We are lucky enough to live in a town where you can walk outside your door on the daily and practically bump into an artist making killer music. That said, and with a scene so seemingly bursting with talent, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate who you should pay attention to which is where we come in occasionally to act as a guide to help you find who stands out from the rest.
One such act you might sort of already know if you’ve paid attention to the hybrid potpourri section of the Boston musicverse (Not a word) is Miele (Active from around 2014-2020) who became Ruby Grove which brings us to today’s post. Ruby Grove, made up of Miele’s Melissa Nilles on vocals and keys and Cedric Lamour on bass and backup vox, is an emerging artist, a New England Music Awards-nominated “Rising Star Of Massachusetts” even who have a lot on their upcoming slate.
Ahead of their final show of the year (Happening on November 17th at Lilypad which you can find out about here), Nilles and Lamour were gracious enough to chat via email about ALL things Ruby Grove touching on the story of their recent beginnings, their debut single “Maybe It’s Time” and what’s to follow, building a community in the Boston scene and so much more!
The origins of Ruby Grove began way before the official “Born on” date of 2022 with both Nilles and Lamour working together in Miele. Despite the longevity of the Boston mainstays, Miele would eventually come to an end with Ruby Grove rising from the ashes (Like a phoenix perhaps???) as the duo divulge:
Cedric Lamour: “Miele’s ending started off with an abrupt change in sound when our lead guitarist moved to NYC for various reasons. After that, life seemed to have gotten in the way of the success of the band mainly because its members had moved away to peruse personal endeavors in their lives, not limited to musical. We’ve learned a lot about the game from and due to our Miele days, performing with Miele, and recording an album with Miele. Invaluable skills and tools.”
Melissa Nilles: “We knew the end was coming already in 2019- a slow and amorphous one. I wrote a song or two in 2019/2020 that compared the end of the project to a “dying sun” that would fizzle out for thousands of years after a supernova. We parted ways with a core member of the band due to both location and creative differences, and things were never really the same. I already knew something significant in me had changed in what I wanted, and how my voice, writing style, and sonic preferences were shifting, so I didn’t want to tie myself to the sound of Miele for much longer. Cedric and I played a few virtual and semi-masked street performance shows as Miele in 2020 and 2021 when it didn’t feel safe to play indoor venues, but it didn’t really feel quite right anymore.”
Which brings us to the origins of Ruby Grove as Nilles continues:
MN: “Ruby Grove’s bassist/backup vocalist Cedric and I are previously acquainted through our former project Miele (and we are also romantically together). Ruby Grove bounced around in our heads as a mutual concept for a while before we were finally able to launch a proper project together, thanks to the pandemic.
Ruby Grove represented a fresh start, sound, and aesthetic that captured the era I was moving towards lyrically and musically of lush soundscapes filled with hopeful words, magic spells, and healing language. Of course, in order to launch Ruby Grove, Miele had to die, and I was very attached to the project, having given six years of my lifeblood and energy to it. Yet I held onto the wisdom a music colleague Hailey Magee shared with me one day that it might be scary to launch a new project, like starting from scratch after years of hard work, but you never lose your connections to real people, and those real people will likely still support you and check out your new stuff, and that is ultimately what ultimately makes up the scene.
Though in some ways we had to backslide and give up some progress (including an existing well-received album) I truly feel that we are taking all the years of experiences of developing material and stage personas, thousands of hours in grungy practice spaces, and hundreds of shows with Miele, allowing us to start in a more mature, grounded, and intentional place. It’s clear to me that the Boston community and local fans still respect us as loyal music scene folks, yet now I feel freer to express my true nature with this project.
With the wisdom of the previous era, I am also able to avoid some of the pitfalls of wasted time and energy- saying yes to every show even if it’s not a sonic fit, not balancing my time and energy, not delegating and getting overwhelmed, not asking for help and involving the fans, spending time on unhelpful or unseen promotion, etc. Instead, acting strategically based on knowledge and lived experience feels pretty good. For example, I had no idea for a long time that you need to ask people to nominate you for the New England Music Awards- I just assumed it was random. So now that I know that, I applied my entrepreneurial spirit this year and asked our audience to help us out, and we got nominated. Things are simpler when you actually know how they work. And god knows I’ve fallen down enough stairwells to know that I would benefit from wearing non-slip shoes.”
As for the name “Ruby Grove”? Turns out there’s a delightful tale regarding that, too:
MN: “It was one of many names Cedric and I wrote in a little journal of band names we kept during 2020-2021 during a musical collapse/waiting/reformation period that mirrored the collective experience. I went through a period of burnout where Cedric thankfully spoke loving words into my ears about my potential. We played a game called Spellbreak together, which was a magic-based battle royale-style game. Ruby Grove was a lovely, relaxing place on the map in Spellbreak that you could land- with giant red storybook trees, treasure chests everywhere, and an ancient castle, all imbued with a rosy glow. The idea of a magical, comforting, and beautiful place to land really stuck with us as a summation of what we hoped this new era of music-making could be compared to our more dramatic previous project. It felt like an antidote to the poison of the collective shadow of societal disconnection, fear, isolation, and commodification. We chose to wait until late 2021 for a soft launch of the project for a show or two but it feels like we really launched the project in 2022 due to the entire nature of the pandemic.”
