The Travellin’ Troubadours

Folk Duo ‘Rube and Rake’ Honours Musical Predecessors with Lyrics, Harmonies and Use of String Instruments

Folk duo Rube and Rake of St. John’s, Newfoundland, have left their “haunted brothel” to hit the road and perform across the country on their first tour, with a Sept. 25 show in Montreal.

Comprised of best friends Josh Sandu and Andrew Laite, the band tackles depression and loneliness in great detail, and exposes the dichotomous indulgences of an individual—all central themes they elaborate on in their music, with the release of their first EP Haunted Brothel.

Rube and Rake represents Sandu and Laite’s alter ego. They are each other’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Sandu says.

“Rube represents the simple and nice country boy, while Rake is the one susceptible to indulgent pleasures,” he explained.

“We also just wanted to go with something that sounded catchy by adding a little bit of alliteration in there,” Laite chimed in.

The band formed a year and a half ago after Sandu moved from his hometown in British Columbia to St. John’s, where he met Laite, who was from the city.  They became friends and combined their musical talents.

Fans of harmonic vocals and string instruments, the two shared a similar focus on music from the start.

“We both had some interest in music. Andrew played guitar and I played banjo and we just started taking it from there,” Sandu said.  

While Laite channels his inspiration from various sources, ranging from personal experiences to books, movies and art, Sandu has sought inspiration from a darker corner of his psyche—that of the homesickness and loneliness he experienced from his relocation.  

“The songs on the album are melancholic songs and a lot of them are references to my hometown, as well as the yearning to be back where I grew up.”

Rube and Rake pay tribute to their musical predecessors, including the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and the Avett Brothers, through their use of acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonic vocals.

The roots of country music can also be heard in their lyrics, which address travels and nostalgia.

“We also take our influences from legendary singer-songwriters such as Hank Williams or the Everly Brothers and we meld that into more of an Americano vibe,” Laite said.

The duo came up with the name Haunted Brothel from an inside joke of the previous tenants of the place Sandu moved into. 

“We recorded the album in Josh’s living room, which was formerly known as the ‘haunted brothel’ of Victoria Street,” Laite explained.  

“We knew some of the girls who lived in the place where the album was recorded before us and they used to call it the ‘haunted brothel,’ so we just ended up calling it that out of convenience,” Sandu said.  

Their first album isn’t contracted by a record label, but the two say they hope future releases will be.

 “Right now, we’re just trying to travel across the country and play our music to as many audiences as possible and see where it goes from there,” Sandru said.  
In the wintertime, we will record our next album and then we might try to take it one step further,” he added.  

On the road to producing their first album, the team avoided major challenges by favouring a minimalistic approach to their music.  

“We wanted to keep it all quite simple.  We had just two instruments on the go and our two voices,” Sandu said. “Recording our songs in one take and have it go on a record was the biggest challenge.”

When asked about their previous musical endeavours, Laite said that before meeting Sandu, he started his musical career with another band at the age of 18.

“I played bass guitar for the band and I just began to sing harmonies. I took a few lessons when I first started playing, but it didn’t last too long,” he said.
“What’s more important is that you have the ambition.”

Sandu was also a part of another band, in which he says he developed his musical abilities and his capacity to write songs.

“I started playing guitar when I was around 14, but didn’t really write any songs until I was about 16 while I was playing in various punk bands,” Sandu said.
“Very terrible bands,” he added quickly.  

Rube and Rake are on tour, performing in all major cities across Canada.

Though Laite says he feels a connection to the city, it will be his first time playing in Montreal.

“I feel like I already love it for some strange reason, ” Laite said.

“It’s truly a wonderful place,” Sandu chimed in.

Rube and Rake // Sept. 25 at The Plant (185 Van Horne Ave.) + Sept. 26 at Barfly (4062 St. Laurent Blvd.) // $10