Interview with The Ruling Class for the print edition of Fashion.Music.Style, September 2009.
Huddled round some rusty bike railings to escape the noise of east London’s 1234 Festival, the wind is making it difficult for north London five-piece The Ruling Class to light their Benson Silvers. With just two singles under their belt they haven’t quite broken into the mainstream yet, but are already being compared to indie legends such as The Stone Roses and The Charlatans. As you’d expect, their baggy jeans draw looks of confusion from the skinny-legged Shoreditch masses.
They manage to seamlessly combine late eighties baggy rock with early nineties shoegaze, resulting in a nostalgic concoction which has earned them the rather cringeworthy “shaggy” tag, (shoegaze and baggy, geddit?!). Psychedelic elements also shine through on their simple but effective melodies, and Jonathan Sutcliffe’s effortless vocals recall Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie singing ‘Velocity Girl’. Debut single ‘If You Wonder’ combines universal lyrics with a charmingly soft sound, while their latest offering ‘Marian Shrine’ has Sutcliffe nonchalantly singing over a drum beat that sounds like it was made to swagger on stage to.
Founding members Tomas Kubowicz and bassist Anton Lindberg first met in 2005 in their native Stockholm, but had difficulty finding likeminded bandmates. “We couldn’t really find people with similar tastes in music or ambition so we moved to London,” Kubowicz says.
Their quintessentially British sound is due to Kubowicz – the band’s self-proclaimed “musical dictator” – being heavily influenced by nineties British indie. Sutcliffe and Needle are, quite fittingly then, northerners…albeit from Harrogate, not baggy’s spiritual home of Manchester.
Bound by a shared love of psychedelic music, Lindberg and Kubowicz found front man Sutcliffe and rhythm guitarist Andrew Needle at fellow shoegazers The Tamborines gig, one New Year’s Eve. The addition of Italian-born Alfie Tammaro on drums completed the group.
Lindberg admits that the band are self-consciously derivative, saying, “When Tomas started writing these songs, he wasn’t trying to invent a new genre of music. Although that sort of music isn’t around right now so I suppose that is innovative in itself.”
What about image though? “The music is primary,” explains Tamarro, “once you get the music right everything else should just fall into place.” Sutcliffe agrees that unlike a lot of contemporary bands they’re more concerned with substance over style but they “still look great anyway!” Just don’t compare his choice of hairstyle to Tim Burgess’s – “I would say my hair was more Guy Fawkes. A true revolutionary haircut.”
And if they could rule Britain for a day, what would they change? “The music,” Sutcliffe replies almost instantly. So they’d ban terrible music like Cascada and Soulja Boy then? “No, no. We’d just educate people – teach them to appreciate good tunes again.” he asserts. Hopefully it won’t take a Guy Fawkes-style attempt at revolution to achieve that anyway.