Rutger Ansley Rosenborg is an outsider looking in. Ryan S. Miller is an insider looking out. Friends since second grade, the two have played music together from the age of eight on.
Now, hot off the heels of a recent tour trip out to a SXSW showcase, The Lulls have released their newest single today called 'good night america'. We sat down with the boys for a coldie and a chat about life on the road, all things Texas, and day drinking with Irish boxers.
BANKS: How long have you guys been a band?
RUTGER: Well... with this current lineup, The Lulls, I think it's been about 3 years or so. But Ryan and I have been playing together since we were about 8. I dunno we've been in about 4 different iterations of this band since then. This is our last, well not our last, but this is the latest band.
RYAN: This is it! Hahaha
BANKS: And you guys grew up in San Diego together?
RUTGER: Yeah, I think we met in second grade.
RYAN: Started with a little pop punk type band
BANKS: In second grade haha, that's rad! What is that, like Blink 182 days down there yeah?
RUTGER: Oh yeah.
RYAN: We were covering the shit outta them haha. We played in that band, and then went through high school and stuff, took a break in college, came back and didn't have jobs so we went back to playing music haha. And here we are!
RUTGER: Still don’t have jobs... hahaha.
RYAN: No but there's something to say about all that time, gives you a bit of perspective of how long it can actually take to reach any sort of sustainable lifestyle with it. And the relationship, too, built over the years is the biggest part of it.
BANKS: Yeah definitely, there's something to be said too, taking that break during college. You kinda grow in your own way and then come back with a completely fresh outlook.
RYAN: Yeah for sure, and you know, because San Diego is definitely not...there's not culturally a lot going on down there.
RUTGER: But it was helpful for us, finding our footing. It was sort of like a testing ground for us to try different things out, before we landed on this sound where we're like, OK now let’s go take this elsewhere.
BANKS: How is it being a band, trying to make ends meet when you're going on tour to a place like SXSW where you've gotta be pretty flexible...
RYAN: Yeah, it's interesting, I mean, we've been lucky enough to find jobs. It's been a priority to find jobs that are flexible, ya know, that's what you have to do.
RUTGER: That's why so many musicians are in the service industry. I'm lucky cuz I can work remotely, so I can just work from the van on the road.
RYAN: ...still make money from the road haha, that's where it's at
RUTGER: Not enough still... but yeah haha!
BANKS: So, what is it that you do besides music?
RUTGER: I'm an associate editor at NBC San Diego, and then I'm helping this VC in NY, I run their social media and their blog and stuff. So, I've got those two things mobile all the time.
RYAN: Yeah, it's definitely a weird headspace to be in, if you can be productive. I mean it's ideal to just only be working on your own personal stuff 24/7, but it's a weird balance. I'm really stoked where we're at now, being in the same house and we can bounce ideas off each other really easy. We can bounce ideas off each other any time. It's like we're in an office together or something... Especially at this stage, ya know, we're finally at a place where stuff can happen, we just gotta buckle down and focus, ya know? Whereas before, it was like 'what is the next thing?'.
BANKS: So, I've had yet to visit Austin for SXSW, can you describe the scene there? In my mind it just seems like chaos, like bands playing nonstop and people everywhere, you probably never make it to the band you wanna see...
RYAN: That's the thing, you can have a schedule but it's almost a wash, you're better off picking a place to go and roll in. Yeah, it's open air, backyard or porch type spots, where you'll see two bands at each space, ya know just jump back and forth.
RUTGER: I will say it wasn't like overbearingly chaotic or crazy, it seemed pretty organized. There were a lot of people in certain areas, but I heard this year was a lot calmer than other years.
RYAN: Yeah, the streets aren't so packed to where you're shuffling around. Traffic wise, parking is a mess, it's gnarly, cuz there's a whole other side to it of tech stuff and conferences. There were big bands there this year but not a lot, like St Vincent played, but has been there before. Yeah definitely don't make a plan, like try and seek out the bands you wanna see, just don't get bummed when you miss them hahaha. It's like any festival I guess, you just gotta roll with it. They did treat us well as artists I thought, good access, easy, some free stuff. That's kinda the jam.
BANKS: Any crazy stories from the road?
RUTGER: Ah on our last tour our guitarist got head butted in the eye by an Irish boxer in a bar in Brooklyn!
RYAN: Haha, yeah day drinking… we popped out for a couple drinks and this guy was just buying us shots, he was like our best friend for a minute. 'You guys want some Jameson, you're really nice guys!' stuff like that and then like 5 minutes later, he starts getting really real with our guitarist, telling him about his life and stuff, and then he just looks at him in the face and Poof! head butts Max right in the face and gets an immediate black eye from it! Then the boxer grabs him and is like, 'Ah I love you mate! I fuckin love you!'. We just looked at each other like, uhh, what the fuck haha! So ridiculous. It gets real out there I guess, haha.
RYAN: I'm trying to think of anything else... ah there was that crazy place we stayed up in Austin... We were at some sort of weird compound...
RUTGER: This guy had built this house out of what seemed like scraps, I mean it was nice wood, but he definitely built it haha. There were trucks and trailers that he outfitted with beds and stuff, like there was a Lays potato chip truck that he converted into a room.
RYAN: They call them 'Tiny Homes'. Hahaha
BANKS: So how was SXSW for you guys? What's the main goal for performing there?
RUTGER: I guess it's partly exposure? Like it or not, it's kind of a resume booster for the band, just to say that you’re an official South By band. But yeah, definitely being able to get your name out there. One thing that really helped with us was SXSW put together a performing artist playlist on Spotify and that really boosted our numbers, a good take away from it for sure. If you're coming at it from a marketing perspective, brand recognition is key.
BANKS: Speaking of that, what are your views on Spotify? I've heard mixed messages from artists about the service. At first I think bands were a bit against it, not getting paid enough is one thing, but also finding that it's hard to get noticed on the platform…
RUTGER: It's a weird thing ya know, cuz obviously you aren't getting paid a lot, it's like .002 cents per play. At the same time, those are plays you wouldn't be getting paid for at all on other sites like SoundCloud or whatever. The other thing to realize is that 80% of Spotify's revenue is going to the record labels, so they're not making much either. I don't think it's evil, but I think it has the potential to be bad if it turns into another record label, same style as the old labels that just take everything. It's also got the potential to be great for artists.
RYAN: Like with our release schedule coming up, it's pretty much the main channel we're running with. Cuz there's a great element for being discovered on Spotify with all the different playlists you can get on and explore. You are gaining organic followers from it, local people that get notified about upcoming shows and stuff. So yeah, we're going to release 3 new singles throughout this summer on Spotify which will be a cool test of the platform.
BANKS: Was there any inspiration you guys had coming up into these singles? Anything that you heard that kinda kicked it into gear?
RUTGER: So, the germs of the songs were created about a year ago in Idyllwild. We had rented a cabin out there for about a week and we just outfitted it with all our music.
RYAN: Yeah, we brought huge ass speakers, our PA, moved all the furniture, it was rad.
BANKS: Yes! Like a makeshift studio?
RUTGER: Exactly. We just literally didn't leave the cabin for a week and we just played music all day the whole time. We recorded some demos there and then from there I was sort of writing lyrics for these, cuz we had only recorded the music, so I have just been writing lyrics for some of the songs that I thought might have some potential. About 6 months before we had just finished a national tour and I was thinking a lot about that, and a lot about writing some very sort of Americana songs. Not like country 'drink my Bud Light in the back of a pickup', but I dunno, just with stories that are true to some sense of American identity I guess. So that's what spurred the songs I wrote.
BANKS: Nice, like open road type of vibe?
RUTGER: Yeah, exactly.
BANKS: So that's interesting, all the bare bones of the songs started with the instrumentals and then lyrics were added later? Is that common for you guys?
RUTGER: I think that was the first time we've done that. Before it was kind of a combination of music then lyrics then music then lyrics. But yeah, this time it was all music and then we added the lyrics, and we kinda reproduced the songs a little bit after that.
RYAN: That is true huh? That is the first time, usually we run with one of the songs you've brought to the table or somethin. It's been fun, we've been trying to find somebody to mix 'em, this guy Kurt Feldman, he mixed the latest DIIV record, so yeah he was into it and has been really great to work with.
We'd like to thank The Lulls for chatting with us at their compound in LA, as well as curating the latest #CasualFriday Spotify playlist that you see above! Many thanks to Evan Schell for all the photos and the epic video!
The new single, 'Good Night America' by The Lulls is out today, you can hear it above as well as all their tunes here on Spotify. Follow their adventures on Instagram or stay up to date via their website.