Rubicon 7 have developed a highly dynamic, energetic style that they describe as “a progressive/electro house sound, bass heavy with melodic chords and catchy vocals”. They host a weekly show called “Under The Influence” on Digitally Imported (one of the world’s leading online radios for electronic music) and also play shows in the US and internationally.
Read more in this interview with that they gave exclusively to Sweet Headache:
How would you describe your music? (preferably without using genre terms :-))
Brandon: Describing our music without leaning on genre tags is probably easier anyhow because in just the past 12 months alone, we have spanned multiple categories ranging from flowing Ibiza-friendly vocal house to big, hard-hitting electro.
Though there is a common thread that ties it all together, a certain feel that seems to come through in each track. Anyone can watch a YouTube video to learn how to make most any style of EDM, but that will usually just leave you with a sound-a-like rip-off of a popular track. Instead, we tend to borrow individual elements and melodic structures from various genres rather than make a track that fits into a specific mold.
How did you and Brandon meet? How are you working together?
Elizabeth: We met online and formed an instant bond over music. Our partnership is a unique blend of logic and emotion, beats and melody, introvert and extrovert. When one of us has an idea, the other is quick to jump on board and help expand the scope of the project.
Brandon: We spend on average about 30 hours per week together in the R7 studio which also doubles as Elizabeth’s office where she writes and consults for various record labels. Whenever schedules don’t allow for one or both of us to be physically in the studio, we still constantly bounce plans, ideas and links to each other over instant messengers.
I’m sure there is a pretty extensive chat log in an NSA database somewhere that catalogs almost everything she and I have discussed so far…mostly because of chat snippets like “wow, that will destroy the club!” and “just a couple hours until we light it up! BOOM!”.
What are your most important past and present influences?
Brandon: My most important influences in the past were some of the forerunners of today’s electronic music scene, such as Erasure, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys. Earlier R7 tracks, like “Anybody But You” in particular, have a heavy signature from that era and style. However, it was our desire to move past that “sound” into something more modern and underground, which actually spawned the concept for our Under The Influence podcast. The idea was to select and mix the new tracks from other artists that highlighted the direction we were taking with our own productions.
Elizabeth: Basically, we are sharing with the world each week who is inspiring us in our own journey as EDM producers, so, in a way, we are the ones who are “under the influence.”
I read in another interview that the name “Rubicon 7” was inspired by Shakespeare. Do you have any other important non-musical influences?
Elizabeth: We love stuff that is nerdy — everything from government conspiracies and Ancient Aliens to the Big Bang Theory sitcom. In fact, an old episode of the Big Bang Theory was the inspiration for our next heavy electro-house single “Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock” which is out everywhere on December 30th [shameless plug].
Brandon: Also, my fascination with conspiracies and mind control played a big part in a song we wrote last year called “MK Ultra” — the fictional tale of a brainwashed assassin trying to cope with the memory gaps of the previous night’s events (not that any party-goer could ever relate to that scenario!). While those are some of our favorite themes for songwriting, we mostly just try to keep our lyrical content relevant and distinct, avoiding at all costs reducing ourselves to saying things like “Put yo hands up!” followed by nothing but a kick drum and a Vengeance sample. That is the point at which we would know it is time to call it quits.
Could you describe your local music scene for us? (for someone who is not from the US)
Elizabeth: We are located in a very “off the map” area in Boise, Idaho, which is the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is very similar to some other mid size cities around the country, but it has an almost cult-like EDM following with a very broad age range. In a single week, you can attend shows that range from tech house to dubstep and you will see some overflow in the crowd at both types of show. I’ve seen bassheads at our progressive shows and trance family at our electro shows. It’s almost as if there are no boundaries and we can appreciate that since it is the approach that we use when producing tracks.
Brandon: Everyone loves a good festival, or even a massive line-up in a big room setting, but that isn’t where the Boise EDM scene thrives. Here, the scene is just big enough to bring in some of the top acts in the world like Tiesto, Morgan Page and Zedd, but still small enough that the experience is always personal and intimate. This allows the fans to get closer to the DJs and the music than they could anywhere else without having a backstage pass at a festival.
Which of your own productions or remixes are you most proud of and why?
Brandon: One production that I’m most proud of is the remix that we did for Gold Top’s track Uh Oh, which is still one of our top-selling tracks. The original was a huge 140BPM dubstep track, so putting our own R7 spin on it was especially challenging. We approach remixing basically the same way every time — we listen to the original version of the track once (and only once), and then we drop the dry vocal into an empty Cubase project to begin. From there, we construct the elements based on what we feel from the original vocal. What made the Uh Oh remix special for me was how we managed to completely re-imagine a massive dubstep track into a smooth 128BPM electro-progressive tune that held its own among fans of both genres. It was one of those rare productions that came together in just a few hours instead of days or even weeks.
How do you prepare for a DJ set?
Elizabeth: We have a large whiteboard on the wall in our recording studio that we use for a variety of things like reminders about deadlines, production tips, and live set tracklist notes. Each week as we put together our Digitally Imported radio show, certain tracks stand out in the mix that we feel would work really well for a live crowd. When that happens, we add it to the list on the whiteboard. At any given moment, we have about 40 to 50 tracks that we have picked for playing out, and the list is always evolving.
Brandon: A few days prior to a DJ set, we make sure to have all the tracks on the whiteboard that we might play cataloged and tagged inside Rekordbox, adding special notes for harmonic mixing and which tracks work especially well together for transitions.
Other than that, we practice…a lot, because we are not so much actual DJs as we are producers who perform in clubs where DJ’ing is the native language.
What are your plans for the near future?
Elizabeth: Recently, we have been begun doing in-studio vocal recording, plus mixdowns and mastering for other artists in a variety of genres ranging from electro house to pop and indie dance. The response to the projects we have finished so far has been amazing, but our goal is to always do better.
So with that, our plans for the next couple of months are focused on improving our recording studio space with even better bass trapping and diffusion so we can continue to up our game for our own production and the work we do for others.
Any shows or releases that you are looking forward to?
Brandon: Our next event is the big NYE 2014 bash at the Knitting Factory here in our adopted home town of Boise, ID, which has some of the best EDM fans anywhere. We are really looking forward to ringing in the new year with all of them.
The event will also double as a release party for our “Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock” single which hits the day prior on December 30th. That single is easily some of the hardest electro that we have produced thus far so I am eager to see how crowds and online fans react.