Ruth isn't just the last name of the band's founder, singer / guitarist Dustin Ruth. When his longtime collaborator Nick Wiinikka suggested they call their fledgling group "Ruth" one night while watching a talk show on television, Dustin gave it a lot of thought until something special came to him, arriving with powerful force: Ruth as an acronym.
"'Return Us To Him' just popped in my head. I felt like the Lord put it on my heart," Dustin explains candidly, still dizzy with giddiness about the band's second Tooth & Nail album, Anorak. "We feel like our songs are a gift. Really what it boils down to is that playing this music keeps us closer to God. The music is returning us to who He wants us to be. And I know I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing and I'm not willing to give that up for anything."
A few moments into the dreamy, airy guitar-driven indie pop of Anorak is all it takes to feel that same steely resolve and esoteric wonder Dustin will so openly express at the drop of a dime. Ruth's music is liberating, freeing and uplifting, while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of cliche and easy, safe or predictable melodies.
Anorak is at once challenging and yet simple to understand, recalling the best of '80s radio, '90's English pop and contemporary indie without sounding derivative of any particular genre.
Dustin has been writing songs since his early teens, first breaking onto the scene with the band's Aaron Sprinkle produced Secondhand Dreaming. While that record boasts fan-favorites like "Mr. Turner," it is with this sophomore-slump defying album that Ruth has come into their own.
"This one feels more like a band album," Dustin says. "We had a lot more time to develop through a year and a half of solid touring. It made going into this album a lot different. We worked on the parts of the songs for a few months. That made a big difference. As a songwriter, I put a lot more time and devotion into writing the songs that we really wanted on this album. With the first album I threw a bunch of songs on the table because I had been writing for a lot of years and hadn't really recorded much except the EP. These songs were written more intentionally for this album."
One product of Ruth's relentless touring (which included runs with Relient K, Switchfoot and Emery) was the friendship forged by Ruth and Surrogate's Chris Keene, who ended up producing seven of Anorak's eleven tracks.
"Weâ€™re all huge fans of his music so we were excited about working with him, but he hadn't really produced anything but his own stuff at that point. We did a couple songs together and showed them to the label and they were pumped. We got to do the songs with Chris Keene in our hometown. There was a lot of freedom to do what we wanted to do."
Dustin spent a lot of time demo-ing, reworking and fine-tuning the tracks on Ruth's new album, putting specific emphasis on countermelodies and background vocals and paying close attention to each and every flourish. The end result is breathtaking. "Nothing to Hide" is one of Dustin's favorite songs he's written in over a decade of making music. "There's not a spot in that song that I wish was different," he says happily. The song is about "wanting to love someone right and wanting to be loved right," a universal feeling that connects instantly to the music.
"Speechless Mess" is one an example of the collaborative band efforts on Anorak where everyone who touched the song really worked hard to give it their best. It's less a pop single than a deep album cut, the type of song that grows and grows upon repeated listens. "Pure Concept" is the band's favorite song to play live, a rocking track reminiscent of The Cars. "Dead Giveaway" speaks to our Creator's love one sees reflected touring the world and taking in the grandeur of nature. "That song is about traveling and seeing obvious signs of something bigger than we are," elaborates Dustin.
Ruth's continuing story captivates, stimulates and motivates, breathing pulsating life into each and every musical moment. Anorak is a band hitting their stride and portending even greater things to come, which is really saying something, considering the band humbly attests to crossing most things off of their meager "to do" list, like "sign to a record label," "see Europe," and that sort of thing. Legacy is important to Ruth and it is likely that they will have one.
"I would hope that the music we play is something a little more timeless," Dustin confesses. "Hopefully whomever gets one of our albums ten years from now, they're driving somewhere, and they can still listen to these songs and enjoy it. When Nick and I talked about our ten year goal for the band it was that no matter what that we would still be real, that we would still be who we are, no matter how many records we sold, we wouldn't be these arrogant superstar wannabes if we sold a lot or bitter and jaded it we didn't.
"We just like to look at each other and laugh when we're on stage because we're doing what we want to do," he continues. "We have been so blessed. We want to continue to be ourselves, to be real, and continue to keep the focus not about self-gain or self-accomplishment, but about doing whatever God tells us to do each day."