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Mod Magazine

Ruby Falls

Heroines was the debut album by New York City’s Ruby Falls. The collection of multi-layered epics entangled listeners into a fragile and dangerous world with a variety of sounds - - crashing, intricate, tiny, melancholy, endearing - - often within a single song. Letha and Jennifer’s anxious guitars wove together, at times in beautiful, airy melodies, at other times in twisting, gear-grinding crunches. Cynthia’s melodic bass lines and vocals drove the songs alongside Laura’s solid drumming, which holds everything together through the quirky moments and rhythmic hiccups.

“Before we were aware of this math rock thing going on, we were using similar techniques to figure out how to play these crazy songs Letha was writing, these complicated anthems,” says Cynthia.

Cynthia says, “By the time we asked ourselves ‘are we the only all-female math rock band?,’ math rock was a dirty word. But that’s only one piece of the Ruby Falls pie. There are elements of punk rock, classic rock, and pop with female singers and harmonies.”

Ruby Falls toured extensively since forming in 1992, booking their own tours and creating hats, coloring books, dolls, and comics to sell and trade in addition to the standard T-shirt and seven inch offerings. Not afraid of challenge, they booked their first tour on their debut single, and two subsequent cross-country tours solely on their two following singles. In 1994, drummer Andrew Bordwin (an ex-member of Flower) left the band to pursue his photography career, and was replaced by Laura Rogers, Jennifer’s sister. Laura jumped on the drums with a formal education in music but no drum experience. Within four months she recorded with the band, and after eight months she completed the band’s second cross-country tour.

Although their singles and compilation tracks have been well received by musicians, music aficionados and critics, the release of Heroines (recorded by James Murphy who has recorded June of ‘44) marks a particularly triumphant moment for Ruby Falls. Cynthia says, “In the early days of the band, we didn’t know anything about the studio, but we wouldn’t let anyone else control the recording process because we didn’t like the idea of guys getting their hands all over our music, changing it and getting credit for ‘producing’ it. But over the years we relaxed, actually allowed some people to help us, kept trying and learning and worrying. And on this record I think we finally figured out how to sound like what we thought we’d been sounding like all along.”
Jennifer says, “It’s easier being all girls because, for us, it’s a more open, supportive and creative environment, especially compared to some other bands we’ve been in. We’re feminists, but as a group we spend hours and hours crafting songs, not feminist ideologies. We’d rather people listen to our music first. When band decisions get difficult, our motto is ‘the music comes first.’”

Most Ruby Falls songs tell sad stories of women who have been held back from realizing their full potential in some way. They’ve been driven crazy, they’re young girls in small towns, they’re in fucked-up relationships, or they’ve been abused by the sex industries. But the rest of the songs are about being in a band, and exactly how liberating that can be for a woman.

Cynthia Nelson: bass and voice**
Letha Rodman: guitar and voice;
Jennifer Rogers: guitar and voice
Laura Rogers: drums;

“Angels Two”/”Special” 7” (Spartadisc)
“The Spirit is Willing”/”Dusty” 7” (Villa Villakula)
“Let Me Go” song on Why Do You Think They Call It Pop? compilation (Pop Narcotic)
“Hysteria” b/w “Cafe No Problem (live)” 7” (Silver Girl)
“Spanish Olive”/”The Way of Colleen” songs on Move in to the Villa Villakula CD/LP
“Cowgirl” song on Chemical Imbalance CD compilation (Chemical Imbalance)
“Dusty” song on Half Cocked soundtrack (Matador)
What She Does CDEP (Personal Favorite)
“Heroines” on Amour, A Silver Girl Sampler (Silver Girl)

**(Cynthia Nelson comprises half the duo Retsin with Tara Jane O’Neill (Rodan, Sonora Pine)