On Born Ruffians’ new record Uncle, Duke & The Chief, death isn’t a tragedy, but a triumph. Jubilant album opener “Forget Me” is wistful and aching, but when Luke Lalonde sings of following a “white light,” he doesn’t greet it with fear or trepidation — he throws on a pair of shades. “Someday you’ll get older,” he croons, his sentiment all-too comforting. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Uncle, Duke & The Chief, Born Ruffians’ fifth full-length release, marks a homecoming for the veteran indie band, formed over a decade-and-a-half ago in Midland, Ontario. In his recent live studio session with Paste, frontman Luke Lalonde discussed the mature themes that inspired the record, including love, friendship, and death as a unifying force.
For the album’s visual components, Born Ruffians collaborated with Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay, members of the Toronto band July Talk. Dreimanis and Fay directed a stirring video trilogy — “Love Too Soon” (Act I), “Forget Me” (Act II), and “Miss You” (Act III)” — that connect a tale of heartbreak, loss, and redemption. Lalonde stars alongside a dummy the crew nicknamed “Dorito.” According to him, the “non-human” was a “better emotional outlet” on which to project intense emotions.
“There’s definitely a thing with threes that we have,” Lalonde admitted. “[Debut record] Red, Yellow & Blue, Uncle, Duke & The Chief… it wasn’t a conscious thing to try and tie things back to that record. There was the feeling that this record had a kinship with our first record, though… that probably had quite a bit to do with the dynamics within the band. Coming back to really feeling like the three of us were stronger than ever… and closer than we had been since we did that first record.”
Lalonde also revealed the identities of the three characters from the album’s title, who aren’t characters at all, but real-life people: the band’s dads. “Our dads are our biggest fans,” he said, explaining that his dad’s nickname is “Uncle,” bassist Mitch Derosier’s dad is called “Duke,” and drummer Steve Hamelin’s dad is known as “The Chief.” “[The title] evoked the feeling that the record evoked for us.”
Lalonde’s father — specifically his cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery — served as major inspiration for the album. In writing “Forget Me,” Lalonde says he “tapped into something very real and very raw and very authentic about [his] experiences with life and death.”
“I wrote [‘Forget Me’] on the day that David Bowie died,” he said. The song approaches death as a “unifying, beautiful thing,” not a “big scary, empty void. It’s something that we’re all gonna do at some point. We’re all holding hands walking down this path together.”
Watch Luke Lalonde’s entire Paste performance below, including “Forget Me,” “Miss You,” and “Spread so Thin.”