In this internet age, we are connected instantly to people around the globe. Yet are we connected to our own selves? We have access to ideas from every philosophy, but do we have any direction? In a commercial age overrun by consumerism, how can we tap into creativity?
Ruiz addresses these issues through hard rock music.
With their homeland in the Central European country of Croatia, a country just east of Italy across the Adriatic Sea, this band brings a unique perspective from the philosophical roots of nearby Greece.
Playing as a trio since 2007, Ruiz is comprised of Tomislav Šnidarić (lead vocals, guitar), Marko Kalčić (vocals, bass) and Janko Kezele (vocals, drums). Their 2009 debut, ‘Erupt!’ featured new wave beats and groovy bass notes set to casually themed catchy tunes. Progressing in their musical abilities, Ruiz put forth two 2011 releases, both for Geenger Records. The first was a 4-track EP titled, ‘Draw the Line Never a Square.’ The second was ‘Radio Revolution,’ an album that calls society not so much to revolt but moreso to return to the roots of inter-connection and identity.
Lead singer Tomislav “Tome” spoke to Resonance about Ruiz’ recent releases and the music’s commentary regarding societal issues today.
MC: I liked your EP and album much better than ‘Erupt!’ You have improved a lot. Your music blends punk, grunge, and hard rock. How would you best describe your music?
Ruiz: Thanks! We like it better too. We have difficulties in genre definitions but it wouldn’t be wrong to say we deliver very intimate and energetic rock ‘n’ roll. Ruiz is in pursuit of that secret ingredient in r’n’r that made us musicians in the first place. We’re returning what we’ve been given.
MC: I remember one of my favorite tracks when reviewing ‘Erupt!’ last year was a dance tune with shoegaze overlays called, “You Can’t Have Me [so try to let me go].” Your EP and album, both released this past spring, have a heavier feel and not as much dance rhythm to them. What was your focus in recording these two works?
Ruiz: We aimed for a fast, knock-out album, putting to life our punk-rock roots. Songs were made in one specific period with the intention of having a compact and balanced album with a strong message.
As for the dance elements, they peek out through layers of noise in most of the songs, so if you listen for them carefully, chances are you’ll find them.
MC: I’d say “Go Go Go”, “You Decide”, “Soul to Soul”, and “So Around You” are a few examples of those knock-out songs.
The ‘Draw the Line, Never a Square’ EP is a set of four hard rock songs critiquing the vain lifestyles and moral indifference of modern society. Would you explain the title for us?
Ruiz: Each person should take a stance in their social environment. That’s what the title is all about. To draw the line, means to make your identity visible. But you need caution in order to avoid the “square” of bigotry and radicalism. Nowadays, the way I see it, a considerable amount of people are polarized in a way. There are those who live by “anything goes” ethics, and on the other end of the spectrum, fundamentalists. Squares or no lines at all – it’s the geometry of the end of the world if you ask me.
MC: That’s interesting. I hear you encouraging strong beliefs, but warning against closed mindedness.
I can warning in “Sirens” as well with the swelling cry of the guitars which I think is excellent. This song is about alerting people in a different way though. According to Greek mythology, sirens are portrayed as who used their enchanting music to lure sailors to shipwreck. The song says, “I don’t want to be in love with sirens” and yet so many people enter into relationships they know are doomed. What do you see as the solution for that? In other words, what might be more powerful than the lure of false love?
Ruiz: It could be understood as a love song, but above all it’s about confrontation with the culture of relativism through the enlivenment of Odysseus’ spirit [as portrayed in the Homeric poem, ‘The Odyssey’]. Odysseus was dedicated to his goal – true love at the end of the journey. I personally see it as a profound Christian story.
The thing I like the most about “Sirens” is the storytelling nature of the music. I hope that the listener can easily imagine the voyage to that breaking point where sirens “out-loud” [or overpower] the rest of the music. Shipwrecks, taken as a metaphor, are necessary to learn how to build vehicles that allow you to travel. Only then [after you’ve learned from your mistakes] can you appreciate what you’ve built. That kind of schooling takes integrity, ideals, criteria. It takes drawing some lines, doesn’t it? Society is in great need of that kind of people.
MC: Agreed. You named your album ‘Radio Revolution.’ We are entering the age where radios are nearly obsolete! What is your interest in bringing them back?
