Photo by M. Pullman
In his list of “5 random facts” not only does Vex Ruffin admit he’s an oddball fan of DMX and The Cure, but he also confesses he can’t count (the list actually includes 10 facts). Our hero of monotone melody confides he can’t even really play the guitar. Ruffin says, “i just do the one finger string thing.” Bold words for what his label, Stones Throw Records, confesses as a chance opportunity when signing him. It’s actually a remarkable and inspiring story. Vex sent off some 300 songs to Peanut Butter Wolf himself for consideration, and of the brooding batch much has been gained. Ruffin’s already been featured on HBO’s Girls as well as hailed attention from Portishead‘s Geoff Barrow, who selected “I’m Creative” as the “tune of the year.”
After playing SXSW 2012 and wowing reviewers with his debut effort Crash Course, not to mention giving away a free EP: Eulogy this macabre rough rider looks like he set his tunnel vision approach to the scenester music sector the same way any kid waiting for a kick in the head might need to. Originality has nothing to do with it. The sounds is so basic, so droningly deceptive. The effect, well, utter delirium. Like huffing paint and picking fights just for fun. This Chino Hills bad boy trio is badass! Following that new new-wave wave I mentioned months ago, Vex Ruffin reminds me of a bassier Seth Sutton.
Ruffin looks like your filipino race-car souping rapper cousin, although I’m sure you’d never hear songs like the hazy hit “Zoo,” on anything resembling the Drive soundtrack or in one of the Fast and The Furious flicks. This hooligan-esque, Junk Culture attempt at the Soft Moon doesn’t want to be classified of pegged into any scene, and his music shows it. His style is all his own. As Vex states in interviews and all over his tumblr, he is in fact the Beastmaster (remember that show guys?)! His songs are ripe with repetitious chords and even more redundantly ridiculous and mockingly profound lyrics. We would not have it any other way. The monotony hits hard and fills the brain with what it craves, a little bit of mind-numbing pleasure.
I’m not sure I hear the DMX through the dark-wave, minimal punk overtones. But, I’m sure they’re somewhere in that beat culture approach. Same Thing Tomorrow (a cassette-only release) is one of those EP’s that just does it. I couldn’t explain this one to you if I tried, and as the failed previous narrative about him instead of the album might indicate, there’s no need. No need for words. I suppose I could talk about the individual tracks, like the first track, “I Focus (Born to be Vex)” which lays out Ruffin’s artist statement quite well: a diligent though listless creator set on destroying convention? Or skip to track three: “Release,” quick with distorted, heavy sub-echoing baselines, gives obvious reference to nerdy, mainstream alt-rock 90’s loving days fit with wanton rebellion against urban-suburban factions.
“Flaming Torch” might be a mantra for self-actualization, like last month’s underdog nobodies, PISS-OFF! on their rabble rousing hit “Antisocialite”. Ruffin’s title track “Same Thing Tomorrow” is like a stripped down and drearier Sonny and The Sunsets with a tinge of depressed Jacuzzi Boys. “Roll with the Punches” posits interesting and weird sound warps within the first minute. I think there’s a ukulele in there, too. Whatever it is Vex’s been searching for, that “single grain of hope,” or what-have-you, it’s better off not found, so long as he keeps making incredible, simple, cooky music for our dumbasses. He’s my new hero, probably because Vex Ruffin really is the sweatiest basketball-loving beastmaster!