“I call them the Rib Cage as they are support for my lungs,” says singer Ruby Lane of her band with a rich laugh. “I’m the driving force, I crack the whip. They are all very obedient. It’s fantastic!”
Many bands have been carried by a bold and charismatic leading lady, and London-based alt-folk band Ruby is just that. The group formed in the summer of 2011 after Ruby posted adverts around her East London community for backing musicians to help her fulfill her particular vision. With Ruby “calling the shots”, the rest of the band (Aaron, Eddie, Ellie and Sam) add the additional layers to her songs – written by way of a mandolin, banjo or ukelele with little regard for conventional scoring.
Her vision, talent and, of course, the twice-weekly graft in rehearsal studios in Dalston saw them performing at a run of festivals just a year later including Secret Garden Party, Wilderness and Bestival. They even found time to turn out some tunes at Project O’s Acid Ramblers launch in August 2012. Ruby puts their busy schedule down to luck and some fortunate connections that got their demos put in front of the right people on the circuit.
The music of Ruby & The Rib Cage manages to transcend folkish worthiness for a more contemporary vision – without resorting to the sort of foppish Nick Drakisms that could make a band like this meld into sickly mediocrity.
As inspirations, Ruby professes a love for artsy songstresses like Annie Lennox, Florence Welch and Kate Bush – and has drawn complimentary comparisons with the last two thanks to a beautiful vocal resonance that verges on the operatic. “It’s just me having fun with it and being silly,” she says, playing it down. “People often ask if I had classical training [as a singer]. I just say, ‘No, I stood in front of the mirror with a hairbrush like everyone else!’”
“I’ve always made music and will always make music. I’d like to make some money some day but it doesn’t really matter.”
Ruby resides in the artistic hub that is Hoxton, living a “pauper’s life” on part-time nanny wages and “prays” that the band will eventually get their expenses covered for gigs.
While some musicians both wallow and thrive in the struggle, Ruby passes it off as irrelevant in her typically forthright manner: “I’ve always made music and will always make music. I’d like to make some money some day so I don’t have to live in crazy places, but as long as I can keep doing it, it doesn’t really matter.”