Born Ruffians front man talks new album, Kingston shows

Singer Luke Lalonde on return of band’s original lineup

Luke Lalonde performing in 2016.
Luke Lalonde performing in 2016.
Journal File Photo

When longtime drummer Steve Hamelin returned to play with Born Ruffians, it meant one thing for front man Luke Lalonde: “the band was back together.”

The reunited outfit is back in Kingston this Friday and Saturday to showcase their new album, Uncle, Duke & The Chief — the group’s first since Hamelin’s return. Named after the nicknames for the band members’ fathers, the new album sees the band honing in on their sound with reinvigorated energy after 2015’s Ruff.

“There was this feeling like the band was a cohesive unit, which I hadn’t felt in a while,” Lalonde said about the new album. “We started so young and I always associated the band with the three of us. Replacing Steve or replacing anyone in that band makes it feel not quite like [what] it originally started as.”

While the band replaced Hamelin with a good friend and enjoyed the writing process for Ruff, Lalonde said the year or so after its release saw him seriously questioning the purpose of Born Ruffians. 

For Lalonde, the band he and his friends started in high school over a decade ago seemed distant and its role was subject to doubt.

“Maybe Born Ruffians was this band that existed and maybe now it’s something else,” he said about the time period. 

According to Lalonde, Hamelin’s return reasserted the band’s confidence, clarifying what they stood for, what they wanted to do and how they were going to do it. That focus paved the way for this year’s release as the members sat down to work and incorporate the changes and challenges incumbent of a relatively long career in indie rock.

“The core of a loving relationship can actually endure all those changes,” Lalonde said. “There’s something about a certain kind of friendship or certain kind of relationship that can change with the time.”

“I’m getting very, very sentimental but I think our band and our friendship has that kind of strength and that kind of bond. A lot has changed but a lot has stayed the same.”

Lalonde added these kinds of long term friendships work their way into the songs as members intuitively know when to step in or aside, depending on where their music or bandmates go.  

The new album proves that cohesion with tightly written songs delivering emotional peaks and valleys with all the urgency of an experienced rock band.

Lalonde’s relationship with his father also contributed to this openness — his father had gone through cancer treatment and the resulting emotions similarly found their way onto the record.

“I sent him all the demos for this record. He listened to them over and over and over. He would send me reviews [saying] this was great. It was all positive. He was kind of the cheerleader for this record. We gave [it to] him … and he just put it on and drove around and listened to it all the time,” Lalonde said, adding that the rest of the band’s parents shared his father’s enthusiasm. 

These emotional aspects are filtered through Lalonde’s new certainty about Born Ruffians, making the music work both as a personal record and an infectiously energetic addition to their live show.

He said that while self-doubt can often creep in, a concentrated effort to get on stage and deliver on his goals for the band and translate that to the audience is a helpful guide.

“We definitely do talk about what can we have on stage, besides playing really hard and playing really well. We can’t afford a full light show every night. All you can do is try your best out there.”

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