Young Ruffians play with Police Club

Midland, Ont. band find success in the UK before finding success in their backyard

Interview: Born Ruffians @ The Ale House w/ Tokyo Police Club, Oct. 4

Things aren’t too shabby for the Born Ruffians. The three smalltown guys adopted Toronto as their
new home to pursue their teenage rock ’n’ roll dreams. Now, at the age of 20, the Born Ruffians have
a mini-UK tour under their belt, along with not one, but two label signings—XL Recordings (UK) and Warp Records (US). With the upcoming release of their six-song EP in October, the hyper rockpop act are just starting to feel the momentum.

“I had an epiphany the other day,” said drummer Steve Hamelin in an interview with the Journal.

“If I was still a 16-year-old kid in my hometown of Midland … potentially I would know who we
were just because of some of the shows we’ve done. And that was kind of a cool feeling. That’s when
I realized things were going well,” said Hamelin, recalling how he and his bandmates—Luke Lalonde
(singer/guitarist) and Mitch DeRosier (bassist)—used to scour Exclaim! Magazine in search of new Canadian rock bands to satisfy their music-geek needs.

Cousins Lalonde and DeRosier met Hamelin in high school. The process from high school cover and jamming-for-fun band to worthy songwriters in their own right, has seemed only natural to them.

“Me and Luke met because we both watched The Strokes on Saturday Night Live—their very first performance,” said Hamelin. “Being 15 was the right age to hear them. I think they affected people who were much older but I think if you were 15 they were the band at that moment … We got into them more and started learning their songs. I learned drums. I didn’t even play drums before then.”

The garage-rock revival of the early 2000s may have inspired the band to get together, but the Born
Ruffians as of late have drawn comparisons to new wave band Talking Heads.

Lalonde’s bouncy voice, which borders on squeaky, is somewhat reminiscent of Animal Collective’s vocals, only set to Modest Mouse-like melodies. The band’s danceable sound, though developed in Canada, has earned them more attention outside away from home.

“It’s weird, [Toronto] helped us a lot because we met a lot of the important people that made things happen for us in Toronto, except at the same time there hasn’t been a large amount of press or label interest or anything from Toronto or Canada … anything that has been really positive for us has happened in the States and the UK, especially the UK.
“We were in [the music magazine] NME when we were in the UK and that would have blown my mind if three years ago someone said ‘you are going to be in NME.’ And all this is before the record’s come out,” Hamelin said. The band spent two-and-a-half weeks this past summer touring London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. It was the band’s first time visiting Europe and they found themselves staying in the heart of London, playing as the supporting band on alreadysold-out bills.
“It was crazy. We went from playing The Bagel [a small, seedy venue in downtown Toronto] in February… and next thing we know we were playing venues in London. It has come out of nowhere I guess when I think about it.”

Hamelin seems to be in awe about the band’s progression. He says he doesn’t miss the days when they had to drive through snowstorms to get to shows in Toronto just to play to disinterested and sketchy audiences. “I still have no idea where we stand in name recognition or anything. But it doesn’t really matter, as long as people are coming to see us. It’s fun playing to people who have never heard you and you kind of have to win them over. It’s nice to maybe steal the show now and again for one particular person, maybe not the whole audience … it’s a good feeling. You just have to work for it.”

With the EP’s release imminent and a US tour scheduled, the Born Ruffians have their sights set on a
future full-length album for what they hope will be a spring recording session and summer release.

Hamelin said they intend to let the band’s sound evolve instinctively. “We’ve never actively tried to
force the sound … It’s kind of whatever comes out, especially with Luke. He writes the barebones of most of the songs, so unless he loses his mind and starts writing something completely different, it’s
going to be a natural progression and we hope to eventually blow somebody’s mind ...
“I guess I would have liked us if I was a kid, I think. The only way we validate our music is ‘Oh we
would like us, so just keep doing what we’re doing ‘cause we would like us’… and that’s a cliché thing to say… bands always say that, until you get there and oh you really have to be happy with what it is."

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