Forget everything you think you know about New Zealand's the Ruby Suns -- if that was much in the first place. Since 2004, Ryan McPhun has steered the Suns through a series of danceable and densely instrumented releases, but after a breakup with a bandmate a few years back, he was ready to reinvent. After some QT in Norway, and hooking up with producer Chris Coady (Beach House, Grizzly Bear), the result is Christopher, the Ruby Suns' fourth release -- and possibly best -- out on Sub Pop Records.
Gimme Noise caught up with McPhun before Friday's show at the Entry to figure out who this Christopher fella is, and to discover what it was like to meet Robyn.
Gimme Noise: Your hometown is in California. What's it like being back there?
Ryan McPhun: It's good; whenever we come to the States we always start or finish in Los Angeles because I went to school North of Ventura and my mother lives there- we always stay there.
I bet she appreciates that a lot.
Oh yeah. Very thankful.
What was the recording process for this album like in comparison to your past work?
It was more varied, I guess. It was made over a long period of time which is normal for me. I don't work quickly. Quite a few songs started on a laptop in Norway and were added to in my studio in Auckland when I got back. I had a little set-up at my Dad's place, north of Auckland in New Zealand. I did a lot of drums and vocals there. I worked at my friend's studio in Denmark. I did piano and drums there. It was kind of all over the place, really.
I was listening to the album and have heard that "Desert of Pop" is inspired by singer, Robyn. You recently met her...what was that interaction like?
It was weird. My friend opened for her at a festival. He gave me an extra backstage pass and we ended up in her backstage room where her band was getting ready. Robyn walked in. I didn't say much, but she was very nice. [The song] is not only about her. It was also me thinking about pop music and how much of it is painfully bad. But there is good stuff among the crap. Also, it's about how it's easy to form infatuations with singers when you're listening to their music. You become obsessed with songs and you think you know these people. It's a pretty childish thing. It's definitely happened to me a couple of times. I was super into Robyn's EP that came out in 2010 and it reminded me how you can get a little bit lost thinking you know the singer.
Gimme Noise: Christopher is the title of your new album. Who is Christopher?
Ryan: He's a fictional character. One of the themes in the album was some sort of youthful exuberance. In my case, it was coming from a crappy breakup. So being bummed out about that then coming out of it with some sort of optimism. To be cheesy, it's like a sense of rebirth.
Gimme Noise: I saw those themes reflected in your recent music video, "In Real Life." Could you walk me through the concept of that video?
Ryan: I really hate those performance shows. It's amazing how over-the-top is is. All those shows seem like parodies already. I thought it would be funny to make a parody of the parody.
Gimme Noise: You have been living in New Zealand for quite some time, what is the craziest question you have been asked about the country?
Ryan: Do you guys know Flight of the Conchords?
Gimme Noise: How do you respond to that?
Ryan: I say, "Uh... yes?" Then change the subject. Of course, they're amazing. In 2008, when Flight of the Conchords were just starting out or weren't the most popular thing about New Zealand, people would come up to us after shows, point, and say, "Lord of the Rings," because that's the only thing they could think of about New Zealand. Now they come up and point and say, "Flight of the Conchords." (Laughs). No, just teasing, America.
The Ruby Suns perform Friday, February 22, at the 7th Street Entry. Doors open at 8 pm. Click here.