On his two solo albums, “Pulling Up Arrows” and “Man Made Lakes”, Calgary singer-songwriter, Reuben Bullock proved himself to be an authentic and compelling storyteller, with a gift for restrained anthems full of honesty and sweet sentimentality. If his solo music is akin to sitting around campfires with loved ones, sharing stories and acoustic sing-alongs, his work with Reuben and the Dark is like throwing your arms in the air and yelling your deepest aspirations from the top of a mountain. On their two albums, “Funeral Sky” and 2018’s “Arms of a Dream”, Reuben and the Dark have thrust themselves into the indie spotlight. We had the pleasure of chatting with front man and singer Reuben Bullock about the band’s latest album, the songwriting process, and the importance of performing live.
Reuben and the Dark recently released and are touring in support of their outstanding new album, “Arms of a Dream”. On the album, the band comes forth with a confident sound, full of grandeur and stirring emotion. While writing the album, Bullock said he was “flushing things out, all the things I was going through at the time. I tried to open up communication between the head and the heart. Between dream states and consciousness.” He went on to say that, as a person and an artist, he is still learning a lot of things about himself, and that he spends more time listening than talking these days. Listening and learning are, in a way, at the center of most of the songs on the album. Whether it’s the beautifully-impassioned, “Wildlife”, the driving and expansive “Dreaming”, or the arresting closer, “Realize”, the album is deeply contemplative and introspective. This isn’t surprising, Bullock clearly derives a great deal of his inspiration from quiet observation, when asked about where the songs come from he replied “Just life really. I’m always watching things… people, human nature, nature. But it all ends up in my songs. Love, pain, traveling, wondering, wandering. I try to be a student of all the things I experience and just hope I can put some meaningful things in these songs.”
Reuben and the Dark, however, is not just a direct extension of Bullock’s solo career. In describing the difference between solo and band work, Bullock says that “it’s become less about me and more about the music. The band brings so much sound and energy. These guys have become such close friends. I appreciate every little thing they bring to the project.” Band members Shea Alain, Brock Geiger, Ian Jarvis, and Dino Soares all contribute the large and enveloping sound that is Reuben and the Dark. The collaborative aspect of the band really comes out in live performances, which have always been a priority of the band: “It’s always been about the live show to me”, says Reuben. “It’s when the songs really come alive.” It goes beyond simple live energy, however. In the live setting the songs’ true forms come out in their entirety: “I’ve definitely had the meanings of songs significantly change over time. It may just be the difference between intellectualizing something and truly experiencing it… I believe there is a psychic quality to songs. Something in the subconscious.”
The band shows no signs of relenting in their pursuit of penning and performing moving songs about the human experience. When it comes to the creative future of the band, Bullock says, “I’m always dreaming. There are so many things I’d like to do, but also so many things I’m already doing.” These things he is already doing includes going to Barcelona to film a skateboarding music video, which he can now confidently cross off his bucket list. “I’d love to play a show with The National or Arcade Fire. I look up to those bands.” Bullock continued, “I’d love to play a headline show at Massey Hall in Toronto. Radio City too…” Whatever bands they play with or which iconic venues they conquer in the future, we will definitely be all ears or what Reuben and the Dark have in store for years and years to come.
Check out Reuben and the Dark at the Soda Bar on Tuesday, June 12th.