The Rubinoos, currently on tour as the second act with Elvis Costello, are a local hard-semi-new-wave-rock group whose name is known in England and is gathering high popularity in the bay area.
Backstage for an interview at The Old Waldorf last week the Rubinoos act like four crazy twenty year olds.
On stage they are sophisticated-zany. Jon Rubin, 22 and lead singer, could be the boy next door until he gets on stage with the cool of an all-american teen idol. Tommy Dunbar, 22 and lead guitar, is quick to say his older brother is also a guitarist for another rock group, Earthquake. Dunbar with his reddish hair and freckles looks like the typical little brother. On stage he moves like Chuck Berry, Elvis and Jimmy Hendrix, plus a patented style all his own.
“The music we play is just straight ahead pop music in the Beach Boys and Beatles vein,” Rubin explains backstage after the concert. “About 80 percent is music we have written, with one or two cover songs.”
The Rubinoos foursome of Rubin, Dunbar, Royse Ader and Donn Spindt have flip, funny personalities reminiscent of the early Beatles and Beach Boys. They joke around and talk between each other in a close circle of chairs. The other bands backstage keep a distance.
Rubin explains. “Tom Dunbar and I have been close friends since we were thirteen,” then, “when you are in a group and working all the time, it is very hard to have any solid relationships… besides your girlfriend. The guys in the band are like family,” he concludes.
The Rubinoos do not have stage parents though Rubin and Dunbar still live at home. They also do not have any God-like managers watching their every move. What they do have claims Rubin, is a great deal of say on what they do, wear, and present on stage.
And as usual, the Rubinoos rise to notoriety and authority even as twenty year olds, was not sudden. It took years.
“It started when we wanted to have a dance at school and we didn’t have a band, so Tom and I decided to start one.” Rubin says, “A lot of people liked what they heard so we stayed together and formed what we now are.”
“We were terrible,” adds Dunbar. “We started playing in clubs when we were fourteen. The owners wouldn’t let us in the clubs between sets. We played with Earthquake a lot, but they wouldn’t let us watch because we were too young.”
In order to work seriously on their music and performance, all the Rubinoos dropped out of school. Music and practice time is spent in the Bekeley recording studios that Rubin and Dunbar describe as “corrigated metal and very uncomfortable.”
Beserkley also provides there roadies and for the Elvis Costello tour, the Rubinoos will be riding in a Winnebago. “With The Partridge Family written on the side to throw people off,” Dunbar jokes.
With the Elvis tour the band has a chance to show their music to the rest of the country. This tour along with the concerts in England could easily make the Rubinoos major stars.
“Right now we are just second strata,” states Dunbar, “but soon…. I’ll leave that to the imagination.”