THE RECOMMENDER: Caribou on Born Ruffians

18 Feb 2016

Electronic pioneer Dan Snaith on the long-lasting appeal of his Ontario brethren


The Recommender is a new regular RFB feature where we get established musical hotshots to tip their favourite, less well-known acts: an internet-based passing on of the baton, if you will.

This week we've got a biggie in the form of electronic mastermind Caribou aka Dan Snaith. Over a nearly 15-year career, Snaith his become one of the most critically acclaimed electronic artists of his generation, releasing under his main moniker as well as side projects Daphni and old alias Manitoba. He's won the Polaris Music Prize (Canada's answer to the Mercury), topped numerous end of year album charts and established himself as a live force to be reckoned with. Way back when, in his home town of Ontario, Snaith also met Born Ruffians - a very different beast to his own music but one that Snaith instantly connected with. The two artists have remained friends and fans and here Snaith explains why the group are more exciting than ever...



"I found out about Born Ruffians when a friend who moved to Toronto told me they had a couple songs on a Myspace page. She became their manager shortly afterwards and then we did a mammoth seven or eight week North American tour with them opening all the shows in 2007 before their debut album had even come out. I liked their music immediately but it was the long tour that really cemented our friendship and made me fall in love with their music. Whatever band you tour with, you tend to start getting their songs stuck in your heads but with Born Ruffians it was the most extreme - their songs are so melodic and hook-laden that I had them caught in my head for that entire time that we were touring together.

I'm trying to figure out how old the guys were when we first met. In any case, compared to a grandpa like me they were very young, so in the time I've known them they've gone through a big formative chunk of their lives and I think I can hear that in the music they make: a sense of confidence and experience. Looking back, I recognise the same thing in the music that I've made over the last 15 years - it's a useful and natural thing I think that your experience accumulates and affects the way your music sounds. At the time they started it was easier for them to get lumped in with other things that were perceived as similar in the music industry and now they've been doing it long enough they can stand on their own feet without reference to other music.

I think the songwriting in Born Ruffians songs is so strong that all of their albums have lots to offer so I don't think there's a wrong place to start. My personal experience of their music is so linked to the first album which were the songs they were playing when we toured together so those songs have a special resonance for me, but that's just to do with our friendship and how we met and got to know each other. I think someone coming at it from another perspective would probably see it differently.

Their chemistry onstage was the other thing that struck me when I first saw them live back then. The music is so stripped down and sparse at times but they conjure a really sense of catharsis out of something which at first seems deceptively simple. My favourite gig memory of theirs is actually not from the tour we did together but from a London show at Dingwalls I went to a few years later. Near the end of the show there was a stage invasion where the stage was just rammed full of people going crazy and a girl grabbed the mic from Luke and started singing the song. The look on Luke's face as this was happening was priceless but there was such a buzz in the room; it was amazing.

Born Ruffians are one of those bands that has something special - a special charisma about them. Like I said the songs are always so great but also there's so much personality in the way they are performed both on record and live. I went to see them play when they came to London again last year and it's still just the same; hearing Luke invert the melody to the song he's singing impromptu or the energy in the way they reinterpret the songs differently from night to night is thrilling. They've just got something special and exciting about them."


Born Ruffians play Moth Club with Cristobal and the Sea on March 31. Tickets and info here:

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