Words by Keane Fletcher

Look, it's hard not to be impressed by musicians at the moment. With the widespread cancellation of gigs, lack of government support and the all round doom-and-gloom that is 2021, the fact that anyone can muster the motivation to come up with a song right now is mind-boggling (as well as a little jealousy-inducing). Let alone write, arrange, and completely produce a new track, which is exactly what 20-year-old Wollongong singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Max Reuben has done, and all in the midst of a global pandemic. Talk about lemons into lemonade.

I sometimes look back on 2020 and realised that it was a blessing in disguise for me. I was able to spend all my time doing what I love which ultimately led me to become a solo artist. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would’ve been able to come out of my shell and write some good songs.

And while his aptly named new single 'In My Room' won't grace streaming platforms until October 8th (pre-save it here), Reuben -- in all of his Gen-Z prolificity -- already has an extensive back catalogue to keep us going until then, including his most recent single 'New Life', a piece of guitar driven, Tame Impala-inspired psychedelia, that showcases Reuben's well honed production skills front and centre. Impressive indeed. And to think that all I did this year was wear a new groove in my couch. Oh well, here's to 2022!

Ahead of the release of 'In My Room' we sat down with Reuben to talk all things music, inspo, and what being a multi-hyphenate means to him. Check it out below.

1- Where in the world are you based?

My name is Max Ramirez, but I’m known as Max Reuben. I’m 20 years old and I’m a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer from Wollongong, Australia.

2- How did you get started in music? Which came first for you: writing or producing?

I started playing music when I was in kindergarten. I picked up the guitar and I have not put it down since. Over the course of many years, I taught myself how to sing, play the drums and play the piano. Our family computer back in the day had GarageBand installed and I would mess around with apple loops to create some songs.

I’d say producing came first because it wasn’t until high school when I started to seriously get into mixing and arranging songs. I realised I had a knack for this when I started covering some of my favourite songs and trying to as hard as I could to get them to sound like the original version. Little did I know, I was teaching myself how to properly mix a song.

As I got older, my confidence grew with writing songs so I decided to become a solo artist in early 2020 with plans to release my first album that would be written, recorded, and produced by myself (along with some help from my best friend). 

3- How would you describe your sound? What are your musical influences?

Wollongong is home to so many bands and artists. The most popular style of music here is indie rock and pub rock which most of these band’s play.

When I made the decision to go solo and release my own music, I took a bit of time to reflect on what I’m good at, what I like playing, and how I can make that new and interesting. I discovered (and fell in love with) psychedelic rock and synth pop music and I knew that’s what I want to do.

My favourite artists range from Tame Impala, Mac Demarco, Gang of Youths and Foo Fighters. 

4- Can you tell us a bit about your latest release ’In My Room’? How did the idea come about? What was the recording process like?

‘In My Room’ is my brand-new single coming out on October 8th which features one of my good friends, Oliver Lojek. It’s a song about being obsessed with someone and thinking about them all the time. I pushed myself (production wise) with this song, with so many elements going on.

The idea for this song came to me when I was at uni scrolling through samples when I stumbled upon a cool keys sample with some quick chord changes. From there, I figured out the chords and recorded a few synth layers, some drums and then finally the guitar and vocals. The bass is probably one of my favourite instruments because it reminds me of an old 80’s hit. 

I was then contacted by Oliver asking if he could feature on it and that’s when the song went from a little demo, to one of my best songs I’ve ever written. It was so much fun recording this song since I was able to explore funky guitar techniques, different synth chords and extended vocal harmonies.

 5- How does the songwriting process usually work for you? Do you have a routine when it comes to writing and recording, or does inspiration usually take you by surprise?

When it comes to writing songs, if I get a feeling that it’s going to be a good one, my mind usually explodes with ideas, and I try to record as many of those little elements as possible. I’m always surprised with the result of the song since it always turns out to be something completely different to what I originally thought. When it comes to a recording routine, I usually start with the chords along with the drums and then usually everything else finds its place easily. I’m very lucky to have a studio at home where I’m able to record whatever I want, whenever I want. 

6- A lot of artists are really suffering at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications. How has it affected you and your creativity? Have you enjoyed having more time to create, or have you found it stifling? 

I sometimes look back on 2020 and realised that it was a blessing in disguise for me. I was able to spend all my time doing what I love which ultimately led me to become a solo artist. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would’ve been able to come out of my shell and write some good songs. The one thing I miss the most would be playing gigs at local pubs and establishments. I can’t wait to get back out there!

7- How do your other interests feed into your music? 

I love going to the beach, hanging with friends, and going out for drinks. I love meeting new people and learning new things. Whenever I’m out, I listen to the music that is always playing to see how that can influence my own song writing

8- How do you feel the Internet has affected your career? Are streaming and video services like YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud making things easier or harder for artists to get their music out there and be noticed? 

Streaming platforms and services are the future of music. It gets young people like me out there with the ability to showcase our passions. Since there are so many people out there uploading music, it is a lot harder to get noticed and build a following but, that’s why you have to be different and innovative with whatever your creating. 

9- What's next for you?

I’m really excited for everyone to check out my new single, ‘In My Room’ featuring Oliver Lojek which arrives on all platforms on October 8th. I’m also hard at work on my second album, ‘Memories’ which should be out by the end of the year. I also have a gig coming up on December 4th at the Servo Food Truck Bar in Port Kembla where I’ll be playing some new and unreleased music.

Thanks for stopping by Hipland!