The Rubs are trash. Not only is this the title of Chicago band The Rubs latest released EP, but it’s true, in the best way possible. The Rubs are pure, raw garage rock/trash pop, the perfect balance of not giving a shit while giving a shit. Coming from a city with an inclusive and thriving music scene, The Rubs have been able to be part of a group of musicians who help and influence one another, thus becoming the perfect embodiment of the whole do-it-yourself music business. I chat with Joey Rubbish, the singer, bassist, writer, and recorder of the rubs songs, and discuss the paradoxical nature of rock n roll, the intimacy of small venues, and the forever fluctuating DIY music scene…

Being the first band that I interview from Chicago, what can you tell us about the DIY music scene there? How has that scene affected you as a band and as an individual, and subsequently your sound? Some great names are currently coming out of there and it seems like the place to BE!

    The DIY scene here is great. For various reasons people are able to maintain their spaces for a fair amount of time (maybe about 2-3 years on average) without too much interference from the local law enforcement. As a result, all of the bands here always have great places to play and we have a steady influx of young people coming to shows and figuring out how to get things going for themselves (either as a band or a venue). We’ve got a lot of great smaller “legal” venues too, but I think a lot of bands here seem to prefer the former because more folks come out to DIY shows and they have more of a party atmosphere that appeals to people that might not even be into rock n roll bands. Also its waaaay cheaper to bring a six pack and half a pint of whiskey to a DIY show than it is to buy beer and shots all night at a bar. This enables more people to come out to shows more often which makes it fun for the bands and everyone else.

    The scene here has definitely affected our band a lot. Everyone in The Rubs all met each other through the scene/playing shows together with other projects. As far as the music we make the scene has had an affect as well. You mentioned that there are a lot of great bands here and that’s definitely true. Most of us are all friends and everyone plays in everyone else’s projects so we are all aware of what everyone else is doing. I think maybe 3-4 years ago bands seemed to be a little more strict with how they allowed themselves to sound. Everything had to be garage or garage-punk for a while, but now everyone’s trying different musical avenues and not being afraid to come off a little vulnerable or “soft” or not sound “punk” at all. Collectively, we all looked around and said “oh shit, if he/she is doing THAT and people still dig it then I’ll maybe I can do THIS.” This has led to some more interesting projects and releases in recent years which only makes for a healthier creative environment for everyone. The Rubs new songs and records reflect that I think. The new LP- ‘Impossible Dream’ coming out on Hozac Records this fall- still has its punk moments but it also has a lot of straight-up pop/love songs, quiet acoustic jams and drum machines.

Are there certain DIY venues within the city that you go to/play at and that have helped you along the way? Do you think that these kind of spaces are important, yet maybe underrated by society?

    There are two DIY spaces (that are now defunct unfortunately) that come to mind. Animal Kingdom and Wally’s world were two spaces in particular that I was pretty closely involved with- not for booking shows, but I spent a lot of time at those houses either as a performer, an attendee or just hanging out on nights when there wasn’t a show. The Rubs first practice space was at Animal Kingdom (our original bass player Kelly Nothing used to run that space) and i became close friends with all the people that lived there. They had great shows too…maybe too great cuz the neighbors finally complained enough to shut it down. Wally’s World was definitely my favorite DIY space in Chicago. It always had a “party vibe”, it had a great location and the shows were always run well and the bands (especially the out of town bands) got paid decently. Magic Ian ran that space which recently had their final week of shows called “Walter’s Wake Week” which was basically a 6-band-show-per-night-event which lasted for about 10 days straight. It was exhausting for the people who lived there and the participants, but it was fun as hell. I was honored The Rubs got to play the final night.

One of your tags on Bandcamp is ‘trash pop’ which I feel embodies your effortlessly cool sound. How does one achieve this ‘trash’ sound and aesthetic, yet remain totally cool and consistent?

    I know I’m not the first person to have this idea, but for me the perfect kind of band/artist is one that gives a fuck/gives no fucks. It’s the paradox of rock n roll. Cuz if you go too far in either direction the band will suck. It gets tricky cuz there are four big things you have to always keep in mind as an artist at all times: the sound/arrangement of the band, the songwriting, the recordings/records and the attitude/personality of the band members. If a band gives a fuck/gives no fucks in all or most of these categories they will be probably be pretty rad.

We (hopefully) all know the feeling of sneaking into our homes late at night after a show, creeping up the stairs, trying not to disturb our sleeping parents, our ears still ringing…have there been significant experiences like this for you that have inspired you to play music/keep playing? Any shows in particular that have served as creative inspiration?

     Unfortunately, I grew up in a small town that had little-to-no DIY scene. When I was younger I had a band that played at high school dances, church basements, coffee shops and the occasional college frat party, but I wasn’t lucky enough to grow up in or around a city like Chicago or DC. But I will say that being at DIY shows as an adult is still exciting and inspiring to me. I think its the way people should experience a rock n roll show even if its only once or twice. It’s sad to me that people think Lollapalooza or Coachella or even larger music venues are the best places to see shows. There’s no way a huge venue like that can produce the same energy. I mean shit…I would’ve loved to have seen Queen play at Soldier Field back in their heyday and I still love going to see shows at The Empty Bottle or The Hideout, but as far as seeing music in Chicago on a regular basis the best bang for the buck is DIY…that is if you’re not too scared (and you know a punk of course).

A trend you wish had never died?

Rock n Roll!!

An artist/song/album that makes you feel a heavy dose of nostalgia?

I’m still a sucker for Elliott Smith…he always transports me back to my early angst.

What’s it like being a musician/band in the 21st century?

   I love it! I can put all my music up for the world to listen to/see and I can spend hours and hours on youtube wandering down rock n roll’s many dark, deep rabbit holes.

interview by AL SMITH



al smith