29th July 2022
Interview: Amy Bell
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Ruby and Pete are PRESIDENT STREET. The pop fusion band taking the UK by storm.
Pete’s first musical thunderbolt was when he was working in Hong Kong, on a client night out with maybe a little too much refreshment when he joined the Mexican band on stage at a restaurant, as you do on drunken nights out, and started banging out some rhythms on the congas. And even though he’d never even thought of playing music until that (drunken) moment - the drummer came over to his table later and asked where he was gigging. When he heard that Pete had never played anything before, he decided to hook Pete up with local musicians.
Ruby has a strangely similar story to tell. Growing up in a Greek-Macedonian/ Hungarian family in Melbourne, she was singing before she could talk and taught herself to build enough of a tune by ear on the electric piano bought for her brother. She used to run home from school to pen her own songs in secret, starting around the age of 7, to release her imagination and as her form of therapy and escape from reality and is now the voice and half of the songwriting talent in President Street.
Thanks for talking to ReVamp, how has your musical journey been so far and who inspired you?
Hey! Thank you for having us!
Ruby: Our journey so far - looking back - has been amazing but also full of ups and downs really as well as the needed determination, passion and persistence. Music is great because there are so many different elements - you’ve got the evolutionary journey of the music and songwriting side of things which has been great writing exclusively together for the past few years and now expanding to collaborating with other writers and producers.
Then you’ve got the live element which has grown from acoustic set ups and more timid performances (from me at least) to now a fuller live sound with Pete on acoustic guitar, keyboards, djembe and loop pedals and I sing and use an electronic drum pad for extra musical flourishes - and an electric guitarist we have on tour. Live is always fun as its the moment to really connect with our audience and engage and put on the best show for them! With that comes a journey of increasingly sparkly outfits on my part too haha.
Pete: Yeah the outfits always go down well! And I guess the other elements of our journey apart from songwriting and live performance has been social media! As we’ve organically grown it’s been easier for us to create content and receive engagement from fans so that we can have that real time feedback and share with our supporters what we get up to and include them on the journey because we re so grateful for our supporters!
Ruby: It’s special to know there are people loving what we do and invested in coming on the ride and social media is an amazing platform to have that direct contact with fans when not performing live for them!
Pete: As for who inspired us, that’s an interesting question. I guess our true inspirations have come from artists who have carved their own path like Prince (for me at least). Artists who have the courage to just be unapologetically themselves. That’s definitely something that we believe strongly in.
Your new single ‘Heal’, is very emotive but catchy, what kind of vibe were you looking for?
Ruby: Thank you! Emotive but catchy is pretty much the vibe we were looking for! It’s about healing from pain and generational trauma whether it be from family by blood or adoption, friendship groups, institutional families like religion, governments, or even natural disasters and events like war. Wanting to do the work on yourself and undo the damage that was done onto you so you don’t repeat those unconscious damaging cycles to the next generation. So obviously it has quite a deep meaning lyrically in the verses but the music sort of keeps it up otherwise and then in the chorus melodically, lyrically and musical threes a more distinct energy of release and relief - like washing your worries away. We worked with a producer John Reynolds who’s worked with the likes of Sinead O’Connor and Damian Dempsey and he did an amazing job on the production of “Heal”. It’s got the emotionally cathartic yet chill vibe that you can listen to whether feeling up or a bit down and walk away feeling more level.
Is this from a personal story that you have lived yourself?
Ruby: We both relate to the song with our own personal stories and still wanted to keep it open enough lyrically for others to connect with, whatever their experiences. It was however prompted by my own personal story and a particular event one Saturday evening that brought up a lot for me that I thought I’d worked through. Hence, the “got some work to do on this soul connection”.
I’ve alway had a strong desire to always break through pain and understand why things happen and why people are the way they are - and it all largely traces back to our childhood years and what we’re exposed to so when you look at things from that frame it’s much easier to have compassion for people and yourself. And it’s like we have these soul and karmic connections with some people and therefore searching for the lessons and gifts, we can take away value even from the most awful things that may happen to us in life.
We still always have a choice about our own narrative. Like, being blindly positive and denying our breadth of human emotion and experience and the value more negative emotions and experiences have to teach us to grow isn’t great. Nor is allowing ourselves to be victims to our circumstance and becoming paralysed in life because we sort of equally aren’t honouring our deepest emotional experiences and needs.
Trying to heal ourselves deeply and thoroughly so we can feel genuine contentment and have resilience in this world is a good way to go I feel - because there’ll always be challenges in life and to have a curious growth mindset of knowing we can always have work to do on ourselves is more enriching for me at least! Our pasts don’t have to be our present or futures. We have the power over our lives and I wish that everyone, no matter what they’ve been through or been told can feel this freeing power.
I feel like a lot of people need to ‘Heal’ from different situations, what makes you heal from your own life experiences?
Ruby: We feel that too. So much pain and sadness in our world is surely to do with unhealed emotions and situations encountered in life. For me personally, it’s probably a mixture of time, honouring my experience of and feelings from whatever has happened, deep thinking, compassion for myself and others and knowing that everyone is doing their best with what they know - and unfortunately some of us didn’t get shown or taught love and safety and healthy habits in life. So taking action importantly to learn and grow. One thing actually that I always used to do when I was little and still now is imagining I’m speaking to my current self as my own grandmother - or speaking to my young self/inner child - it’s a very effective way to approach yourself with compassion and love because sometimes we can be our own worst critics which is totally unhelpful!! Us humans are funny creatures!
Pete: For me it’s about seeing reality and understanding that as much as we might try to want and see life in black and white - that life is in the grey and that everyone is doing their best. That frees up a lot of personal weight and pressure I might be feeling and gives me the space to live life a bit lighter and not be too effected by heavy stuff.
How do you go about writing and recording a single? What is the process like?
Pete: We write everything together - some more Ruby, some more me - and that process can be quite quick or take a bit more time. Some songs just flow and 4 minutes later you’ve got the musical foundation, melody and lyrics! Other songs you have to revisit a few times to get it right and of course there’s the ones that you just can’t break thought and shelve them hoping for another day but reality is something better comes along in the meantime and the rest are forgotten! As for whether we have a particular song topic in mind we want to write about, or are just in a mood and see what comes out, or one of us brings the other a partially finished concept - it just depends on the day!
Ruby: Definitely - and recording we have our own little studio set up and record everything individually as well as vocals and then we produce it up to a point we’re happy enough with in terms of it getting across the overall energy we want before passing it to another producer.
Pete: The process overall is fun - at times frustrating haha but we work really well together and complement each other musically so it’s always rewarding to share the process with someone else.
What is next for you?
Pete: We’ve just wrapped up an amazing tour with UK legend Roachford around the O2 venues across England so that was just fantastic touring with the guys, performing for the energetic audiences and meeting them after the shows.
But what’s next for us is our upcoming mini-album in the fall which we’re so excited about! It’s on the theme of healing from different angles with a good mix of dance and pop tracks, an uplifting ballad and more chill vibes too. We can’t wait to share it with you so definitely jump on our socials and subscribe to our mailing list to check it out once it arrives in a couple months!
Otherwise we’re always looking at more gigs here so can’t wait to see you all out there.