In the spotlight – Rufusking: The four members of Dutch band Rufusking will prepare a fine musical meal for you with their special ingredients. They serve you rock songs with a pinch of indie, a flavour of blues and a taste of the rougher stuff. And they are ready to serve their music to the world! Rufusking are Jan (bass), Timo (vocals/guitar), Gabriel (guitar) and Sander (drums).
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you meet?
“Timo, Gabriel and Sander know each other from high school and have played in several (cover)bands together for many years. After some ‘guitar sessions’ in a studio in 2016, Sander rejoined the new project later that year. We quit playing covers and wanted to work on ‘originals’ only. After the previous bass player left, Jan responded to an ad in 2017 and proved to be the ‘missing piece’ the band was looking for. That’s when Rufusking was born.”
What’s the story about the band name? I presume you named yourselves after Rufus King (American lawyer, politician and diplomat)? Am I correct?
“This is a story full of coincidences: we got the name unintentionally. Like every band we needed a band name. We were called ‘Radiofish’ at first. Soon after Jan joined, we decided we needed a new name. After a long night at a bar in The Hague in 2017, we were still nameless. We created a list of words we liked, hoping for cool combinations. Both ‘Rufus’ and ‘King’ were on that list. In 2018 we still hadn’t managed to pick a name, but we were ready to play a gig at a local bar in Leiden in February 2019. We decided to choose a random combination: ‘Rufus King’. Not aware of it being a historical figure in American history. The owner of the bar misspelled our ‘name for a day’ on the poster: ‘Rufusking’ (without the space). We played the gig, had fun and a week after the gig we decided to name ourselves ‘The Rufus Project’. After claiming the website domain and all of the social media accounts, an article about our gig was published on the 3voor12 Leiden website – a well known local music platform. It was an positive review about the mysterious band Rufusking – mysterious, because nothing could be found about us online. There was no way back: because of this gig, the owner of the bar misspelling our band name and the article on the website we thought it was best to keep the name Rufusking.”
You appear to have a thing for historical figures. Your single ‘Vinegar Joe‘ was about US Army General, Joseph Stilwell. What can you tell me about the inspiration for that song?
“Great point Lean, thanks for this question: we do have a thing for history and historical characters. Our singer/guitarist (Timo) studied history. History is a great source of inspiration for songs. In our search for band names we found the nickname ‘Vinegar Joe’, indeed given to Stilwell. ‘Vinegar Joe’ was a great band in the seventies, so we did not want it as our band name. But the story inspired us to write a song about the life and career of Joseph Stilwell.”
What is the story behind your second single ‘Poor Mister Lee‘ – not a historical character, but a fictional restaurant owner?
“In this song we combined history and something we experienced in 2018. We visited a restaurant and there was a sign at the entrance warning ‘food pirates’ – people eating and drinking and running away without paying the check – not to enter. We imagined pirates sailing from restaurant to restaurant… and had a lot of fun over it at dinner! And there we found a story, the lyrics were written in the middle of the night, a week after the dinner. After reading about the famous pirate Blackbeard, another historical character, we created the fictional restaurant owner ‘Mister Lee’. Combining both Blackbeard and Mister Lee in the song was easy and the story was there in about 30 minutes.”
What inspires you to write songs?
“A lot of things do. We write songs about historical figures and events, as mentioned, but also about things we encounter in daily life, a mental state, environmental circumstances or big events in our personal lives. There are stories and songs everywhere! For example: we have a song about our drummer (Sander) losing some weight on a holiday trip to Japan. True story.”
Sander (drums): “Writing to me is a way of putting ideas, questions, frustrations, anger or basically any emotion on paper.”
You’ve been around as a band since 2017, but you’ve only released two singles. How come?
“After Jan joined, we played at our rehearsal studio for one year and a half preparing a set full of originals. We primarily focused on enjoying playing together and upgrading our live sets. After playing our first two gigs we wanted to explore recording: a whole new world for us as a band. ‘Vinegar Joe’ was recorded in May 2019 and released in September 2019. We had a lot of plans for 2020 and we even recorded two new songs early March, but then COVID-19 happened… We were not satisfied with the results of that recording and we wanted to come up with something we felt was worth sharing. We dropped those tracks and started over with ‘Poor Mister Lee’, with a new producer, the great Jan Stroomer of Current Music, in September 2020. There was no need for us to rush, we are still in it mainly for the fun of it. We just made it to release that song on 18 December 2020. By the way, we really got the hang of it now, so expect more releases soon.”
Are there any bands that have influenced your sound?
“Quite a lot, but those are more like flavours.”
Jan (bass): “I don’t want someone to listen to my playing and go “wow, that sounds just like <insert name of awesome bass player/band here>!” I listen to a lot of stuff from different genres and take it with me as I go, both the notes people play and the sound or feel they have.”
