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California native Ryan McPhun formed The Ruby Suns when he moved to Auckland, New Zealand in 2004. In 2007, the band embarked on their first European tour which culminated in a later Australian tour with The Shins, as well a featured take-away show by Vincent Moon. In recent years, however, the band has taken on new members and a whole new light.
Leaving Auckland early this year, new The Ruby Suns members, drummer Alistair Deverick and keyboardist Bevan Smith, joined lead-singer McPhun to begin their tour all across Europe and North America to introduce their album Christopher, released January 29th this year.
The Ruby Suns began recording the album in 2010, and although some critics may disagree with the band’s newly pop-driven sound, but McPhun believes he has “hinted at that [change] for a long time and never properly tried it,” until now.
In studio, the Ruby Suns first play “In Real Life.” The song is incredibly characteristic of the album as a whole as McPhun pairs dark lyrical crooning with a dancing and teasing keyboard and drums. The track builds and falls with each chorus; McPhun’s lines, “I never wanted to life in real life” or “I’m not ready for the real life” each fling open the doors to heavy synth-pop.
McPhun has stated in many interviews that the album’s namesake is a fictional character, yet he admits in-studio that Christopher (as both a fictional character and album) lets the band be “more easily be honest in songs [when] it’s too scary to bear yourself to everyone.” As McPhun paused in this description, Deverick called out from behind his drum set, “well, wasn’t it inspired by a breakup?” McPhun laughed and agreed, saying that his “brain has been in a funny place” lately, which influenced a lot of what you hear on the album.
One of the album’s most divided tracks, “Boy” was played second. Lyrically, the song is one of McPhun’s most morose and yet the circus-synth keyboard and high rolling percussion seem to sprinkle glitter over everything you hear. “Where do you go when you get sad / do you hide in your room away from dad,” McPhun sings while the instrumentals tease in wild speed and glittered happiness.
The Ruby Suns finished with the album’s bestselling “Kingfisher Call Me,” a self-help ballad of eighties dissonance. Although the song initially seems like a pep-talk when McPhun sings, “dry your eyes, it’s what to do / don’t listen to anyone except for you,” by the end it feels much darker. Motivational lyric sections are broken apart by heavy, distorted instrumentals – almost as if the devil has taken hold of both your shoulders.
Although seemingly glossed in an eerie false happiness, McPhun stated that he created this album “to make some songs that are really straightforward.” The word ‘straightforward’ may be a bit of a leap to describe what Christopher is, but McPhun does present often silenced yet terrifyingly real topics to his listeners.