Posted On 26 Jun 2018
Boston based artist Ruby Rose Fox is the perfect cultural messenger of our times. Her music is as sonically compelling as it is subversive, packed with lyrics that reflect and challenge our current political state, from #metoo, to the mass shooting crisis. Part actress, director, and writer, Fox has never shied away from new endeavors.
In 2017, Ruby was awarded two consecutive grants from The Boston Foundation, and also started “Gifted,” a program that offers children voice lessons who could not otherwise afford them. 2016 saw the release of her debut album Domestic which reached as high as #8 on the Billboard Heatseeker charts. The Boston Herald described Ruby Rose Fox as “artsy, edgy rock ‘n’ roll that lets her be Lou Reed and Nico at the same time… [and seems] to come from another scene, another world.” Another world indeed. With vocals characterized by a soulful and mesmerizingly low contralto, Ruby’s vocal aesthetic is an otherworldly take on modern indie music, and her lyrics indict the failures of modern America while empowering those that need it.
Not only does the sheer magnitude of her voice threaten to knock down the walls of any concert hall, but on her 2017 U.S. tour fans were blown away by the immediacy and intimacy of her voice. The feedback was overwhelming: “When I hear you live I feel your voice in my chest,” “Your voice shakes my body,” or “I got chills.” With these palpable reactions to her music in mind, Ruby came home with a mission not only to write a new record, but to figure out how to give her listeners the same physical sensations they had experienced in the live setting. This led her to an underground YouTube fascination with ASMR (Auditory Sensory Meridian Response). Using bi-naural recording microphones ASMR YouTubers whisper, tap, and crinkle paper to induce pleasurable electrical impulses that flow down the body’s meridians. With this in mind, Ruby started to make preparations for recording her sophomore album, an album with a message that she knew needed to be conveyed in a more deeply tactile and spiritual way.
Which brings us to 2018 and the masterful end result, Salt. Released everywhere on June 22nd, it is a subversive and utterly cinematic piece of experimental pop that features soundscapes built to accompany Fox’s wall shattering vocals. The sonically rich record is enhanced via ASMR microphones that were used during the recording—the same bi-naural recording microphones Ruby had discovered on YouTube—resulting in an ASMR sensitive body of emotional, political, and personal songs. Tracks that are meant to not only induce physical sensation and intimacy but to tell a cinematic story through the lens of a woman looking into Trump’s deeply divided America. “This new political landscape feels surreal, digital, and impersonal,” says Ruby. “I wanted it to feel like it was shaking inside your body. That it is personal and real. I think if we if felt more in our actual bodies we would be better citizens and probably better lovers.”
While recording Salt, Ruby—a former theater actress—approached each song like a scene in a play, often considering who the microphone was in relationship to the narrator of each song. For example, on the track “The Matador,” in which a bull sings to it’s retired Matador, Ruby circles the microphone to create the feeling of being approached by a moving narrator.
In his book, How Music Works, David Byrne believes bi-naural recordings create a sense of “sea sickness.” Ruby embraces this quality and even made one of her tracks “Boy Wonder, Come To Me To Survive The Internet Bully” intentionally sound like a wafting ship.
With such a unique approach to recording the album, it only makes sense that the listening experience would as rare as they come. “Most ASMR videos are meant to trigger soothing or pleasurable responses,” says Ruby. “I wanted to use the same technology to create soundscapes that were not only pleasurable but funny, scary, empowering, and maybe even sometimes uncomfortable.”
Learn more about Ruby Rose Fox in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today, Ruby! Where does this interview find you now? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
So, I am filling up on Wegmans veggie wontons before doing at least 4 run-throughs of my new one-woman show in my rehearsal space tonight!
Overall, how do you think 2018 has been treating you and your music career? What has been one goal that you have had this year and how close are you to reaching it?
Well, getting a grant, finishing the record, and writing, designing, and producing a one-woman show feels like a lot, but my bigger plan is to tour this new piece in theaters and art spaces this year. And when I wait for my knight-in-shining-agent to join my team, I’ll probably be spending the next month doing what they would do.
Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
My mom took me to a jazz club when she was pregnant. She said I went nuts. I don’t remember this. We were crazy evangelicals in the hills of Upstate NY, so my first experience of music was probably really creepy white people Christian Music. I do remember taping Roy Orbison off the radio and doing a rousing performance of Holy Boloney” (AKA Only The Lonely) for my very amused parents).
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? Has there been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
Well, when I was little there was a music business. Since streaming has destroyed revenue, the biggest surprise is that there is no record business. That was a bit of a shocker.
In all seriousness, I love the entrepreneurship aspect. I love the challenge. I love learning new things. I do wish there was more stability and money.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today in Boston? (GO RED SOX) What is the music scene like there these days? If you don’t think that it has affected you at all, why is that?
When I was a kid, I was in a ska band. The ska bands from different cities SOUNDED like their city. The Slackers sound like they are from NYC, Hepcat is smooth and chill and clearly from LA. I love the idea that a city can shape you and I love Boston. I think the biggest thing is that there is no entertainment industry here, so artists really write what is in their hearts because the commercial game feels too far away (despite the internet). Boston really made me a complicated, curious, rich, artist. I truly give most of my achievements to its
That all said, the “scene” is truly suffering in a way I have never seen. Rents are higher than ever, greedy developers are destroying our spaces (a man name Mr. John DiGiovanni to be specific about my own), venues are struggling, etc. I have a lot of ideas about how to fix it but the biggest thing is that rich people just need to pay their share of taxes.
Is Boston a dream city for the arts. Hell no. Is it my home, absolutely.
I find it interesting that sometimes musicians choose to go by something other than their own name so how did you come up with your name?
Ruby Rose Fox is legally my own name now. It was my grandmothers full name and I took it after I found out that she was unwillingly sentenced to a mental institution her entire life for bipolar. This was an era when another rich developer bought a bunch of institutional buildings and needed to make a profit for the state of NY and NJ. She never had a life, so I took on her name as a honor to a legacy that was never fulfilled.
Also, in many cultures changing your name from, I don’t know, “Little Twig” to “Killer Bear of the High Mountain” was the norm and transitioned you from one spiritual stage of life to the next. You didn’t get a new name because you graduated from High School, you got a new name because you transitioned into a new spiritual stage of life (usually there realm of the 4th chakra or heart center). And this is not just Native Americans, this is 100’s of cultures who intuitively celebrated transformation from animal nature to human. Once you change your name you realize how weird it was that you were ever attached to your name in the first place.
But most importantly, if you need to grow into a new phase of life or development and there’s no one to do it; celebrate your damn self.
Let’s talk about your latest single for “American Daddy.” First of all, how did the song come together? What was the inspiration for it?
It was a post-Trump reaction to feeling like socially we are truly going backwards. I think this song was more of a plea to a white father who just doesn’t get it.
Can you elaborate on your one-woman multi-media musical based on the “Salt” compositions that you performed on June 22nd?
The show is the entire album with 10 characters and 10 costume changes. I’m calling it an Opera because there is no speaking in it. It’s an exploration of the unconscious dystopians female archetypes in the Trump-Era.
How do you think that you have continued to grow and develop as an artist over the years and since you began writing music?
I just do the next right thing. For example, I booked a normal album release and I felt sick to my stomach. I just knew it wasn’t the right thing, so I turned it into a one-woman show. I just follow my heart and my gut and usually that means challenge, growth, and change.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? If you don’t think it is, why is that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
Definitely in reaction to my times. I think most musicians are doing the same.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all?
Of course. It all sucks. I usually want to just sit down with real people and connect. Luckily, that’s possible.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Right now some of my favorites are Andy Shauf and Aldous Harding. My longest and deepest inspiration is Leonard Cohen, Roy Orbison, Elvis, Nina Simone, and Patti Smith.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
Hm. Probably a Wim Wenders film.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I just want the music to make them feel more connect to a feeling than when they came in.
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