Ari Rubin knows how to tell a good story. Like the time he met a would-be coke dealer at Garage who hit on his girlfriend then offered he and the rest of Minka an invitation to play a rooftop gig that ended up set in the dude’s kitchen for about 30 hipsters who actively ignored them—plus, they never got paid. (“Everybody in the band was pretty annoyed with me,” Rubin admits.) And the time Minka opened for Andrew W.K., and they got booed by what Rubin describes as “maybe 100 male virgins.” Plus the time he side-gigged for Opera Delaware in Wilmington at a party they call “Brandywine in Black,” playing cocktail music like “Fly Me to the Moon.” A girl came up to him and asked if he was in Minka because she’d seen them open for the Protomen at The Note. She recognized his hair.
“My haircut gets haters from all corners,” Rubin admits confidently. “I dig it.”
Rubin’s coif and corresponding M. Bison hat are a striking feature in the video Minka made for “Justice,” an upbeat and synth-friendly party track. They obviously enjoyed the hell out of its making—and why wouldn’t they? It’s basically a result of cameras following them one night as they hedonistically rip through a laundry list of Philly bars. The Trestle Inn was the only one I could identify, but Rubin laughingly recalled the rest of their itinerary: The Fire, National Mechanics, The Raven Lounge, even Pulse on Sansom. Minka’s very first real gig was at The Fire in the winter of 2012, and, since then it seems, Rubin’s “any-gig-is-a-good-gig” attitude has earned them a respectable following. “If we convert at least 10 people” each go-round, he says, “we’ll be good.”
Minka’s picking up steam more than ever these days. The Republican, the five-piece’s second EP, dropped Tuesday, and they’ve got a nice list of upcoming local dates: Ortlieb’s tonight, Night Market Lancaster Avenue on Aug. 14, and early next month, they’re turning Boot and Saddle into a skuzzy-sexfest record-release soiree.
Rubin doesn’t sugarcoat what he does as its frontman: He screams, and he makes fairly grotesque sexually-charged thrusts and gestures. Lots of folk were feeling it, he reports, on Minka’s spring road-trip from North Carolina up to Boston. “I think people were digging the sexual energy, and some people even loved the show,” he says. “It went pretty well, no disasters.” On the road, they listened to tons of Prince and Parliament and played the live recording of the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense on repeat.
Minka began under rather peculiar circumstances: The whole band’s from the area, mostly the ‘burbs—Ardmore, Cherry Hill, West Chester, that kind of thing—but Rubin and guitarist Ian Brick met on a reggae tour on which the former was playing keys. They took their initiative to his basement back in 2009-2010, and it snowballed from there. “We started getting together once a week to get something poured out of us, and after about a year of that, we got the rest of the line-up together through various circles,” Rubin says. They started out playing the songs the two created together, but now, with Minka’s other members—keyboardist Paul Sipio, bass player Joe Flack and drummer Max Perla—they write collectively. Their self-titled EP debuted to widespread acclaim last year, and this new one was cut live in one day in the A Room at MilkBoy Studio’s space next to the Electric Factory.
“It was dope,” Rubin says. “Larry Gold rolled through just as I was doin’ the falsetto in that section of ‘Jackson Pollock,’ and he was like ‘Whoa, pretty wild.”” Rubin took it as high praise. “That’s a nice compliment.”
“Pollock,” by the way, is another recent, super-fly Minka video that Rubin’s really proud of, and it hit YouTube this month. For it, they converted an abandoned room into a white space, brought in all kinds of crappy yard-sale and vintage-store art and destroyed it with sledgehammers, paint and and paintguns. He’s also clearly pumped about the new one they just wrapped for “Let’s Fuck,” in which they recreate a blaxploitation film flush with long, low cars and superfreaks as villains and cops. “The assassin is 6’8”, Rubin says, “and the white cop is this totally juiced-up dude, and he was staying at my house during the filming.” When he casually mentioned performance-enhancing drugs in pro baseball, the muscle man tellingly declared, like in life, “everything in moderation.” Including, apparently, moderation.
Now, what about the name of this new Minka record? They’re not actually referring to the political party, are they? Not at all. In fact, they’re shouting out one of the seediest, darkest underbelly night spots in Philadelphia: Snyder Avenue’s super-special, late-night stripper-employing The Republican. Rubin lives near 10th and Federal, not far from Connie’s Ric Rac, where he met his girlfriend. On that fateful night—and he wasn’t sure if he should admit it to PW for fear of retribution—she suggested they end the night at The Republican.
It was a sign of true love, he thinks: “She gets me.”
Wed., July 30, 8pm. Free. With Something Like a Monument + Air is Human. Ortlieb’s Lounge, 847 N. Third St. ortliebsphilly.com