Waukesha natives Mark Mallman and Dan Geller have been garnering musical attention for years now -- Mallman for his solo work as a Minneapolis-based musician and, of course, his Marathon sessions at the Turf Club, and Geller for co-founding Kindercore Records in Athens, Ga., and being one-half of the now defunct I Am The World Trade Center.
Friends since their Wisconsin boyhood, Mallman and Geller, along with drummer Aaron Lemay, have finally joined musical forces to create the dancey-pants threesome known as Ruby Isle, which is, by the way, a reference to the Brookfield movie theater of their childhood, which closed in 1995 and is now a suburban-style shopping center.
"That's where Dan and I used to go see movies when we were kids," says Mallman via telephone as they head out on their first U.S. tour.
"Now it's not a movie theater at all, it's a very ugly mall that doesn't live up to the two words 'ruby isle' put together. It sounds like it'd be the most beautiful place in the world but what's interesting is that upon further investigation online we realized that Ruby Island was the name of one of the sites for the Trinity nuclear test. The name's really perfect for us."
Mallman reveals he's eating an ice-cream cone during our interview, and it sets the stage perfectly for a conversation about Ruby Isle's new album "Night Shot," a decidedly sugar-laden indulgence in sardonic dance pop and electro assault. Kindercore officially releases it Sept. 16, but never fear, says Mallman; the record will be available in hard copy when the band plays the Cactus Club Wednesday, Aug. 27.
The forthcoming debut full-length (the band put out a free EP a couple years back) has already gotten its share of online hype in the blogosphere thanks to vocal contributions from the unmistakable Tay "Chocolate Rain" Zonday.
"Tay and I are friends and we've worked together in Minneapolis on stuff and it was pretty off the cuff, actually," Mallman says. "I had this track and he and I had just finished working on something in the studio together and I just said, 'Hey, you wanna sing on this?'"
The result is the album's title track, a snappy, futuristic anthem that is just one of many layers to the multi-faceted album. "Hey Hey Hey (That Kid's OK)" is a poppy, hand-clapper, "Into the Black" is a mod-ish jangle hit, and then there are the covers, including Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill," for which Geller's former IATWTC bandmate Amy Dykes lends her skills.
Still, Zonday's "Night Shot" contribution stands out as genius synergy.
"He's an extraordinarily talented and really intelligent individual and he gets the gist of this project, which is that it started as an online project and it's campy. Those are things that Tay understands way more than people think."
Of course, the Internet can only take you so far. Ruby Isle loves to play live and the songs translate swimmingly to a pulsing, sweaty dance party. Be a part of it Wednesday night at the Cactus Club. Milwaukee's Big Fun opens the show.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”