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Review + Q&A: Rulaman- To Serve The Dune (2023, Tonzonen Records)

Stuttgart, Germany natives Rulaman are a progressive rock trio who’s main goal seems to be to free themselves of any shackles traditional hard rock brings with it. On To Serve The Dune they partly succeed in this. It is an album that is quite hard to pinpoint, crossing over territories like modern prog rock, heavy blues, and post rock, preferably all at the same time.

So stirring this pot of various styles definitely breaks the regular hard rock mold, and at times the album shines with refreshing takes on progressive rock. At the same time the band also stays within hard rock’s confinements, mostly in their songwriting, in which they still hesitate to let go completely. In stead they write a bunch of solid songs, sometimes based on riffs, sometimes based on vocalized storylines.

They resemble modern prog rock heroes Porcupine Tree in that aspect, but of course it would be a bit too much to ask from a debut album to already tip a similar peak of quality. The vocals for instance could use some maturing, through smoke or whiskey or otherwise. I feel the depth and adventurous nature of the music could have used a more weathered narrator.

In the end though, To Serve The Dune is mostly a very enjoyable album, made by musicians that strive towards a very noble goal. To be break out from the restraints that tie so many young rock bands to forgetfulness and mediocrity. Rulaman are almost there…keep on walking that dune boys!

I talked to guitarist and vocalist Felix Berns about band life in the South of Germany, writing songs, and musical backgrounds. I found a very well spoken and cerebral musician who seems to know exactly what he is doing…

How are you? How has the past year(s) been for you as musicians?

Thanks I’m good and it’s getting better 😀 The past years have been stressful as a band but still a lot of fun. When Corona hit Germany we all fell into a kind of shook state. We kinda took this time to reflect on us as a band and what we wanted to represent and how we wanted to make music. It was during this process that we realized we needed to take things elsewhere and downsized ourselves from a 4 pice into a trio. Which obviously brought its own new challenges but 2 years Later, well almost 3 I think we came out the right end and are thriving as musicians and bandmates more than ever. 

Can you introduce yourselves?

My Name is Felix Berns, 27 years old I am the guitarist and vocalist. On drums we have Nils Kunze 23 years of age and featured on bass and keys is 26 year old Joel Büttner.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Well our musical backgrounds are pretty different I suppose. I personally grew up with a lot of music around me my mother being a huge Bowie fan I naturally despised Bowie early on haha. As I grew older I realized it was only a childish sentiment but my musical awakening came pretty late when I discovered Metallica. From then I dove deeper into metal eventually reaching Led Zeppelin. That opened up a whole new dimension for me.

Nils -I think- always grew up around a lot of more progressive and and psychedelic rock from the 60/70 and so own. With Pink Floyd being something his parents showed him a lot and Porcupine Tree a big influence. Much like Joel who had a teacher that we he and I shared but he introduced him to a lot of blues music from the same era like Cream and Clapton in general. But I think as we grew older we all delved into our own kind of thing where as I Like to listen to a lot of newer Doom, Metal and Psychedelic Rock Bands, Joel listens to a lot of more Jazz infused music.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

Well a regular day is pretty different when it comes to comparing our indivual lives. I personally am currently working part-time as a kindergarden teacher. But after work things are entered a lot around Rulaman. But I still do like to play video games as well. Nils is currently studying so his day to day is probably a lot different from mine and Joel is a full time musician so he basically only puts down the bass when he goes to bed 😀

What is the best thing about To Serve The Dune?

I feel like the best things about new the LP is probably the fact it is our first full length LP and a lovely green vinyl haha. But seriously I was just super fun making it. We put a lot of effort into it while recording and mixing the thing and I’m super proud of how it all came together, especially with Tonzonen and the great support we got from them.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

We’re all from the south of Germany near Stuttgart. Anyone who’s ever been a creative from around there knows it’s probably not the hot bed for musicians. There’s a great and very passionate concert hall just around the corner of our recoding studio but other than that the town is pretty much a low for creatives. So that’s a kind of extra motivation to not let yourself down from the place and create something that can reach further than the cites reach.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))

Good question. I feel like the main reach here is just creating something that not only has value but means something for us and the people listening to our music. Also for me I feel like it’s necessary to make music and create. Yeah it’s kind of an escape but sometimes it can be a head on confrontation with all sorts of Things. Oneself, society, politics all kind of things around you. And for me, what really drives me is hearing your music and playing it live or in the studio and that moment when your close your eyes and just listen and flow into the music while creating it..becoming a part of it. I guess that’s the thing I’m kind of aiming for. For people to get lost in our music and find something that’s for them.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs? And what is the main difference from last time around?

Well in the past we’ve released 2 EPs and a standalone single and especially for the last self titled EP RULAMAN things changed quite a lot.

The songs on that record were written shortly pre-covid and we were in that state of confusion were we rearranged ourselves. So RULAMAN became a concept EP telling one coherent story from front to end. Which was a lot of fun.

For To Serve The Dune we tried a different route. As with previous songs they all probably had their origins in jamming together. Most of the time come into rehearsals with a riff often even a broader vision but the pieces only really start clicking once we all get together and everyone puts their own special thing on it. And that’s what I really enjoy about the process. Sometimes I do have a very clear vision but theirs 1 or 2 pieces missing and then after a while one of these guys plays something, maybe intentional or by accident, and it all suddenly fits perfectly. And that was really a lot the case with this new record. I remember for example with the song Nomad Queen we really struggled with the verses so I went „aww screw it lets just do it vocal only” and then Joel came up with this eerie vocal line that just worked perfectly. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Well for now we’re totally focused on a great release and the upcoming release show. After that we really wanna go out there and play those new songs for everyone. So yeah we are really excited to hopefully play a lot of shows and spread the Rulaman gospel to all the nice folks. But speaking from experience we’ll keep working on material anyways that’s just in the nature of things I suppose 😉

And for the future I think we really just want to expand our reach visit new places and make new friends playing music and of course getting that infamous second LP out!

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Probably shut down their devices and go outside haha. No but seriously I’d love for people to check out the new record. Those to are probably somewhat combinable. I think this record really goes well with a nice stroll outside or a few relaxing hours.


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