Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin
It hadn't been the most accommodating weather to be touring through the Midwestern summer when The Ruby Suns rolled through town. They'd just finished up a U.S. tour in Omaha the night before, leaving behind some of their personal belongings at the residence of Derek and Jamie Pressnall of Tilly and the Wall. They all may or may not have had a considerable number of drinks. It was sweltering outside and they were driving across the country in a rented RV, just Ryan McPhun and Amee Robinson - recently transformed into the two-piece that we had before us - hooking into campsite utilities and snapping up air conditioning when the opportunity presented itself.
They looked bushwhacked and at a point where, if given the option, they'd choose to perform all of their tasks barefoot and with as little clothing as could be decently approved. They were fried out and needing to just get home, the quickest way possible, a shortcut would have been nice. The draining hadn't completely taken its toll on the twosome and the songs that were performed over the course of an evening on the eve of their long flight home to New Zealand, carry with them a refreshing sparkle of time in the sunshine and time under a cooling glance of moonlight.
The band's Sub Pop debut album, Sea Lion, is full of the kind of humidity that makes the skin as slick as the underside of a banana peel as well as peppermint-y aftershave, giving McPhun the chance to make some odd dance songs that sound as if they were spun from African beats (those are just pieces from Phil Spector and Janet Jackson songs, among many, many other things) and betrothed to the Wayne Coyne school of eccentric lyrical thinking. His words seem to drip with the influence of cocktails, with a rim of salt around their rims. They are feathered with a sprig of spearmint leaning against the downside of a glass full of mojito, as well as all of the subsequent refills. They glide along like the blades of sleighs and skate over the surface like a wintery water bug, jutting and spinning, stretching the corners to sound like The Ronettes for brief patches and then melting them aggressively to accomplish something that sounds like a drugged out wall of sound orchestrated by tree fairies and flying saucers.
It's a Dude-like collage of leisurely, aloof eloquence, operating on the laidback idea that standing in the way of whatever's going to come out next is selfish and criminal. It's a going with the flow sensation with the elements meeting in the night, when everyone else is sleeping and leaving a cluttering of footprints behind. They pour them down their throats and let the energies run through them and out when they want to pass, letting the results exist as a quilt that comes from the various tails and tangents that McPhun lets himself dance with in the privacy of his own home. There are countless moments of surprise on Sea Lion, the likes of which are usually the ramifications of the kinds of meshings that come in hip-hop songs or the weird works of Panda Bear, Yeasayer and Animal Collective. They are tropical bursts of items being taped together for the greater mixture of gentle tones and buzzes.
It's a playful blend, one with the right balance of colors and temperaments and it's more than a small amount fun. It's almost as if some good Samaritans have taken some airplanes over the zoo and dropped samplers and bubble gum down to the animals, parachuting in slowly and landing with thuds. The crates are ripped open and utilized. The animals in the zoo have the pink gum blown out and splashed stickily across their faces and McPhun and Robinson are maybe leading them in the oddest dance party kegger that anyone could ever could throw together.