This week’s Spotlight artists are Toronto’s Ruby Cikada, a band that make eclectic, exciting and brilliant music.
Ruby Cikada describe their sound as “Alternative, Psychedelic Folk Rock”, adding that it’s “Weezer meets the Byrds” but with “influence from bands as disparate as Funkadelic and Soundgarden.” This, in part, is due to being from what they call the “Biggest, smallest city”. Toronto, ‘where culture isn’t monochromatic but wide ranging, inevitably inspires but also gives license to experiment, fuse, and distil new styles and different perspectives within an art form’. Being from one of the “most diversely multicultural cities in North America”, they were surrounded by punk and metal shows, reggae and jazz festivals, local bluegrass music residencies and salsa music from patio cafes. All of which has influenced the band to never settle on boring.
The group initially aimed to emulate how The Beatle’s White Album could sound so different, yet so cohesive. “I like to think of it in terms of cooking – we used to have a bunch of ingredients that we would throw into for a musical stirfry of sorts – Lately the task has been to create a new concoction, perhaps a ‘paste’ of sorts that is a concentration of key elements until they seamlessly lose their original distinction to create something new.” With every song being so different, “the eclecticism in the music made us into a cult ordeal where people came to hear one band play 8 different styles.”
This has led to their powerful musical message of “don’t settle for what you’ve heard and what you already know! Defy convention, aim further, push for something new and explore the depth of human imagination.” The group also feel disenfranchised with modern rock, where the so called alternative is a “never ending stream of tribute bands”. “Everyone remembers the Velvet Underground, but who can name more than one song by the Monkees? Those two were contemporaries, and while one did very well in a short span while playing to current taste, the other one inevitably invented ‘Alternative rock’ and struggled for recognition,” adding rhetorically “Who would you rather be?”
Ruby Cikada have grown massively between their first EP Magickada and their recently released EP II. “While Magicikada includes grunge and vaudeville in a psychedelic soup, EP II was an attempt to confirm the folk influences that had dominated for a while.” While this can be heard on tracks like ‘Roncy Renegades’, their proudest moment comes in the form of the bluesy ‘Dirt’. With its intro like a “slow moving train of percussion, like the din of a laborious gold mine in midsummer”, the track was written about the time frontman Lennox Campbell-Berzins was “working construction work with a Hernia”. “Out of school, broke, recently herniated, and digging out a basement extension by hand”, he felt a “sensation that I was trapped and this was to be my lot in life. So, I would throw some blues song in my head, dig like mad, and just imagine my circumstances improving with each shovel full of dirt until I was out of the muck.” The result is a powerful song about exorcising emotions and “burying doubt”.
Unfortunately, Ruby Cikada “is on a bit of a hiatus”, however, this is due to the creation of its “sister project”. While the band will “definitely return”, the new project will be its “evil twin”, featuring most of the current line up but with a darker feel. “I picture Ruby Cikada hitting the stage again in a year’s time, but until then, there are some darker, more brooding creatures that I need to give life to before then.”