Timo (vocals/guitar): “A few bands that kind of stand out for me are The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Stereophonics, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, The Kinks…well, it’s a very long list of greatness! They all contributed to what I like to play, write and create with Rufusking. But I don’t think we want to sound like one particular band, it really is the mix of them all.”
Gabriel (guitar): “We all have bands we prefer to listen to, although Timo and I have lots of bands in common. That goes back to The Rolling Stones and some of the well-known bands like Led Zeppelin, CCR and Deep Purple. We grew up with Pearl Jam, which remains a big source of inspiration.”
Sander (drums): “In my opinion the mix of what inspires us musically really contributes to the sound of Rufusking. For me that’s bands like Muse, Stereophonics, Metallica, several punk bands, nineties rock bands and jazz in general.”
What’s the Coolest thing you did as a band? Are there any problems you’ve had to overcome?
Jan (bass): “I really liked playing a larger venue as part of a 3voor12 Leiden Clubnight at Gebr. De Nobel (Leiden, The Netherlands) for the first time with this band. You start out playing smaller gigs and that’s totally fine – you have to get to know each other on stage as well as how the crowd responds to the songs you play. Most of the bands I played in did not get past that phase. After a while you get a feeling for what works live and it’s a great feeling of reward to get to play a bigger venue at that point. I do not have the feeling we had any major problems to deal with. In hindsight they feel more like challenges, but nothing as severe that I would describe them as problems.”
Timo (vocals/guitar): “I totally agree with Jan. That gig in Leiden (March 5th, 2020) was very COOL!”
Gabriel (guitar): “We have had some special gigs by now, but in my humble opinion our very first live gig is still one of the coolest moments we’ve had together. We had no idea how our music would be received. The venue was small but crowded. We fired up with Courtyard, the first song ever played live by Rufusking in front of a live audience. The great responses afterwards overwhelmed us all. Only then we realized that Rufusking had a solid promise for both audience and ourselves.”
Sander (drums): “We were pretty excited and nervous to play that first gig. Not only because it had been a while for some of us, but even more because it was the first time we played an ‘all original’ set, our own songs, for real people, with real opinions.”
How would you describe 2020 for you as a band? Has COVID-19 affected you?
Timo (vocals/guitar): “Actually, for Rufusking the first three months of 2020 were great. We played nice gigs at pubs and a huge gig at Gebr. De Nobel. We did have some luck with that. We were very ready to continue playing and to start recording in spring, but COVID-19 stopped us there.”
Jan (bass): “We rehearsed and played a lot less, that was quite a bummer. We tried collaborating online for the first time in April, trying to write new songs together that way. That was a lot of fun and thus far quite productive as well!”
Gabriel (guitar): “This approach led to some of the strongest songs we have written until now – or so I think. In that way it is fair to say that 2020 has boosted Rufusking in a way that a ‘normal’ year maybe wouldn’t have.”
Sander (drums): “It had a massive impact on our progress, our possibilities to play and even to rehearse together. Although we couldn’t even hangout as four friends and have a beer together for parts of the year, we did record ‘Poor Mister Lee’ in two days and released it. That was one of the highlights in 2020. Our cooperation with Jan Stroomer and Current Music is also a big ‘plus’.”
“After all, a fun fact is that we played our very first sold out gig in Gouda in October! Because of the restrictions in the Netherlands, only 16 people were allowed to attend – but don’t tell anybody… that gig was also a live stream gig, and that was a new, exciting and fun experience.”
How do you feel about the current music scene?
“Last year and the start of 2021 are horrible for artists, for a lot of people to be honest. There are a lot of great and very creative projects and initiatives, like live stream gigs, but a lot of artists and venues are in trouble. But we can only hope that the (live) music scene can recover in the (near) future.”
What are you working on at the moment?
“We are currently working on new songs. There are six songs that we still need to finish. We are mostly working on that via an online application, while we are in lock down in The Netherlands.”
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
“We are aiming to record and release at least two new singles and are planning to play live stream gigs… and real gigs as soon as possible! And we will present some official Rufusking merchandising soon, so stay tuned! Haha!”
What’s your favourite song in the Cool Top 20?
“We are new to the Cool Top 20 and it’s really great to be part of so many great artists. We love what you do and are honored to have made it to the actual chart. But to pick one favourite song…that’s nearly impossible! We love ‘Sea Salt’ by Sophie Dorsten, but also ‘La Serena’ by The Jobs, ‘Live in the Fire’ by Fossway… Sugar Parks, Major Weakness, Dizzy Panda, Pepe and the Bandits… too much greatness in the current Cool Top 20!”
What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?
“We are listening to a lot of indies, also bands that are currently in the Cool Top 20. Let’s add ‘Pills’ by MAJOR WEAKNESS. We really like their sound and all four songs on their EP are worth a listen!”
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