Twentysomething siblings Rupert and Henry Stansall were playing pubs, clubs and garden fêtes in their native Lincolnshire from before they hit their teens, and even back then, their brand of Orbison-meets-Everlys rhythm and blues always seemed to have its spiritual home across the Atlantic. And since being invited to produce their debut album, All My Shades Of Blue, with legendary producer Rick Rubin, they’ve relocated to the USA. Time for us back home to sit up and listen, then…
You two sound like you were born to sing together. Do you come from a musical family?
Rupert Stansall: Kind of. Our dad, Dene, was involved in the punk scene back in the 70s. In fact, when Johnny Rotten left the Sex Pistols and they were filming The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle, he auditioned for the singer’s job. He’d encourage us to play guitar and we’d listen to the music he’d play at home.
How did you start playing so young?
Henry Stansall: I got a guitar for my 12th birthday and then all we wanted to do was be in a band together. We’d get up and play in clubs with these more established hometown acts – they’d let us do a couple of tunes.
“To go from a wardrobe in North London to Shangri-La in Malibu was quite a jump”
Your debut album, All My Shades Of Blue, has a real 50s/60s feel to it. How did that music first inspire you?
HS: We just always loved that era of music. I remember we had this 3-disc set of recordings from Sun studios that would get played to death. Then we’d get requests in clubs for songs by older artists and we’d learn them – and that stuff ended up seeping into our own songwriting.
You first moved over to America when Rick Rubin offered to produce you, on the basis of a demo you’d recorded in your bedsit. Was that a culture shock?
RS: Yeah – to go from recording in what was basically a wardrobe in north London to Shangri-La studios in Malibu [favoured by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and others – Ed] was quite a jump. It was an amazing setting. We originally sang all the songs to Rick acoustically when we sat in the garden there by the ocean, and that really exposed the harmonies and the acoustic guitar.
HS: When we first rehearsed Make The World Go Away [their beautifully Everlyesque take on the Eddy Arnold number], at first we sang it into our phones in the middle of the night in the Shangri-La garden, and it sounded so good, so the next day we started recording it.
The late Ian McLagan [of the Faces] played on your record – how did that come about?
HS: I knew Rick had worked with him before, so I said: ‘Hey man, do you think we could ask Ian McLagan to put a bit of honky tonk piano down on some songs?’ Ian had such great energy, with such great stories – and he put down some great stuff. You can hear him strongly on Motor City. Sadly, he didn’t get to hear the finished album, but I think it was actually the last album that he played on, so it feels like a real honour.
That was a couple of years ago now, and you’ve stayed out in the States ever since. How do you go down over there?
RS: Really well. They hear us and they can’t believe we talk with British accents!
HS: You can happily have a career here playing more roots-style Americana, whereas in England it’s harder to make a mark. We will still be back to play in the UK soon though – we’ll play anywhere – and to anyone – it’s all the other stuff that we find difficult!”
Ruen Brothers’ debut album All My Shades Of Blue is out now on Ramseur Records. For more info visit ruenbrothers.com ■