Chatting with The Ruby Suns’ Ryan McPhun

The Ruby Suns’ Ryan McPhun
Photo: Amee Robinson

You guys are at the very top of a 100-plus act bill for Las Vegas' Neon Reverb festival. Is that a strange position for your band to be in?

Yeah, it is kind of weird. We've always been a small band, profile-wise. We're usually just sort of bubbling under the surface (laughs). It's kind of cool, I guess. We're all definitely excited.

Your new album [Fight Softly] sounds a lot more electronic than the last one. Given how well received Sea Lion was, any temptation to stick closer to that sound?


The Ruby Suns play Neon Reverb
with Twin Brother, Autumn Owls, Finn Riggins and Strangers Family Band.
March 11, 9 p.m., $10.
Beauty Bar, 598-5965.
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Reviews have started to come in for the new album, and some of them are pretty scathing. So yeah, it would have been much easier to just make something similar to Sea Lion. But there were two years between the two albums, and that's a long time. I think the way my musical taste changes, I'm not sure I could ever make two albums that sound similar.

Pitchfork gave Sea Lion an 8.3 and awarded it the "Best New Music" tag. The new one got a 6.1. Are you concerned?

It's pretty funny, some Australian friends of mine have a band that I really like, but they've always struggled to get a good review on Pitchfork, and it annoys them. They're like, "We got a six on our new album, guess we're not gonna have more people at our shows or get a bus for this tour." I've never heard anybody reference another source like that, but I dunno, maybe it's true.

That's sort of a bad number, I guess. It makes me think ... are we gonna have some poorly attended shows on this tour, like we did on our last U.S. tour? It'll be kind of a bummer if we're kind of back to where we were two years ago.

Almost every Fight Softly review I've read has referenced Animal Collective. Fair or annoying?

It's funny, because I have always been a huge fan of their music, definitely. But for this album, I have really specific reference points for most of the songs, and none of them are Animal Collective. When they released their last album, I had already made half of Fight Softly. But hearing that album, it was way more pop than anything they'd done, and I knew that it was going to be bad [for us]. I mean, a lot of people are saying it's just a shitty ripoff of Animal Collective's last album, and that's really frustrating, obviously, because I put so much work into it, and there are so many subtle influences that are really interesting and that I was excited to show people. It's reminded me that I can't read reviews.

Still, I would think being on a label like Sub Pop brings a lot of listeners onboard.

Yeah, it definitely helps. It can kind of give you a base of acknowledgment; people will check stuff out because it's such a well-known label and has so much history and it's quite well-reputed.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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