad and it happens to be right when you enter New Jersey, so it makes it seem like the whole state smells terrible but it really doesn’t. I mean it’s pretty – there’s mountains and there’s beaches.
We play right now mostly in New Jersey and we have a show coming up October 4th at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, which is actually a bigger show. We’re starting to expand more and trying to get more people out.
Do you have a favorite venue that you’ve played or even a specific show that really stands out?
We’ve done maybe 10 shows so far over the last year – Studio Webster Hall was a fun experience. We were playing with our friends We’re Ghosts Now – who are actually releasing an EP tomorrow. They used to be called Cool Your Jets which I think is an amazing band name and I secretly want to steal it. It’s funny when they come out on stage and say “we are We’re Ghosts Now.”
Do you play with them a lot?
Yeah they are good friends of ours and they’re a bunch of crazy people. They actually live out on a horse rehabilitation farm in Central New Jersey and they have crazy house shows with hundreds of people and it’s fun. We’ve been able to play there a few times and it’s always a good, drunken time.
What is your favorite song that you’ve written with Ruby Bones?
I’m torn, I’d say “No Fun” from the new record, probably because it’s the most different. That song was me trying (and probably failing) to write a Spoon-sounding song, and we were able to add some sexy sax. At the same time, James (our drummer) really hates it because apparently at the beginning, it sounds slightly off-time to him. I still to this day have no idea what he’s talking about, but he’s sworn off playing or listening to that song ever, which I think is funny.
In terms of doing a good job personally, I really liked Heart of Darkness, which we released as a single. It’s probably the most easy to listen to, and people seemed to have responded really well to that one. Besides the fact it has nothing to do with the book Heart of Darkness or Apocalypse Now. Even though, we are all heading towards an apocalypse in this country.
Maybe that will be what you write about next.
Unfortunately, our drummer James has a rule that I’m not allowed to get political. So I’ll save that for hard-leaning-left Boxed Wine.
What would you say is your favorite album of all time?
Unfortunately, I think I’m going to go with something that other people would say, so I’m going to say Room On Fire by The Strokes. I will fight anyone that says Is This It is better – even though it’s like the second best album of all time.
Listen to Ruby Bones below:
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If you dig Ruby Bones, be sure to check out Chris’ other project, Boxed Wine:
THIS INTERVIEW WAS EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY