Tiny Ruins played a tiny room at Culture Collide Festival this past weekend. The audience chatted as singer and guitarist Hollie Fullbrook sound-checked. In minutes, she was belting above the gentle acoustic and took command. Everyone fell silent and gravitated toward the stage. Fullbrook's resounding vocals entranced the crowd, building and releasing like waves coming and going out to sea.
It was evocative of First Aid Kit, but this was a solo act. Other times, Tiny Ruins consists of bass player Cass Basil and drummer Alexander Freer. At one point, Fulbrook told the audience to imagine rolling drums behind her. The stripped-down performance felt full in its own right.
Since the first album Some Were Meant For Sea released under indie label Spunk Records, Tiny Ruins has traveled across Australia and Europe opening for Fleet Foxes, Beach House and bands with similar hypnotic warmth. Tiny Ruins' second album, Brightly Painted Things is set to release in 2014, after CMJ and other shows.
We're not the only ones taken with Tiny Ruins. David Lynch recently tweeted to check out the New Zealand-based act. Now you can get an inside glimpse at Tiny Ruins yourself with our Q&A.
1. Is there an ideal setting you imagine people listening to your music in?
I've always enjoyed playing outside, looking out on the audience somewhere pretty. We played as a band earlier this year in the NZ bush at a small festival called "Camp a Low Hum," and once in some pine forests on an island called Vlieland in Europe. More recently we were in the Australian desert with salt lakes and strange rock formations around us...at these festivals, we are often placed in the morning, with everyone sleepy and recovering from the night before. I like that.
2. What can you tell us about Brightly Painted One?
I guess it's kind of about pulling yourself together. It has some humor in there, a bit of an arc. We recorded it over some months in an underground warren of passageways and rooms known as The Lab, in Auckland, with my friend Tom Healy. We recorded quite a bit of it live as a band (Cass basil on bass, Alex freer on drums), and a bunch of friends helped us add some brass and organs and pedal steel and violin. Lots of different sounds captured on electric guitars, too.
3. Amid writing, producing, touring...do you have a favorite part of the process?
They all seem to happen at the same time at the moment. It would be nice to separate them out a little more & focus on each area, but then I guess they inform each other, so...I get anxious about touring but enjoy it once I've got going. I find recording exciting but quite anti-social. Writing is probably my favorite part.
4. What's evolved most in your sound through the years?
I'm interested in the musical side of things now just as much as the lyrical side...whereas I started out really just putting music to words already formed -- finding a structure for the words -- now it's sort of building both together.
5. Do you notice the responses are different depending on where you perform?
Not in terms of country. Maybe, in terms of venue, space, neighborhood...yeah, always subtle differences, but people are similar creatures most places.
6. Which artists are you following now?
I tend not to listen to much while recording, so just starting to open my ears again, after a diet of classical music cassettes in my car. Greg Walker of Machine Translations has just made an album I'm excited about. I am listening to Bill Callahan's latest one, Dream River. I've been interested in Bjork lately, too.
See when you can catch Tiny Ruins in NY and LA.