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Interview/Music Review: Band of the Week – The Ruse

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This week’s Band of the Week is The Ruse, an indie/pop rock band from L.A. When I first reviewed their CD Light In Motion, I was completely blown away. Even more so when I learned they had recorded it on a laptop in Jason Young’s (drummer) closet, “with clothes on the floor and everything”.

Light In Motion is a breathless, impassioned, honest album with all the qualities that invoke feelings of being mellow and lustful, sultry and comfy. The Ruse has a melodic, soothing, cultivated sound with influences from U2, Coldplay, and Travis. The Ruse’s frontman, John Dauer’s voice is smooth, mellow, and rich. He also has the enviable ability to be hauntingly emotive.

Earlier this week, I got to chat with John Dauer about The Ruse’s song writing. I was also given a sneak preview of their newest, hot-from-the-studio songs.

Tell me about your song writing process.

John Dauer: Jim (guitar) will come to me with a verse and the chorus of a song. That will include chord progressions for the verse and chorus, as well as melody and lyrical ideas for the song. Jim and I will sit there and try and make a whole song from that material.

After that, I take it and finish up any lyrical stuff that needs fixing, but it is a continual process. Then we bring the song to rehearsal where Jason (drummer) and Mark (bass) will add their parts, as well as critique what Jim and I have.

Once we have played it a few times, we actually figure out if it is something we can use. I know that is unusual; for most bands there is usually one writer and arranger, but for us, it is much more collaborative.

“Goodbye” is a beautiful, haunting track. John’s vocals are full of heartache, sorrow and melancholy.

Can you tell me about the lyrics for “Goodbye”? It sounds alternately that it’s about death or about losing a love.

John: When we were on tour on our way out to L.A., we were moving across the country in a couple of different cars, with our whole lives in a couple of trailers. We had been in the desert for about two days and no one had any cell reception. We emerged from the desert with several messages on our phones, mostly from family who wanted to know if we were still alive.

I was in the car with Jim, and he and I were checking our messages. He was driving and all of the sudden he whipped over to the side of the road and slammed on the brakes. One of the messages that he received was from his mom telling him that his grandfather had died suddenly the day before. That song comes out of that experience.

“Alone” has The Ruse’s signature creamy Irish coffee feel. Warm, rich vocals, and searching, melancholy but hopeful lyrics make this one a future classic.

Tell me about Alone. Is it about a girl?

John: Actually – and that was written a while ago, so I'm a little shady on the details but I believe what I had in mind was – one of my best fiends is a Marine and it was right about the time he was first getting deployed. I was thinking about how it must be to leave your loved one behind. Having little or no connection to that person for an extended period of time and what a tricky game you’re playing to leave for that long. Not knowing exactly what you are going to come home to.

Now I'm confused.

John: Why?

You said that writing songs is a collaborative effort, but you just said "I believe what I had in mind was". Who wrote this song?

John: Well generally the lyrics are mostly mine. I gave you the general… There have been songs that I have been the only lyricist on and there have been songs that Jim has written the lyrics in their entirety. For instance on “Alone”, Jim wrote all of the music, and I took all of the lyrics that he initially brought me and rewrote the song about something entirely different. It really is a process.

“Hold Tight” is a poetic and succulent ode to someone special. Dauer’s almost Celtic vocals are sumptuous and the lyrics are dynamic and passionate.

Okay, how about “Hold Tight”? The lyrics on this one throw me. It seems to meander a bit.

John: What you're feeling is a major change in the theme of the song. Initially the song was about something different than it is now, but some of the old lyrics still worked as we were working on new ideas for the song and so we kept them.

The song was written after we had come to L.A. for the first time to play a New Year's Eve show. Some of the imagery in the song comes from that trip. "Standing on this ledge with a bottle and a notion", that was an image from The Viceroy Hotel balcony, where they had put us up. And a line Jim came up with by the way. As we were reworking the song, it took a whole new shape and meaning. It became a sort of tribute to our fathers and our various relationships with them and what they have sacrificed for us. The cycle of father and son in a way

The Ruse were nice enough to give me a sneak preview of their new stuff “Sit Down” and “Beautiful Is Gone”. Both have that Ruse signature big-stadium sound and as always the tracks are perfectly arranged but with much higher production quality. They will be released on The Ruse’s, as yet untitled next album.

Tell me about the new tracks.

John: “Beautiful Is Gone” we co-wrote with Boots… who was the lead singer of The Getaway People. Do you know them? I think you would like them. So far John has introduced me to several new unknown bands. He is a really nice guy that way.

“Sit Down Stare Out” was a song that we have been working with for a while and reworked with the help of Chris Karn (lead singer of Deccatree and he has produced the tracks).

But the major difference is that these two songs are the first songs we have ever worked with a producer on. And it’s the first time we have used a real studio with this band. We usually use a laptop and a closet to record everything.

When you write, do you aim to keep a cohesive feel to it all?

John: We try. Each song is different, some come all in one wave and they are done before you know it. Others come in parts. It's almost like you are encouraging the song to write itself and sometimes you have to wait for the song. Songs can be very stubborn sometimes.


The Ruse is a talented, driven band with a very strong sound and definitely worth a listen. Being this good now means they must, eventually, become rock gods. When you’re this talented you just have no choice in the matter. I highly recommend them.

“Goodbye”, “Alone”, and “Hold Tight” are all on The Ruse’s second album, Light In Motion. It can be purchased from CDBaby. If you would like to listen to The Ruse, you can find a couple of tracks at their MySpace page. You can also learn more about The Ruse, including more reviews, upcoming gigs, and about their first album on Rusemusic.com.

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About A.L. Harper

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Nice interview and review, Andrea. You’re doing a great job with this feature.

    I’m looking forward to learning about the band you’re featuring next week.

  • http://clatch.blogspot.com A.L. Harper

    Thanks Connie! Next week our band of the week will be American Princes.

  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal/ Connie Phillips

    Congrats! A link to this post now appears on our Myspace Profile page.

  • chris

    hello how can i find the song Beautiful is gone by the ruse

  • http://rusemusic.com John Dauer, The Ruse

    Beautiful Is Gone has actually not been released yet. It will be on our next record and so as of now we are not planning on releasing it until closer to that date. Should be available sometime around the beginning of the year as the record is getting wrapped up as we are considering it as one of the earlier, if not the first, singles we will release from the new record. Thanks for asking!

    John Dauer

  • http://www.alharper.com A.L. Harper

    Thanks for letting us know John!