Reuben Hollebon is somber and passionate. His songs resemble something that would play during the epic epic climax of a movie with a long pan across dark, English, cliffs and raging oceans. Imagine Ben Howard style vocals with support from heavy guitar and instrumentals.
We caught up with Reuben to talk about his creative process to creating such powerful tracks, as well as musical themes and life on the road.
Your music is tender and has an internal quality. I think that is a huge part of what makes it so unique; it is so clearly an extension of your personal experience. Do you feel a pressure to make it more commercial sounding?
Reuben Hollebon: I've overheard previously that it's a compromise between expression and communication. This rings a bell with me, and it has been mentioned by someone I trust that I tend to lean toward the expression. I don't make tracks more commercial; I attempt to make them more accessible. It's up to the individual listener to assess if I've managed this.
Is there an overarching theme in your music?
Without attempting to sound introverted, I've tried to push as much of myself into these songs as emotionally possible. Everyone goes through life, we all know of it, so I don't want to sum up an emotion for others. You've got to have an opinion, however, on some subjects I have a lot of conflict, and my solution is to offer a question. Within the LP there are a lot of social stories, and death does appear often but this is not voyeuristic, it's acknowledging my own confusion on the subject.
Between an older track like "Faces" and your new music, do you think there has been any major evolution to your sound?
The initial intent comes quicker, and songs are closer to complete prior to tracking. I still allow the space for alteration though. If the vocal and lyrics are not carrying the track, then most likely the key, tempo, or groove contain the error. The acoustic guitar still forms the major accompaniment, alongside a larger palette of sounds; rhodes, hammond, harmonium, drums, cello, and whatever is needed. Nothing is restricted - the rhythm and texture come first, and the choice of instrument reflects this.
Can you tell us about something surprising about life you learned while on the road?
It threw me somewhat when I realized how open I am to others and what they offer. Not much is needed to get by - the basics: clothes, food, sleep, music, friends. The mind can still be a hard fix but these things help. All of the best moments have come from chance. For example, on a train from Dresden to Vienna, I missed the announcement (in Czech) that the carriages would split and my section was going to Slovakia. The conductor found it amusing, however, at that moment I met a couple from Yorkshire, a few beers later and I was asleep on their floor in Bratislav. Since then, Ive been humbled by Jonny doing some of my earlier artwork and an outstanding remix of Skin Addict my first EP.