Ruiz: Radio has warmth and spirit. It has that retro-romantic feel that is lacking in modern society. People today tend to forget what their roots are, even in terms of just one generation. You can’t live with integrity if you let go of your roots.
Our body, our DNA, is a history book, so let’s put into balance our biology and sociology. It makes sense to me.
On the other hand, radio itself also symbolizes an apparatus that sends very serious warnings, at least it did in the past. It’s a symbol of a more dedicated and devoted approach to music. Through our music we talk about the society which is disintegrating further and further, and becoming a place where everything is valued equally – effectively making everything worthless. Radio is a metaphor of certain healthier times.
MC: Yes, when everything is equally significant, everything is also equally insignificant. This also reminds me of that line from the movie, ‘The Incredibles’ where the villain Syndrome says, “When everyone’s super, no one will be.”
You say relativism stifles individuality, and the cult of money stifles creativity. How so? What do you mean by “relativism”?
Ruiz: If you say “everything is good”, you destroy values. Relativism does exactly that – it knows the cost of everything, but doesn’t know the value of those same things. We’re being bombarded by artificially created needs, and we don’t have the time anymore to pursue our personal development, to nurture our individuality. The media is wearying us with a constant flow of trivial and negative news, while offering us consumerism as the solution.
As for creativity, just look at the music charts today. Artificial, mass produced music – the pure business product of monopolist producers which turn the audience into zombies who listen to ten equal songs each month. Creativity has become totally irrelevant, and I’m talking about the authentic creativity which is fulfilled through ideas and ideals.
Today, the arts are represented by posers who, backed by the powers of the marketing industry, become so-called “acknowledged artists.” A society lives its passions and spirituality through the arts. The arts enable society to cry and laugh. Today we have an uninterested, superficial and ruthless society. Where are the arts now?
MC: The arts can now be found as phone apps available to smartphone addicts. Seriously though, there’s a lot to be said for lack of creativity in a commercial society. People are so often told what to think and how to feel and what direction to take, it’s hard to know where to begin a personal journey toward self discovery.
You talk a lot about finding your way. “You Decide” says, “I could get lost or I could be found.” “Let’s Make a Sound” says, “Find your way with me.” “Pilgrim Song” says, “If you know where you’re from, you’ll know where to go.” Do you believe there is a particular destination we should work toward, or is life a continuously unfolding journey?
Ruiz: People decide for themselves if their lives are one thing or another. For me, the goal of every human being is to realize why he’s living, and to be deeply anxious until he finds out the answer to that question. It seems that we’re the only species which deals with this issue – so we should take some time and devote ourselves to it.
MC: Well said. I hear you calling people to live more consciously. You donate a portion of your merchandise sales to “Centre for Unborn Life – Bethlehem”, an organization that assists women enduring crisis pregnancies. What makes this issue important to you?
Ruiz: Today, women have role models in the form of starlets who state that self-indulgence is the only key to success. Those kind of women see children as a drag, a stumbling block which holds them back from enjoying their lives. The media devalue the true heroines whose lives aren’t so carefree, the women who have every reason in the world to do something for themselves – and still they decide to keep their yet unborn children. That’s the courage, the ideals, the example we want to show people.
MC: It certainly takes courage to make traditional family decisions which these days tend to be counter-cultural. Your song “Radiostar” addresses a generation of drifters, people who are “feeling useless, like you have no name.” Do you believe people today lack a sense of purpose and identity?
Ruiz: The rise of violence in society, especially among the youth, tells us enough about that. We have yet to face the real results of neglecting to seek our identity – that is the real origin of the problem. Avoiding your own self has become a lifestyle.
MC: I see. If you could summarize Ruiz’ purpose and identity, what would it be?
Ruiz: Just three guys who really care about the music they make.
MC: That’s simple enough. I suppose it’s best when considering your purpose and identity to start with your passion.
There is a definite restlessness and longing in “Now I Wanna Be You” which says, “I wanna feel things I’ve never felt before/ I wanna do things I’ve never done before.” What future frontiers does Ruiz hope to explore?
Ruiz: With this album we liberated some kind of fury that was building up inside us. I think we’re ready for an even more complex approach to the songs, and upcoming Ruiz music will for sure sound different, but we still don’t know how.
For a free download of the EP ‘Draw the Line Never a Square’ click here.