Beyond the pairing of Lamour and Nilles, Ruby Grove has recently utilized live drummer Sage Gibbons (With producer Nick Zampiello performing for the studio recording of “Maybe It’s Time”) but the pursuit for more permanence has continued with an open call going out for a drummer and more across RG’s socials earlier in September with Lamour and Nilles revealing how the recent search went:
CL: “We have found a guitarist, and are still deciding on a permanent drummer, but we are feeling good about the one we are currently playing and exploring sounds with.”
MN: “We’re delighted to report we found not one but two guitarists- we were really torn between both during the audition process and then realized they had different strengths that would compliment each other well. One is quite good with lead energy as well as specific psychedelic Kruangbin meets Fruiscante meets Santana-esque sounds we were looking for, and the other is great at rhythm, loves inventing little crazy earworms, and is also a multi-instrumentalist so he can hop between instruments and open up sonic space in the overall sound of Ruby Grove. Essentially, we just added a guitarist/sax/percussion/drum/bass/piano player. It’s very exciting, and it will also allow me to step off keys sometimes and feature vocals, play more instruments myself, and interact more with audiences through dance, movement, and other methods. I can’t wait to hone the new Ruby Grove sound and stage performance with these two talented individuals, Sergio Romero and Dan Garrity. The chemistry in the room at our first practice with everyone was electric. I’m feeling really inspired to write right now.
As for the drummer- we have an excellent, young player with a strong jazz background, Ellis Cordero, filling in on drums right now that we would like to keep around if it all works out. Fingers crossed.”
Sonically from what we’ve heard so far, Ruby Grove’s sound is practically a melting pot of genres with leanings more in the trip-hop and hip-hop vein with big Soul and Blues influences on top of the Indie Rawk aesthetic so naturally we were curious if debut single “Maybe It’s Time” was indicative of what’s to come down the road:
CL: “‘Maybe It’s Time’ is the firstborn child of Ruby Grove, and encapsulates our original concept for the band. I can’t say we want to limit ourselves to that sound and style, but it had definitely opened the door to possibilities and deep exploration of sound.
MN: “Cedric and I have always been very pro-multi-genre music (much like our last project Miele, which took genre-blending in a more disjointed direction). I’ve never been interested in playing just one thing. As Stephen Nachmanovitch writes in Free Play (one of my favorite books on creativity) crossovers create a “whole new species” and that is kind of where my creative brain is at. Naturally Ruby Grove was formed with the intention of continuing to explore genre and doing more genre-blending. I was very clear with Cedric that this time I wanted to make more melodic and less jarring/surprising music than Miele, and Cedric was luckily on board for that. Instead of musical jumps like Alabama Shakes we are looking for an overall blend of many genres and sounds and a plethora of different influences to draw from for each song. One of my favorite non-binary artists Boy Jr. wrote that they are “10 bands in a trenchcoat” and they can’t help blending everything together and experimenting- I resonate with that energy and listen to a lot of music.
‘Maybe It’s Time’ in all of its genre-blending as well as its soulful vocals and harmonies, intricate and hypnotic synths, and dynamic basslines, definitely displays some of our musical characteristics that are hallmarks of our sound. What does change in our other tracks like “Lazy River”, “Echo” or “Crystal Land” is the presence of live drums, which adds more of an indie-rock/trip-hop/jazz feel to the overall sound rather than sounding kind of like a hip-hop beat machine like on “Maybe It’s Time”. We went back and forth for a while on whether to have live drums in the project at the beginning. You know, I listened to lo-fi hip-hop every day for 2 years of the pandemic (which was unusual) and I was a little brainwashed. But after we started playing with Sage Gibbons on drums in 2022 we realized the live performance would really suffer without live drums, and that a skilled drummer could capture and enhance anything we were going for with a beat machine.
Otherwise, we have always been looking for Ruby Grove’s sound to be mystical, soothing, and uplifting, and I do think we achieved that with “Maybe It’s Time”. The feedback I received about how the song made people feel helped me understand how we were actually making music that helps people, which is my ultimate goal. If people are able to feel, dream, recover, grow, believe, get in touch with their higher natures, or connect more deeply with the world after having listened to Ruby Grove, I’ll consider myself lucky and fulfilled. I make these songs for myself too and am always growing along with the audience.”
Recently, and to close out the 2023 Spooky Season, Nilles took part in a queer-friendly trio of cover shows as the “Queers Of The Stoned Age” performed, you guessed it, your fave Queens Of The Stone Age tracks with a veritable who’s who of the local LGBTQ+ music scene:
MN: “It was quite fun to be part of the Halloween show series- I had heard of these sorts of shows in the past and was honored when Linnea Herzog of Linnea’s Garden/Powerslut asked me to join as a keyboardist and vocalist for Queers of the Stoned Age. As a bisexual lady it was phenomenal to be part of a makeshift cool group of mostly other awesome queer and/or trans musicians so that’s half of what I was focused on.
