Ruby The Hatchet Is The Heavy Psych Band You Need To Know Right Now
By the time I saw Ruby The Hatchet at Kerrang!’s showcase at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, New York, I was ready to never hear another modern band with a “classic” metal sound in my life. I’d had it with all the galumphing stoner Sabbath clones, the aimless witchy occult acts, and every other flavor of throwback metal that tried to convince me that their baby-proofed riffs and Hammer horror references made them edgy. So when my friend told me Ruby The Hatchet had a “Seventies” sort of vibe, I thought, “Great, I’ll catch one song and then start drinking for real.”
One whole set later, I was an instant fan. Over the course of some forty killer minutes, this New Jersey quintet had me headbanging like a maniac and howling at the ceiling with my horns held high. Their kickass riffs, wild organ sections, crowing vocals, and boundless energy are everything that old-school metal is supposed to be. Why any band is trying to play this style, and not playing it exactly like this, is beyond me. Hopefully, those about to experience the band live for the first time will be ready for what’s about to hit them when Kerrang! streams their Saint Vitus set from their Facebook page this Wednesday at 1PM EST.
Of course, when I reach her on the phone at Atsion Lake in southern New Jersey, frontwoman Jillian Taylor is far from the lightning-fueled warrior-witch I saw onstage — she’s personable, clever, and funny as hell. When I recount the story of my first Ruby The Hatchet show, she’s graciously grateful. “I like to treat it as a game, almost,” she says. “I’m always flattered if you know who we are, and if you don’t, it’s almost even more fun.”
Above: Taylor at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY (Credit: Angela Owens)
Your live energy is incredible! Where does that come from? Is it hard to keep that up?
It’s funny, I feel like part of the energy comes from having been together so long, and having been through so much. Being in a band can be so much work, and then the shows are a release: the reason why we’re doing everything. So everyone is so excited.
Do fights ever get diffused onstage? Do you ever walk onstage thinking, That fucking guy, and walk off thinking, I don’t know what I was angry about, I’m sorry?
Absolutely. All of us are big softies, and some of us live together, and some of us work together, so there’s really no escape from one another, which is a gift and a curse. You do just naturally have disagreements, and they’re never that crazy with us, but as soon as we’re done playing a show, we’re all saying, “I’m sorry about that, man!” It puts things in perspective.
Are you excited to head out to Europe? Are there any cities you’re excited to hit, old favorites or new frontiers?
We’re hitting the UK for the first time, so I’m excited for London, but also Bristol, Glasgow, and of course Birmingham. I have family there — my mom is from Northern England, so it’s going to be great. It’s also our first time in Italy and France, and the other side of my family is Italian, so that’ll be great. But the place I’m probably most excited to return to is the Pizzini in Bamberg, Germany, which is a place I’d never heard of and was the best stop of our last tour there. Now we have a feel for that small town, so we’re excited to go back there.
Small towns are great in that respect — they’re not concerned with trends, they just want o hear music that lights their fire.
Yeah! It was a Tuesday that we played there, and none of us had ever heard of Bamberg. But I guess they’d printed our picture out for the flyer, and it’s a small town, so on the day of the show an old man was passing on a bike and yelled, ‘Ruby the Hatchet!’ We thought, Oh my God, how does anyone know who we are? We get to this 400-year-old venue that makes its own Jagermeister, and it’s sold out on a Tuesday night. We’re thinking, ‘What is this beautiful place?!’ It was such a special one-of-a-kind place. There was even someone there who had arranged a light show they’d made for us.
Do you feel you’ve nailed your sound with Planetary Space Child, or is it still evolving?
I feel like it’s still evolving, and that’s my favorite part. It’s like every album is a stop on the evolving path of the sound. I DO feel like we’re in the pocket now, and the newest album is definitely my favorite. And I think that’s just because with every album, we’ve played together that much longer, we’ve had tours together, and that just makes you that much more of a unit. But it’s evolving because everyone contributes to the writing process in our band.
It sounds like there’s not a lot of e‑mailing your parts to one another — you guys are always in a room together.
That might be why it takes a little longer too. I know bands who churn out album after album, and I wonder how they do that, until I realize they’re not all getting together: there’s just one driving force and everyone else adding to that. But we really take the long road.
Do you know what the next stop on that road is?
I do feel like we sound more dynamic. I always really want to write an epic ballad kind of song. But John actually sang on a song on the last album, so I’m trying to get that harmony on the next album. I see all those videos of old bands from the Sixties and Seventies — you know what, on or off the record, I don’t care, I’m a huge Eagles fan, and the voices on everyone in that band doing the harmony live? You don’t really hear that anymore. So getting as many people onstage singing is my personal goal!
Is there any member of the band who you love to death but either doesn’t need a mic or who you’ll never be able to convince to sing?
Oh my God, yes — our bass player Lake. We keep trying to get him to sing, and he just will not. But he’s a hell of a bass player, so that’s enough.
Above: Ruby The Hatchet’s video for their track Vast Acid from back in 2016
Certain media lists you as a New Jersey band, others a Philadelphia band. Which do you guys consider yourselves?
That’s an interesting question, actually, because everyone in the band might have a different answer. If you ask me, I like to go with New Jersey. I’m from Asbury Park. More specifically, there’s a lot of music history I relate to. But we’re from South Jersey, about five miles outside of Philadelphia, so when it comes to having a major city to play in, it’s Philly. I kind of like it — it has an explanation to it.
I’m sure a lot of folks would hear either a California thing or a Birmingham Black Sabbath kind of thing from your power-psychedelic sound. But it’s good to know it comes from the dark heart of New Jersey.
Yeah, we have a lot of those Jersey influences: Blue Oyster Cult, the Boss…. I mean, obviously, we also listen to a lot of those bands, psych-rock and all that. But in New Jersey, you get a weird blend of influences.
To clarify, in the great New Jersey cured meat debate: Pork roll or Taylor ham?
I’m a pork roll person, because that’s just what was around me! But all of my friends go Taylor ham, so I try to keep it neutral.
Words: Chris Krovatin
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