BY NICHOLAS GRASSO
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY NICHOLAS GRASSO
Chris Ruben wants to break free.
Like anyone left sane following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Long Island rocker wants to break out of the same old scenery. But his desire is not simply about a change of pace. He aims to share his new music with fresh audiences.
“I want to try and get out of the state and into new areas,” Ruben said. “We’re really just stuck here, so we’re starting to play some more shows. Get out of the county, out of the state, that’s kind of the plan.”
Ruben’s restlessness is well justified. The Chris Ruben Band released “Madness on Repeat,” their first full-length album, earlier this past April. Anyone who listened to the album, or better yet, was lucky enough to see them live this past year, understands they have the goods and are ready to hit the road.
“The album is 11 songs, it took about two-and-a-half years to make,” Ruben said. “I’ve been writing music for a really long time, and that album is kind of the culmination of some of the earlier songs that I was writing and a couple of the songs were fresher at the time of the recording of the record. It was a real jumble of our catalog as far as it wasnt all written at once.”
Despite the lively tone of the album’s bright guitars, swirling keyboards and grooving rhythm section, lyrically, “Madness on Repeat” trudges through dark territory.
“The older songs, I was definitely in a dark place in my life,” Ruben said. “I was questioning God, I was doing drugs and I really feel like that album being called ‘Madness on Repeat,’ we set it so that it loops. The last song will go right back into the first song and it’s because the story that the record tells, the feelings behind it are so lost and very eager to find a direction. All my life I felt like this is what I was supposed to do, but like nothing at all pointed in that direction. There was almost no way. It was a bit of desperation, a bit of madness, insanity, you know, trying to do the same things over and over again and expecting something different to happen. I was in a really long seven year relationship around the time the band formed and started making the album and then it ended. Some of the feelings in a lot of the songs are just knowing that I was with the wrong person and not really feeling like I could do anything about it but I did it to myself. I’m a mess of a man.”
Feelings of a desperate man floating unmoored through life’s icy waters protrude through the funk-powered “Unsure” and upbeat bop “Prayer for Sadness.”
Electric leads give way to inner turmoil on “Stomach Coil” while “Starfish” unpacks soured love and explores a depressive low.
In an intimate setting like the Loading Dock at the back of the Patchogue Theater, where the Chris Ruben Band played on November 18, the band packs a wallop. Breezy album tracks like “Cold Shoulder” and “Tell Me Why” take on new life when performed across a huddle of fans.
Cheers rival the PA system whenever Ruben whips his head around or drops to his knees for a solo. Bassist Brendan Allan drives “Live Meltdown,” and drummer Russ Miller brings off-beat hi-hat flare to “Darling.” All the while, Nick Marino hammers away at his cream-colored Telecaster and Eugene Iovine adds atmosphere with his keyboard, as does his brother Frank Iovine when he’s not wailing on a saxophone.
The Chris Ruben Band does not have any more scheduled performances for the rest of this year, but hungry fans may not have to wait too long for new music.
“We have a four-track EP that we just finished that will probably come out around March,” Ruben said. “But we have all the music that was written between last year and this year for another full-length album that we probably will start recording sometime next year. We’re not trying to record it and push it and release things too fast.”