Get Ruff, Stay Ruff: Born Ruffians at Pearl Street Nightclub

Tara Sacerdote ’18
Contributing Writer

When I was in high school, I put Born Ruffians’ “Kurt Vonnegut” on a mix CD I made for a boy I liked. I thought it was appropriate because I could show how doubly cool I was. In one fell swoop I was saying, “Hey, I like this hip band and ‘Breakfast of Champions’ is my favorite book.” I can’t remember what happened with the high school boy, but I still put on Born Ruffians’ “Red, Yellow and Blue” when I need an extra boost. The band consistently provides just the right amount of jangle to make you want to jump around and feel better.

I got together with the band’s lead vocalist and guitar player, Luke Lalonde, and bassist Mitch Derosier before their set at Pearl Street Nightclub on Oct. 30 to talk to them about Drake, foxes and their new album “RUFF,” which is available now from Yep Roc Records. Since Born Ruffians have roots in Toronto, I naturally opened the conversation with the topic of Drake. “Yeah, we like Drake,” they agreed. Lalonde told me that he didn’t initially care for the rapper, but was converted when “HYFR (Hell Ya F***ing Right)” came out in 2011. At that point, Drake began to resonate with him. “HYFR” is a reflection on gaining success and grappling with the pressures that follow. In “Take Care,” the album on which “HYFR” appears Drake claims this insecurity and emotionality as part of his identity. For Lalonde, Drake’s presentation of himself as “a nice, sweet guy” allows you to “see a bit of yourself in him.”

From my conversation with these guys, I could tell that they, as a band, think a lot about what people will like and what they’ll really understand. I asked them about their song, “Foxes Mate for Life,” also from “Red, Yellow & Blue.” Some types of foxes do, in fact, have lifelong mating partners. More importantly, Lalonde says, “as a sentence, [it’s something] people will really latch onto” — and they did. “It turned into sort of an anthem,” he said. A couple at Friday night’s show had their first dance to this song and were thrilled when the band hollered it out during their encore.

Born Ruffians’ newest album “RUFF” also emanates on anthemic vibe. The record is defiant and exultant. I asked Lalonde what he felt he had conquered, and he talked about “certain battles that you fight with yourself when you’re doing anything, trying to keep something going … sometimes it can feel like it’s a struggle and you’re really pulling teeth.”

After their 2013 album, “Birthmarks,” the band adopted a “f*** it attitude” in response to some managerial issues, but they decided “we’re gonna keep doing this, we’re gonna persevere and triumph.” This sentiment shows throughout “RUFF,” especially in the track, “(Eat S***) We Did It.” Lalonde said of writing that lyric, “I was like, that’s … a universal feeling, wanting to say ‘you eat s***! I did it! I did this thing!’ Everybody wants to say that and feel that.” So “RUFF” is just that: a triumphant f*** you to anybody who thought for even a second that they couldn’t do it. It’s a feel-good record whose tracks are even more uplifting when performed live.

Lalonde’s responses were both incredibly thoughtful and carefully articulated. His contemplative nature showed on stage, too. In the public arena, Derosier responded to the crowd with lines like “f*** yeah!” and “I appreciate all of you.” Lalonde said he was thinking and focusing hard on getting things right. And he did – they all did.

The four bandmates, Derosier, Lalonde, Adam Hindle on drums and Andy Lloyd on guitar and keyboard, worked well together during the entire set. They delivered foundational, charged rhythms that compelled the audience to jump up and down and shout out the choruses. Born Ruffians played old and new hits, all of which the crowd knew and loved. The band imparted their high-energy presence to the audience and created an experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

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