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The Rebirth of Born Ruffians

How the Canadian rockers went back to their roots on their evocative fifth album, Uncle, Duke & the Chief

Over ten years ago, three best friends from Midland, Canada formed the indie rock band Born Ruffians. With their debut album Red, Yellow & Blue, the band solidified themselves as outlaws in the world of music. Their charm was in their ability to capture raw emotion through their music and translate it directly onto the stage. Over time, the band’s lineup changed with drummer Steve Hamelin returning to school, leaving behind frontman Luke Lalonde and bassist Mitch DeRosier.

On their fifth album, Uncle, Duke & the Chief, Born Ruffians have returned to their original three-piece lineup and according to Lalonde, it’s the best they’ve ever been. “A lot has changed in the last five years. We squashed some mild beef we might’ve had and when we got back together, the air had cleared and things are better than ever,” he says. The “mild beef,” Lalonde explains, was simply emotions built up over time and never addressed. “When you get into your 30s, it gets easier to feel certain shit,” he adds.

Uncle, Duke & the Chief album cover

Uncle, Duke & the Chief album cover

On Uncle, Duke & the Chief, the band’s united front is stronger than ever. Each song was recorded in a room simultaneously rather than isolating the guitar, drums and bass, as they’d done on previous albums. “We wanted it to feel warm and alive. It’s the first record we’ve done since our first one that we can play front-to-back as a three-piece,” Lalonde says proudly. With less production and more camaraderie, the sound on Born Ruffians new music is clearly reminiscent of their debut album, but Lalonde insists that it came from subconscious self-reflection. “We didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” he admits. “We really just wanted to embrace the band being a band and have the whole process be inclusive and collaborative. It’s a return to our band as it formed and how it’s evolved.”

In keeping with the band’s evolution, Lalonde says that as a songwriter, he tapped into new emotional vaults for the album. In particular, on “Forget Me,” Lalonde was inspired by the death of David Bowie, on the day of the artist’s passing. “[Bowie] was very important to me as a musician. I went into our rehearsal space, listened to Bowie records and just cried,” he says. The feelings of loss and death hit close to home for Lalonde as his father had been going through chemotherapy and radiation for lung cancer at the time. “There are certain things in your life you put on off-limits without realizing it. I hadn’t written about the potential loss of my dad and when it came out, it came out pretty fast.” The song is initially exudes a sad and melancholic vibe but upon further listening, an uplifting beauty is laced throughout. Lalonde encourages listeners to interpret the song however they like: “I like trying to evoke a feeling through connecting loose images in my mind. I don’t like guiding people too much,” he says on his ambiguous songwriting style.

With emotional honesty, some rock and roll influence and a return to their starting lineup, Born Ruffians offer a version of themselves on Uncle, Duke & the Chief that might be their most harmonized yet.

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