Posted On 27 Jun 2016
“Gem” is the long-awaited debut album by the RUBY FRIEDMAN ORCHESTRA. It is a unique and powerfully affecting experiment in musical time travel.
“I wanted the songs to be primitive, ethereal, and nostalgic, so I used all of my influences from the turn of the 20th century to the modern era,” Friedman says. “The concept was, ‘What would it sound like if a band from 200 years in the future wanted to do music from the 20th century? What would that sound like?’ So that’s what it sounds like: It’s an orchestra from the future, doing the past.”
The album – the first by the widely admired Los Angeles-based Orchestra — was recorded at studios in Culver City, CA (by the production team Beethoven – Alex Elena and Topher Mohr), North Hollywood (by Nick Page), Calgary, Canada (by Peter Malick), and Brooklyn, NY (by Josh Valleau).
Friedman wrote or co-wrote nine of the album’s 10 tracks with Page, Valleau, Nathan Bliss, and Gregg Sutton. The remaining song, a haunting version of Darrell Scott’s “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” was used in the climactic episode on season five of the popular FX series “Justified.”
Gem was completed over the course of two years by the peripatetic Friedman. “The album is basically about three locations, three experiences – New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans,” she explains. “I was accumulating songs as I went along, and I was pretty wayward. Every time I moved, I felt like that was where I was going to stay, but I didn’t stay.”
By the time Gem was recorded, The RUBY FRIEDMAN ORCHESTRA had already attracted attention with bravura club performances at L.A. venues like the Troubadour, the Roxy, the Satellite, the Echo, and House of Blues. She garnered rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times (“POWERHOUSE”), Hits (“full-throttle talent”), and Kevin Bronson’s Buzzbands.la Website (“a thunder-and-lightning barrage of soul and nerves”). Subsequently, Friedman’s original song “Drowned” was used on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. Friedman acknowledges that since her first high-wattage performances with the earliest edition of her Orchestra and an initial stab at recording, the band’s music, and her songs, underwent a change.
Learn more about Ruby and her music in the following All Access interview:
How’s 2016 been treating you? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for you?
Hi , really well, actually! Highlights of 2015 artistically/professionally….many but performing at Jazzfest for the first time was probably the most meaningful. I did that again this year with my friends Tom McDermott and Aurora Nealand. Being part of the Clio-Award Winning campaign for Bloodborne was cool too. I was the featured singer in Hunt You Down.
Ultimately though, just being able to record in the best place on Earth- New Orleans and write songs and record in other great/different cities with the greatest musicians on the planet is pretty much as good as it gets.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
I was always a singer from earliest memory. My mother and all of her side of the family generations back are performers and artists so singing with her in the bathtub at age 1 or 2 is probably the earliest.
At the end of June, you will release your debut full-length album, “GEM.” How does that feel? How long did it take to put it together? What was it like recording it in New York, Calgary and LA?
Actually we’ve delayed the release by a month-ish, due to some cool things that have come up that make sense for us to wait, but it’s a great feeling to have completed something that you believe will alter people and make them happy and rich inside. The album is a long time coming but generally it took two-ish years for all the tracks to make it, though many more than what is on the album were recorded and there’s a whole other album practically ready to go. I was living in NYC when I wrote and recorded there and it was during Snowpocalypse…it was difficult logistically but when there’s only one place to be per day and you are your own boss, you’ve got it really good, even if it’s three below zero. I quit smoking during that time because it was not enjoyable to keep smoking in that weather, alone, since no one else was that desperate.
I’m curious to know more about your concept for “GEM.” It sounds like quite the experiment in musical time travel?
The concept actually came to me in regards to what would be look and sound of The Ruby Friedman Orchestra while sitting in an Intellectual History class at UCLA. We were studying the transcendentalists at the time, looking at the Parallel Laws of Margaret Fuller and I suddenly had this vision of an orchestra from the future trying to revive the past.
Ultimately they would get it a little wrong but right (Laughter) because in the far off future too many nuances that make each era’s musicality differ from the next era get kind of absorbed into at least 5 at a time, if not 100, in any mimetic sense :)… But it is done lovingly and romantically rather than historiographically. And I wanted there to be a hint of dystopia since we would be coming from the future…..
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who would you love to work with one day?
My most favorite artists are all dead, with some exceptions. But an artist can be a singer or a composer or both, so perhaps that not entirely true… Bob Dylan is alive (laughter) and also Jerry Lee Lewis, who I’m totally enamored with. I love PJ Harvey and The Alabama Shakes. Tom Waits. White Stripes and all the subsequent formations of Jack White. I like all the street bands in New Orleans and spend many hours listening to my New Orleanean friend Aurora Nealand’s The Royal Roses.
I would like to work with Jack White. But Bob Dylan would do. I know I’m missing some people . I got Howlin’ Wolf on right now so I’m in another zone…
Do you have any upcoming touring plans?
We have a loose plan but no dates yet. Still putting some pieces together.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message for your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
Passion, Perseverance, Hope, Meaning, Inspiration. I hope that some listeners appreciate the level of musicianship from real live people playing in real time. I hope they get a goose bumps or two.