Ruffians unleash the power

By Jordyn Marcellus

Long road trips are a pain in the ass. Sitting in a van as you drive the long distance can be an excruciating experience for a sticky-fingered five-year-old hopped up on truck stop candy. Ontario indie rockers the Born Ruffians have managed to figure out the secret to entertaining themselves as they barrel down the highway to the next gig.

“[Drummer] Steve [ Hamelin] is a big He-Man fan and bought the first season on DVD,” laughs Mitch DeRosier. “That’s 66 episodes of He-Man. We’ll frequently watch them in the van or in the hotel room. Now we’ve developed a lot of He-Man slang that can be used in any given situation.”

Sitting in a van can be a maddening experience, especially if the crew you’re with may not have the time to hop into the shower. Sometimes you need to invent new lingo to describe the madness-inducing mundanity that comes from living in a van.

“In the next leg of the tour we have a lot of long drives, so we like to say that we have to ‘He-Man’ through the next bit of tour,” jokes DeRosier. “Then, we can ‘Prince Adam’-which describes a period of recovering or being a bit of a wuss-in Victoria.”

The Born Ruffians, who recorded their first EP in 2006, are now on tour for their latest LP Red, Yellow and Blue. The album, which has been lauded by music blogs and Pitchfork Media, is the first foray into making a full-length record. With an actual album release and the beginnings of ubiquity that brings, the group has suddenly found themselves gaining a fanbase.

“With the release of the EP, we played a lot of shows where people wouldn’t know the songs or cheer along,” says DeRosier. “But we were in L.A. last night and there was this really huge crowd with the most people we’ve seen on tour, singing along and shouting out for songs. That’s pretty much what I was looking forward to playing in a band five-and-a-half years ago when we started up in high school.”

DeRosier, 21, and the Born Ruffians have been touring with another young Canadian upstart musician: Rollie Pemberton of Cadence Weapon. While the guys have rocked the shit out of venues all across the states, there have been some more unsavoury moments on the road for two acts.

“Rollie was given this hoodie by his girlfriend for his birthday and it was the last thing he got from her before he left on tour,” explains DeRosier. “It was our third show and he had his hoodie stolen. We’re pretty sure that we know who it was. There was this girl who tried to steal this t-shirt from the merch table, tried to record the entire show after attempting to steal off the merch table. It was this rough way to start off the tour, but once we hit New York, we got him one as a gift to replace it.”

The Independent Film Channel, in an attempt to document the experience of lesser-known bands on the road, has sent out film crews to tape the real world experience and road rules that accompany the touring life.

“It’s not like a silly MTV diary kind of thing but instead a straight-up show about touring,” says DeRosier. “There’s going to be a show coming out called The Raw Side. It’s going to be mostly Canadian bands and the show’s about following [them] on tour and seeing what the touring experience is like. The film crew left us in Phoenix which is kind of a relief because we haven’t done anything like that before. Touring is difficult enough on its own and then we’d have to arrange a film crew who want to stop for a scene because of nice lighting and we’d just want to keep driving.”

He-Manning through the film crew’s weird indulgences, hoodie thefts and the rigours of candy-induced bellyaches, the Ruffians found themselves finally playing the mecca of indie rockdom-Austin’s South by Southwest festival.

“It was really awesome,” says DeRosier. “It was our first time ever being [at SXSW], even as fans, and it blew our tiny minds when we got there. We only played three shows, so that helped make it less hectic and more fun.”

Born Ruffians play the HiFi Club Sat., Mar. 29 at 8 p.m.

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