Emily Beanblossom is the singer, songwriter and guitar player of Austin’s Ruby Fray. Perhaps it’s all the episodes of Project Runway that I’ve been watching recently but the music of Ruby Fray reminds me of chiffon, leather, lace and velvet. It feels intimate, intricate and finely tailored.
I first saw Beanblossom’s then-band, Christmas, in Boston, fall of 2011. Lately, Beanblossom has been performing under the moniker Ruby Fray, a solo outfit that no doubt showcases her knack for songwriting, composition and singing. Ruby Fray’s music harnesses such seemingly disparate elements and sentiments: it’s dramatic yet gossamer; ethereal yet honed; urgent yet elegant; heartbreaking yet intent; gothic yet girlish; pop-ish yet powerful. The chance to interview Beanblossom emerged as Ruby Fray released their sophomore album, Grackle, on K Records. After enchanting crowds at Helsing Junction Sleepover 2014 and a subsequent house show in Olympia, the ever-affable Beanblossom talked with She Shreds about her creations and collaborations–from joke-making to soap-making to music-making. All with her earnest intent and exquisite wit.
Can you give a rough timeline of what has happened between fall of 2011 (when I first met you on tour with Christmas) up to now (with the release of Ruby Fray’s second album, Grackle )?
I moved to Austin, worked service industry jobs and met a lot of wonderful people. I lived in a house on the east side with my best friend who encouraged me to make soap, and, boy, did I go for it. We had soap coming out of our ears. I spent a lot of time perfecting this craft that I had doodled with in the past, and while it’s nowhere near perfect, it’s close to business-worthy. I also started practicing guitar every day and convinced some dudes to play with me. They learned the songs and then made them better. So we recorded an album at K with Nick Botka, Dan Levine, and Corey Anderson as the main band. Good musicians, good to tour with too. Buddies. We toured a few times! We decided to do a big US tour with Danny Metcalfe, Danielle Moran, and Corey again. We are getting ready for tour as we speak!
What sort of growth and/or change occurred from making Pith vs. Grackle?
I let go of the notion of “whatever comes to me is good” and changed it to “whatever comes to me better be good, or I will dump it or re-work it.” I’m glad I gave myself that discovery period, and extremely thankful K believed in my first solo songs enough to put it out…but for Grackle, I was a lot more intentional, and a lot more open to other people’s ideas. The other guys made the songs a lot more developed and interesting tonally.
Is Christmas going to release another album or is that just wishful thinking?
It’s both wishful thinking and a plan! All we’re waiting on is making the art work, and for everyone to make a freaking plan that involves each other. Maybe we will be in our 40s. A true testament to whether or not we still “got it.”
Do labels that surround your music (i.e “chamber folk pop”) ever feel constricting to your creative process?
No, but they do sometimes feel both silly and necessary. The music we make is not exceptional that it can’t be labeled. Labels are needed to communicate a vibe or a feeling. But when I hear them, sometimes I think, “Oh really? I guess I can see that!” These songs just seem to come right out of my head and I have never stopped to think about what genre they could be shaped by. I really enjoyed when someone said “psychedelic witch wave.”
How do you keep the process of writing and playing Ruby Fray songs exciting and new?
Collaborating is the only way to do this. Collaborate with your friends.
Why did you choose the name Ruby Fray for your band?
It was a name that sounded both delicate and tarnished, spiteful and indignant. That’s how the songs sounded to me. Sarcastic and a little hurt. It doesn’t mean anything necessarily, although when my band mate Corey asked me if it was a vagina, I said yes, wishing I had thought of that.
Choose a flower to represent yourself. What does it say about you that is hard to express in words alone?
I like this question!! I wish, I wish, I wish I were a Bat Orchid. Have you ever seen one!? It’s very dramatic and gothy. In reality, I am more of a Billy Ball: dried out and whimsical, bright yellow and maybe a bit dorky?
If you could shape shift, which animal would you like to become?
The Waterbear! Even though it has a gross face, those things are durable, have withstood the tests of time, temperature, drought, you name it. And they are teeny and plump.
What are your personal favorite song(s) from Grackle?
“Barbara”, “It’s Mine”, and “The Reprise”! “The Reprise” is a dance hit, and best of all, it has no words. It’s very hard for me to resist singing and layering harmonies on top of stuff, and I’m glad we just left it as is.