But of course, as a lifelong alternative rock fan Queens of the Stone Age has been in my playlist since high school, though it has not been a priority for me like Muse, Jeff Buckley, Incubus, or Metric. I always liked the albums …Like Clockwork and Songs for the Deaf, and now I’m familiar with a wider range of Queens of the Stone Age material. It’s always interesting/weird to reflect on how most of the alternative music I heard in growing up in the 90s was sung by men, so I grew up singing mostly men’s stories and in their vocal ranges. Therefore, it felt like quite a fun reclamation as a woman to sing QoftheSA songs with Jac Mestel, an awesome trans musician from Happy Little Clouds.
Amy Galaviz of Kala Baz and Tysk Tysk Task organized the project and brought together musicians Rishava Green, Yoni Gordon, Linnea (Linnea’s Garden), Jac (Happy Little Clouds), Sue Kangiser, and myself. The final Halloween show at State Park with musicians from TIFFY, Toby Tantrum, Ski Bunny, Radium Girls, and more was super packed and just a very cool moment in time- Ben Simon from Toby Tantrum posing as the lead singer of the Kinks particularly captured my heart.”
That local love and sense of community was alive and well earlier this year, too, as the fledgling group was nominated for “Rising Star of Massachusetts” in the 2023 New England Music Awards with the duo reflecting on what the recognition means this early in Ruby Grove’s burgeoning career:
MN: “It was very exciting to be nominated! I do feel like the nomination reflects our rapidly growing audience for Ruby Grove, as well as our embrace of a fast-paced work ethic with setting up live shows that we fostered from finally being allowed to engage with audiences again in 2022 in a different phase of the pandemic. And I also can’t deny that we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t been participating in the Boston music scene in Miele and in other ways for many years- what seems like quick growth is built on the backbone of years of very, very hard work and experimentation.”
CL: “Getting nominated for a NEMA has really put into perspective all of our hard work not only as of recent, but as musicians in general coming from different backgrounds. We’ve respectively worked hard for what we have created and given where we started. Being nominated is a beautiful reminder of how different musical backgrounds can come together to bring life to music that people really do love.”
And, of course, we couldn’t miss an opportunity to find out what’s to come from Ruby Grove following the release of “Maybe It’s Time” and that aforementioned show at Lilypad on November 17th
CL: “New music is always on the horizon! That’s what it means to be an artist looking for constant inspiration from life an experiences to create something larger than ourselves. We have an EP currently in the works, and we are working on fine-tuning our new members, while simultaneously learning where they come from musically, what they have to offer, and how Ruby Grove’s writing style can be implemented given their different musical perspectives and backgrounds.”
MN: We are working on an EP right now with New Alliance Audio in Somerville. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be recording keyboards and vocals in December and January, putting the final touches on in February, and probably releasing singles throughout February, March, and April, with an actual EP estimated for April 2024. Promotion and artwork and all that takes time and energy, so we’ll have to plan for it and fit it around work and life rather than rushing it and getting too stressed (another experience lesson). We also plan to release a series of live songs as YouTube videos (Subscribe to their channel here!) recorded live with Model Peril Studios in Arlington soon- we’ll plan to drop one a week in December! Those videos of our songs “Lazy River”, “Ocean Sun”, “Maybe It’s Time” and “Crystal Land” are awesome, and I can’t wait to share them.
We’ll probably also release the recordings of the videos so fans have more online content to enjoy prior to our EP release as I know that we’re slow. This is due to this year’s hectic summer/fall schedule of shows, personal life stuff, ongoing career changes, and money stuff, which are real enemies to getting into the studio. I’ve gotten random messages asking for specific live songs to stream while people are driving, and we just haven’t gotten them all out yet- sorry guys! I’m so happy we chose to go on tour though rather than focus on recording; it was amazing, no regrets.
We’re also looking forward to our next big show on 11/17 at the Lilypad with Gold Casio and Everfiner, as well as shows in January and February at the Jungle and the Square Root that are in the works with awesome local bands like Battlemode and Indescribable Pleasure. We’re also hard at work right now applying to community and artistic festivals for 2024 spring, summer, and fall, so I imagine and hope you’ll be seeing big announcements of those sorts of things in winter and spring 2024. We also have another, longer 10-state tour planned for next summer (!!). We’ll see what the future holds for Ruby Grove, but I pray that it involves some more incredible experiences like this year, as this year we have been truly blessed to reach some new creative peaks with our engagement, audience, creativity, collaborations, and show calibers.”
The show at Lilypad on November 17th also features Everfiner (Stepping in for Small Million who had to bow out for health reasons) and Gold Casio with doors opening at 630. For all the info about that, head here. And to get your Ruby Grove fix on the regular, make sure you stay tuned to their socials (FB, Instagram, TikTok, etc) by heading here.