Take 5 with Ruth

By Amy Sondova When it comes to answering questions, Ruth’s frontman, Dustin Ruth, is a thorough guy.  Instead of offering pithy answers, Dustin instead chose to respond to this “Take 5” with thoughtful responses.  Having just released their sophomore album, Anorak, on Oct. 28, Ruth (which is not only Dustin’s last name but an acronym for “Return Us To Him”), the band is eager to share their songs on their current tour with DecembeRadio.

However, Ruth is no stranger to the road having toured with Switchfoot and Relient K on the “Appetite for Construction” tour last fall (read BSW’s interview with Relient K’s Matt Thiessen) as well as the ever-popular Emery.  Read on to learn more about the term “Anorak,” documentaries on Trekkies, and so much more from the fingertips of Dustin Ruth, who was ever-so-prompt in answering his “Take 5” questions.

When coming up with a title for the album, how did you come upon a British slang term like “anorak”?  (Where did you learn British slang?  What are some other British slang terms you think our readers need to know?  Sorry, for the 3-in1 question, but it had to be asked).

Well I was hanging out with a good friend of mine Chris Martin, he’s in a pretty good band you may have heard of “Coldplay”. Check them out. Anyway he and I were talking and I asked….just kidding. 

We were hanging out with Emery on their bus one night in Portland before they played a show and Josh Head put on Trekkies 1 and 2. This is a documentary movie about people labeled as “trekkies” who are extremely into the sci-fi series “Star Trek”. They go to these conventions and dress up like their favorite character and speak the language of that character, ect.  In Trekkies 2, the documentary expands from the U.S. to Trekkies around the world. While in the U.K. they ask an old man on the street outside a Trekkie convention what he thinks of the costumed people entering the building. He responded, “Anoraks, all of them”.

When I heard him refer to them as Anoraks, it stuck in my head and I looked the term up online. I found on Wikipedia that it was a British slang word for someone who’s a nerd and really excited and into a topic most people don’t care about (Amy’s note: click here to read Wikipedia’s entry about Ruth). That’s where it all began. We confirmed this while touring in the U.K. a few months ago and got a real education on where the term got its slang use. People there were very excited that we knew what it meant.

Why for our record? Well we’ve found that it can be challenging to be accepted by a lot of people out there. We travel a lot and no matter where you are, on a plane, train, or at a restaurant, when people ask if you are a band and you say “Why, yes” they want to talk. When they find out what your primary topic of music is about they become extremely uninterested. On the flip side, there have been songs that we didn’t record on the first album because we were told they were too honest and that people in the “Christian industry” would not accept them. So with this record we didn’t care what anyone thought and recorded what we felt was right.

As for other British slang, well I’m not cool enough to know any. I just was watching Trekkies 2.

Not only is the title for the album unique, so was its crafting, which was primarily took place at rest stops and hotels—not your usual realm of inspiration.  How did the album come together in these unlikely places?

I think it had to happened in these places because we were on the road solid that year. When the year was over we ended up playing over 180 shows. So there wasn’t much time to write at home. I also only write alone and so this was very challenging. I often times would be in the van while the guys slept in the hotel or were watching Spinal Tap or Wayne’s World multiple times without me. It was tough.

But I will say when we got home finally, we were able to get the gear out and jam on all the new stuff together and the guys did a brilliant job of writing parts and developing the record. I think it really paid off to be able to get back to what we love doing the most as fast as possible.

Why is the song, “Nothing to Hide,” one of your favorites?  (I think it’s because guys are suckers for love songs).

Wow. Well, I am a sucker for love, but this song is very complex. I highly debated ever explaining it to anyone and may not. In the end it makes perfect sense, I promise. Honestly, I believe its one of the best songs I’ve ever been blessed to have written. We spent a lot of time as a band molding it to what it is. I spent a lot of time just thinking about vocal parts, harmonies, counter melodies and really felt excellent when it was finished. The lyrics go deep for me and I know in my heart they go deep for everyone.

While I should probably be asking about “Back to the Five” (feel free to throw some thoughts in about that song), I want to ask you about the story behind one of my fave songs on the album, “Miracle Photo.”  Would you mind sharing about it?

“Back to the Five”: A song about being homesick and realizing time is still turning at home and your not there to enjoy it. That’s tough for me. I really love Washington and the West Coast. In the midst of everything we miss on the road we know we are doing what were supposed to right now. That’s what this song is about.

“Miracle Photo”: A song about the miracles God has done for this band. He has parted the Red Sea for this band. I think the biggest inspiration for this song was the Switchfoot and Relient K tour. There was no logistical reason for us to be on that tour and there were hundreds of more qualified bands on the list before us. Somehow a burned copy of Secondhand Dreaming made it full circle with those two bands and they picked us. There are a lot of miracles outside that but it was pretty cool to watch happen.

Usually this is the place where I ask an absurd question, but we sort of tackled that in Question #1, so I’ll ask this instead:  This album’s about watching dreams come true and watching other dreams fall apart.  A lot of times when dreams don’t’ come true, people become angry with God.  How have you handled the pain of dreams that don’t come to pass and how has it impacted your relationship with God?

Great question. I deal with that everyday. It’s hard to be working hard for what sometimes seems like nothing. At home friends ask what I’ve been up to. My favorite response is “still working hard to get down that dead end road”. They always laugh because they know at some point I’m going to have to get a real job and pay some bills. But they know I’ll never put down music.

As for me and God, I am so blessed to know Him. I can’t believe He even cares about me. There are times I get mad at Him. Those are the times my true ugliness shows. He’s my best friend and He takes care of me and I just really want to know Him better. I can’t wait for the next song to teach me something about Him. All I can say is that He is the one that copes with me, and He is the one that holds me close. If I had to do that myself, I would be long gone.

Print copy of Take 5.

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