Ruen Brothers Detail the Western Noir of Ten Paces Track By Track

Music Features Ruen Brothers
Ruen Brothers Detail the Western Noir of Ten Paces Track By Track

Last Friday, the Ruen Brothers—aka siblings Henry and Rupert Stansall—released their latest album, Ten Paces. Inspired western noir and the darkly void that so perfectly pairs alt-country with brooding cinemascapes, Henry and Rupert have hit a new milestone with Ten Paces.

Between singles “Slow Draw” and “Bullet Blues,” the album is a sometimes-eery, always-sensational take on outlaw poetics. The latter is maybe the primest example of the siblings’ songwriting finesse, as they channel mid-century Grand Ole Opry washed anew by subtle pop piano chords.

To celebrate the Ten Paces release, we caught up with Henry and Rupert to talk about the album and get the lowdown on what inspired each entry. Listen to Ten Paces as you go, and be sure to keep tabs on the Ruen Brothers, who are hitting the road later this month.

“Slow Draw”
Henry: That numbing feeling when the person you loved starts fading into a distant friend. Initially inspired by an instrumental my buddy David “Squirrel” Covell sent me. It implored me to write a song.

Rupert: Building on the original title of “Slowness,” “Slow Draw” and its loaded connotations brought a darkness to the table—influencing both the production and the music video—which I love.

“The Fear”
Henry: My basement studio in Brooklyn flooded when Hurricane Ida hit New York. The experience amplified my anxieties and inspired the basis of the song.

Rupert: When recording, it was tricky to settle on a key and tempo. It ended up kooky and choppy, fast and slow, which is just how it should be (when flooding is involved).

Henry: I binged movies throughout COVID. The Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was a favorite which I probably watched four or five times. It lit the light bulb in my head. I wanted to write something that I could picture playing in the movie. I took out my acoustic guitar, turned the volume on the TV off and played along to the picture.

Rupert: It took some time to get the chords, vocal rhythms and space just right. We hoped to make the chorus feel open, like meeting the edge of a canyon after a bumpy ride to it.

“Don’t Know What’s Come Over You”
Henry: Our desert dance / Sci-Fi dream.

Rupert: The alien B-movie of our record. There’s something futuristic yet retro about early-’60s “Telstar”-sounding synths—which I’m drawn to—and this song’s title opened the door for us to use one fittingly. After this track, we started to pepper a little of it throughout the album to allude to something supernatural.

“Bullet Blues”
Henry: Fun fact: There’s a Lost In Translation fan video edit on YouTube cut to Cigarettes After Sex’s “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby.” We demoed “Bullet Blues” over this edit continuously while writing and recording it. Coincidentally, supposedly Bill Murray is a fan of Ruen Brothers. Pretty cool.

Rupert: The lyrics were quick to write and the song was quick to record. Starting soft, building the drama kept the song interesting to the end whilst writing and the creativity flowed fast. I don’t know if we could’ve hammered that metaphor any more than we did.

“Silver to Gold”
Henry: Ru was inspired by his late afternoon walks in Moon Canyon, Los Angeles when writing this. “We stop and look up to the moon.” Thanks moon!

Rupert: Thanks moon. The whole time writing it I was imagining the scene. We even recreated the sound of a coffee pot “clinking.” Hope we got the campfire nights vibe across for everyone.

“The Good Surely Die”
Henry: “I took my ride beside you, I took ten paces from you…” That moment in the movie where they say the title. (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: *Leonardo DiCaprio points at TV screen*)

Rupert: Set “late in the evening” when everything slows down, it rocks, sways and moves at the speed you do when sitting in a saddle, plodding forward. Like “Silver to Gold,” it was fun to set the late night scene.

“Free as the Birds”
Henry: Because we’d all like to be free as the birds. Well, I know I do.

Rupert: The start of the film The Night of the Hunter (where Robert Mitchum’s in prison) inspired the desperately trapped theme and it didn’t take long to saddle up the metaphor horse. Oh, there we go again.

Henry: I love those deep sleeps that feel like you’re leagues under the sea. I struggle sleeping a lot of nights. This is my homage to that.

Rupert: I remember trying to draw a wooden and earthy quality from the instruments—imagining an old ship creaking and swaying on the seas, and the delicacy of a bed of flowers—to match the lyrics. It’s all quite dreamlike until the end, where the whole track hits a storm—a disturbing, tube-driven storm.

“Long Road”
Henry: Because it really is.

Rupert: Definitely suited to a small, old radio and written with nostalgic ideas of road trips mind. It may be the last track but it’s not the end; it’s a long road.

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