Model Sarah Ruba and her hubby Adam Pavao hit stages and studios as New Look, the electro-pop outfit that sprang out of their previous project Jungletalk in 2006. Working off a system of fifties marital balance and slightly less fifties division of musical labour, they released their eponymous record earlier this autumn to a general round of applause from critics all over the shop. And now? Well now we find ourselves chatting over a seven-hour time difference about everything from depressing Berlin winters to baking & beat-making (the name we chose for our side project, should we ever see it through).
So with you two working so closely together, and living together, how do you separate work from play?
S: We just don’t [she laughs]. It’s all work, all the time. But it’s good and it’s important, since this is the time to be working the most: while we’re young and have inspiration.
Well it’s paying off: the record sounds really strong. How long have you been working on these songs?
A: They all range. There are some songs on the record that we recorded about three years ago, and others that we wrote this year. Over the last few years we’ve spent a lot of time moving, which is one of the main reasons the album took so long. We were in New York, then we went to Berlin, then we moved back to Canada, then we moved back to New York [Sarah giggles].
And in all that time sometimes the parts of our studio were held up in shipping so things stalled. So things are different now: we’ve got the studio set up and the next album’s not gonna take three years!
Have you settled in New York now?
A: Sort of. No. Yes and no [we laugh]. Our studio’s still in Canada, with a really nice space we have there. It’s a perfect spot for a studio but the industry and action’s not really there, so we have an apartment in New York and drive back and forth all the time.
You mentioned living in Berlin. How was that, creatively?
S: We liked it! I mean, the summer was amazing for recording but then winter came around and it was really intense. It was grim, you know? We’re Canadians so we love winter but it’s not the same in Germany; it was all broody and everyone was just hunkered down and miserable [she laughs]. It got to us, so we left in February.
It was good for our creative side, and we got a lot of recording done so it served its purpose.
Where does the inspiration come the music?
S: Lyrically they’re always abstracted personal experiences, or abstracted emotions. Sometimes they’re like putting on a character, like in Teen Need, or making up a story. It’s more often personal though.
A: On every song it’s been a different process but basically I’ll just be making a beat in the studio that won’t become anything unless Sarah’s inspired too.
S: I’ll hear something that he’s doing and I’ll walk into the studio and tinker on the synthesiser and we’ll go from there. But for the most part Adam does the beats, production and basslines, and I do the synthy parts, melodies, all the lyrics and the vocals.
A: Yeah, it works well. If Sarah’s baking in the kitchen or something, I’ll go to the studio and make a beat, and wait and see if she comes in the room. If she doesn’t I’ll stop and just say forget it [we all laugh], then try something totally different. Eventually she’ll come in and say ‘that sounds good’ and then that inspires me to take it to the next level.
S: We both need each other to move forward with a new idea. It’s very fifties.
Sarah, you’ve got both vocal restraint and power when you sing. I wanted to know who you were singing along to, and what helped to form your voice?
S: That’s a good question! Originally I would do karaoke Christina Aguilera or whatever at school talent shows. Then I wanted to take it somewhere, and the only game in town where I’m from was a jazz band with so started singing with them, Frank Sinatra-style, doing lots of blues and gospel numbers.
There’s a blind singer called Diane Shure who hits these crazy high notes and we’d do her arrangements so I’d try to mimic that. Then I got into Chet Baker and picked up the restraint vibe. It was all mimicry really [she laughs]! Then I’d sing Jeff Buckley and that opened me up in other ways. It’s all over the map but started with jazz.
What’s next, now that the record’s out and you’ve wrapped your autumn tours?
A: For the rest of the year we’re gonna be in the studio recording for the next album because we’ve done a lot of touring and travelling. Our next single’s gonna come out soon, with a music video.
S: Yeah, we’ve been shooting that. And there’s festivals to start thinking about already...
Well before the festival season kicks off, find out their news via their website. New Look is out now on !K7 Records.
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