Tuesday, February 28, 2023

INTERVIEW | 'We're Always Trying to Push the Boundaries' - The Rupert Selection Talk New Music, Beginnings and Being Original

(Photo Credit: Peter McManus)

Not a guy named Rupert in sight when it comes to The Rupert Selection but, instead, three guys with a lot of talent and some stories to tell. 

They are Reilly Somach (vocals/guitar), Sam BouvĂ© (bass/vocals) and Peter W. Bartash (drums), an alt-rock and psychedelic grunge trio hailing out of Massachusetts. They recently released tracks 'Astronauts' and 'Then Again', two tracks that mark the start of a new direction for them, and set up an exciting 2023. 

They took the time to sit down with Tour Bus Tunes to talk about their beginnings; their new music; working with producer Brian Charles; and the determination that got them through to where they are today.


Hi guys! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! I want to start things off by going back to the beginning...how did The Rupert Selection that I am talking to today come to be?

Reilly: We've been around for a little bit. It started a while ago with some friends. The Rupert Selection, in this form, came into what it is now four or so years ago.

Peter: Reilly started the band with two friends from high school - I'm dating you at this point, Reilly, [because] it was a while ago. 

Reilly: Ten years?

Peter: I joined the band about five years ago. Reilly and his friends were working with their producer that I knew. They needed someone on drums and they put us in touch. Sam was in another band and quietly recruited me to play drums for that band so we quietly recruited Sam to play bass for The Rupert Selection...that was maybe what, three, four years ago?

Sam: Probably about four years, yeah.

Peter: In this current configuration, we've been together about four years. So the new music that we've been releasing - [like] 'Astronauts' - are songs that [us] three have wrote together as members. Everything else is older material that Reilly had in the archives for the better part of the last fifteen years. It's been fun working on those songs as a new chapter of the band.

Boston has such a great music scene with so many brilliant artists across a multitude of genres. You guys are part of that, another great band that I've recently discovered. What's it like to be a part of it?

Reilly: It's funny, we've always felt like we're on the outside of the scene. It's great to be a part of it but we've always felt like we're a little too metal for the rock bands or a little too rock for the metal bands. 

Peter: The term I've recently seen used, is that we're 'genre adjacent'. We cosy up to the roots but don't really fit in a stereotypical mould. We have a wide range of segments of the scenes we're connected to, or close to. It's like being in high school and being friends with everybody - so you're friends with the jocks, friends with the music kids, friends with the nerds...you don't know who you want to spend time or hang out with but you have a lot of different options of who to hang out with. 

The cool thing about the scene here is the talent. There's so much talent because of Berklee [College of Music]. It's a magnet for really talented musicians to come to the city and it's fun to play alongside a lot of other really great bands.

Sam: To get more location specific, the North Shore in general too. I grew up around this area, Riley has spent a ton of time here now and Peter knows it pretty well. We found, and I love it, a nice little nook of friends that we've built over the years. We're playing with our friends, [and] it's nice to be able to share the stage with people we know and who are talented. It's this little bubbling cauldron of different groups, grunge to pop to post rock...which I love.

A lot of people, perhaps more so than ever, will relate to the message of your new track, 'Astronauts', a song about feeling hopeless and trying to find light even when it feels like there isn't any. Is this tackling of an important and relatable topic something that you intentionally set out to do when writing a song? Or does the song just find you?

Reilly: When it comes to lyrics, I never really know or set out to write a song like 'it's going to be like this'. I write it and realise 'I think I meant that'. That song came about during the pandemic, during a dark time for everyone. [It] wrote itself, we got in the jam space. Sam had a riff that we jammed on and we played it for a couple of minutes, it turned into that song. The lyrics came naturally, it wasn't forced at all. It comes with the territory of the time that the song was written in, the pandemic era.

Does writing those darker songs and themes come easy? It is cathartic to write them and release them out in the world for everyone to hear and to relate?

Reilly: It does come easy. I feel like I write a lot of sad songs *laughs*.

Peter: Being sad in general is an undertone to everything we do. *laughs* It comes easy but it's also both, it is cathartic.

When we play that song, it builds up in the beginning...we seem to be starting a lot of shows with [it] lately. It builds and takes off when it hits that riff. I've always felt when we play that song that space and time starts to change. It makes you present and in that moment and you can feel it. I can feel I'm in the music and its a cool feeling.

'Then Again' was born out of a stream of conscious writing. Is that, Reilly, your typical or preferred method of writing songs?

Reilly: I know if a song is going to be good if lyrics come to me right away. I think thats why we felt good about putting these songs out first, they came so easy and naturally. I never really have an answer to a method to writing lyrics. If we're feeling it and it feels good then it comes to me.

For these two singles, and the music to come later, you worked with producer Brian Charles. How did that collaboration come about?

Reilly: There's this competition in Boston called the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble, like a battle of the bands thing. We got to the finals of that and one of the prizes we won was studio time with Brian. That was 2017, and we never used it. Sam joined the band and had a good relationship with him so we decided to record with him. I'm so glad we did, and I wished we'd done it earlier.

Sam: I love that man.

Reilly: We love Brian.

Sam: In the past I played in a pop country band, which is not really my kind of music but it was fun to do and was paying the bills. I met Brian through doing that and I ended up building a relationship with him through doing studio work and whatnot. I was more than pumped. When I worked with him in the past, I was like 'I want to do a band with this guy, I don't know what's it's gonna be or with who or whatever'. I didn't even know the guys had studio time with him until Reilly mentioned it and I was like 'lets go use that!'. 

Brian is amazing. The recordings now, I love. He understands our sounds and what we're going for now. Mentally, he's a really talented man. A great dude and a really, really great guy to work with.

Reilly: It feels like it was meant to be.

Was working with Brian what you needed to push on and choose this new direction, in terms of sound?

Reilly: We're always trying to push the boundaries, do something different. Brian gets what we're going for. We wanna have something that sounds familiar but has something different to it, something that makes it original. 

Peter: The fun part of being in this band, for me, is that I don't have all the history of all its existence before I was in it. I get to be in it but also look at it from the outside sometimes. There's been so many times, Reilly, when we're practising and you're saying 'hey, it's time for us to write another nine minute song that has a million different parts'. There's always this emphasis on exploration and creativity. What working with Brian has done, and you get this with 'Astronauts' and 'Then Again', is really helped us to focus on what we're trying to say with the songs and in the songwriting so we're not losing elements of what makes the band interesting - especially the instruments and the musicality. We're also making a more clear statement that has the potential to reach more listeners.

One of the things that Reilly always said was that it's time we deliver the message to the people and get out and play shows and let them hear what's going on. It's been cool to see the response to 'Astronauts' and 'Then Again' so far, because these songs are more concise and direct [and] they seem to be resonating a lot more.

Reilly: We never wanted to just be a rock band or whatever. We want to be a band that can do a little bit of everything and stand our own. There's always been an emphasis on being trying to be original and different. We're just trying to make our own sound and leave our own fingerprint.

Peter: We're all in different stages of our lives, too. For a lot of groups that could be a source of tension and conflict. We also all come from different musical backgrounds. Since we started working with Brian, I've personally got more in touch with my musical interests and how to take those and put them into the songs we're working on. And looking at the work that Reilly and Sam have done too, it's amazing to see [the] skill and maturity they're saying through their instrument and how their influences are coming into these new songs too. It doesn't feel forced. Nothing about playing 'Astronauts' or 'Then Again' or any of these songs feels forced. It's music that people seem to be reacting to but, also, music that we love to play. We're not trying to write a hit or craft something to fit into a certain genre. This is what we want to sing and its authentic for us in that way.

It's been a number of years since The Rupert Selection's last album (2019's Priors). Obviously a lot has happened in the world since then, that goes without saying, but has that amount of time, ultimately, been what was needed for the band in terms of you guys exploring and evolving into a new and even better sound?

Reilly: I think it naturally needed that much time to get to where we are now. We couldn't force it. Everything that happened had to happen for us to get to that point. We all had to embrace this new era and evolve us together. It feels so good to get to this point.

Sam: As horrible as Covid was, it helped us out a lot. For a lot of musicians, it gave us time [and] made us take a step back. It gave us this opportunity to sit back and figure out the new sound, try new things and just jam. There wasn't a ton of pressure involved as [the] foreseeable future was relatively bleak for any artist trying to perform. When we were going about recording new songs, we started with a list of twelve songs or riffs and whittled them down. It was nice as, in the past, a lot of the time it was rushing into the studio as you're trying to fit in gigs, relationships and work. It was nice to have that time to take our time, do a song at a time and see what came from it.

Peter: Getting through Covid, everything you did was fully by choice and intentional. 'Who do I need in my Covid bubble? Who am I going to spend time with? And if I'm going to take a risk and go out with other people, who are those people going to be?' You start to make choices that felt very big but, previous to Covid, felt very natural. It was a reckoning for us. I felt like there was a moment in time where we had to make a choice as to whether or not we wanted to do this, or if we wanted to treat this as a natural end to that chapter and do something different. Everything we've done since then has been filled with that energy of that choice of wanting to do it and being together. That has created its own kind of gravity and energy that's started to come through the music.


'Astronauts' and 'Then Again' are out now.

For all things The Rupert Selection, visit their website.

INTERVIEW | 'Songwriting Is The Ultimate Test of Vulnerability' - Samantha LaPorta

Songwriting is the ultimate test of vulnerability. That's what Samantha LaPorta believes, and it is something that shines though her mu...