Culture  Some #Swag guys raise a Ruckus

Lyndon Entwistle sits down with McGill and Montreal-based hip hop group

Originally formed in 2009, Ruckus is a critically acclaimed Montreal-based hip-hop group. Known particularly for their genre-bending take on contemporary hip-hop, Ruckus draws from neo-soul, rock, electronica, and jazz genres as a basis for their distinct and recognizable sound. The Daily sat down with these cool cats to talk about their origins, life goals, and their new single entitled “#Swag.”


The McGill Daily (MD): How did you guys first meet?

Jarryd Torff (JT): Efa [Etaroma] and I first met in first year at McGill, studying jazz together. We went through a couple different formations of Ruckus while in school, but we ended up playing with Dave Ison and Evan Stewart who were both in the music program. Efa and Evan knew each other from Edmonton, but the rest of us met through school. It was through Dave that we met Max [Miller], and the rest was history.

MD: When I first heard of you, you were Ruckus Fo’Tet. Now you’re just Ruckus. What happened?

JT: Well we were originally a quartet, hence the name “fo’” (like four). We stuck with the name to feature Max, and we were playing as “Ruckus Fo’tet featuring Milla Thyme.” Eventually we realized that not only was that name ridiculous, but Max was playing with us every show. People were calling us “Ruckus” anyways, so it wasn’t too hard of a transition.

MD: Are you all still studying at McGill? If so, will graduation mean the end of Ruckus, or do you plan to stick together and make music?

JT: Currently Dave and Evan are studying at McGill, but Efa and I have graduated (esteemed alumni, if you will). Evan is planning on sticking around Montreal, as Efa and I are as well to see where this project goes. Max is studying music at Vanier College, and Dave has another year of school to go, so that’ll buy us time to see where this project goes.

Efa Etaroma Jr. (EE): Dave and Evan are at McGill, Max is studying at Vanier, and Jarryd and I are graduated. Ruckus 4 Life, that is all…

MD: Much of the club scene in Montreal has been taken over DJs and electronic musicians. What does this mean for bands like yours that don’t use the laptop as an instrument? Do you think it would have been easier to get gigs if you were active 20 years ago?

JT: We’ve recently added electronics to our sound, and have been incorporating that into our producing and mixing too. It’s got a really nice acoustic/electro blend to it, which is something that’s hard to obtain without live instrumentation.

EE: It means that it’s hard to make money, but lucky for us, people tend to enjoy the experience of seeing a live band. It also means that we have to be adaptable to the new sounds that are coming out in popular music. If we were around 20 years ago, we’d be competing with the Roots, so either way it would be hard.

MD: What’s your favorite venue to play at in Montreal, and why?

JT: For me, it’s got to be Brutopia. Small room and stage, but it’s got a great feeling to it. It’s one of those pretty live bars, where people actually listen, which is great.

EE: Brutopia, because it’s usually packed, and people come to listen.

Dave Ison (DI): Agreed.

MD: When writing music, what comes first: the lyrics or the music?

JT: It’s usually been the music first, but we usually bring in music that is open ended enough to fit Max’s lyrics and where he wants to take it.

DI: Back in the day Max and I would just get together and jam, and write the lyrics/music simultaneously. Lately, one of us will usually produce a little snippet of what the song is going to sound like on a program like Logic or Ableton, send it to all of the members, then Max will write the lyrics or begin the lyrics to that. It’s not until we’ve all come together and experimented with each tune that the lyrics/music are set in stone. We try to be flexible with our arrangements of songs to avoid songs sounding the same. We try to capture a vibe that reflects and complements Max’s lyrics.

MD: You recently released a track entitled “#Swag,” in which you mention “The player haters/Fakers tryin’ to take our papers”. Who are these player haters, and what exactly are these papers that they’re trying to take?

Max Miller (Milla Thyme) (MM): I guess you could say the “player haters and fakers” are the very opposite of what the “originators and creators” are…. rather than doing positive things with the art, they’re hating and faking it. In the end they’re making people who have earned their money spend it on their garbage that they create and in a way you could say that that is “taking.”

MD: What music are you listening to these days?

JT: For me it’s been a collection of different beat tapes, the new Robert Glasper, and the new Snarky Puppy. Oh ya, and the new Ruckus recordings.

EE: Robert Glasper, Mutemath, Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Eric Lau, and Chris Daddy Dave.

DI: A lot of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, J Cole, Shlohmo, The Internet, Flylo, A$AP Rocky, Frank Ocean etc etc. I’m trying to stay grounded in my roots (classic hip hop/ jazz) while exposing myself and listening to new music all the time.

Ruckus will be performing March 23 at Brutopia (1219 Crescent Street). Their recording can be heard at<