Music should evoke strong emotion and reaction. Every single strike of the chord should be heard within each track as if it was the most beautiful sound ever heard. As we march towards a more internet-driven world, we tend to lose focus on the physical things in this world. Our mental health and relationships take a toll with our heads always buried deep within the software of our phones. At times forgetting we are all just human.
It’s not just humans who felt the sting of it, the planet does as well. Climate change is often regarded as a second, third, or even fifth thought when issues are brought up to our politicians and leaders of the community. Families and countries are destroyed by onslaughts of natural disasters. Funds are diverted from natural disaster reliefs and straight into the pockets of the most wealthy. The music industry itself doesn’t do enough to raise awareness.
R&B/soul duo of Andrew Looper and John Della Franco is here to break that native. Based out of Philadelphia, the duo is named Rubber. They know their sound and how to go about reaching the masses. Their blend of funk, pop, soul, and R&B helps elevate their image above the rest. True Urban Culture and I had the special opportunity to sit down with them and talk about their new music, where their biggest inspiration comes from, and why climate change is such an important issue.
Rubber’s new single with Nick Hanson drops May 27th.
Firstly, for people who don’t know your music, what’s the best way to describe Rubber?
Andrew: Base-driven grooves and vocal acrobatics. That’s pretty much it, I mean, John’s first instrument was bass and when we play with a live band or with performance tracks, he’s always on bass. For me, I’ve always adored soul, gospel, and R&B. Part of the way I sing is with a lot of tricks, a lot of riffs, and a lot of runs.
What made you guys want to make that big leap forward into the music industry full-time?
John: We found out how easy it was to work together in the beginning.
Andrew: Definitely. In the beginning, I had no intention of pursuing music professionally. I always kinda felt I wasn’t good enough. I thought of it more as a hobby. Then when John and I started writing together, it was also like a jam session. We were both in college when we started writing and it just worked. So we just ran with it. Then we started getting performances which lead to us getting signed by the campus record label at Temple University. We released our first single a week later and it got played on NPR’s WXPN here in Philly.
So clearly you didn’t go to college to pursue music? What was your major?
Andrew: No, I was studying economics. I had every intention of going to grad school. I even applied and got into grad school. I was going to get my Ph.D. in urban studies and teach, that’s what I wanted to do. But, obviously, life had other plans for me.
What are the biggest influences on your music style?
John: While he (Andrew) would say a lot of Frank Ocean, mine, I think, would have to be a lot of Thundercat. A lot of, like, Japanese funk from the 70s for sure.
Andrew: I would also say a major influence of mine is Lorde. When she started releasing music at 16, it seems like she was telling my stories too. I just fell in love with her kind of reinterpretation of R&B beats and the way she made music that sounded just like her. No one else was making music like her at that time. And visually, she has always been a beast at that kind of medium.
It’s funny you mention Frank Ocean as he’s someone that I immediately connected with your style of music. What is it about Frank’s sound that resonates with you guys?
Andrew: His voice is just beautiful. The production is intentional and creative. He always changed his style up and constantly reinvents himself. Does new things with experiments and that’s something huge for me. It’s also his honesty. In his music, they’re so relatable because they’re so honest. It’s a picture and story about his life and it transport you there. It’s not so specific where you can’t apply it to your own life. There’s a perfect balance between being honest and paint a picture.
Is there a genre of music that some may deem left field in terms of relating to your style that you listen to?
John: Yes and no. I definitely listen to a lot of genres that I don’t make. But all music that I listen to inspires me. In some way or another. It might not be aesthetically, technically, or conceptually, but I feel there’s inspiration in everything. I do listen to a lot of metal and obviously hip hop, but that’s not too crazy from what we do now.
Andrew: I always listen to a lot of punk and emo music. I listen to a lot of jazz music, but that’s also very clear in our music. Like what John said, all music inspires me. I like to draw influence from every genre that I listen to.
What hobbies do you have outside of music that brings inspiration?
Andrew: Plants. I tend to a lot of plants. I have anywhere from 20 to 30 houseplants. (laughs)
Houseplants are something I really wanted to get into but have no knowledge of. For someone like me, what is a good starter plant? The best way to ease into the world of botany?
Andrew: A philodendron and pothos are two really easy ones. They are both so rewarding and they will continue to grow and grow. I have one that I neglected for a whole year and it just hung on. I water it now once a month or something like that. Some other good plants are the ZZ plant (Zanzibar). I actually almost killed that one, but that’s mainly because I really truly left it alone. Snake plants are another good choice. ZZ plant, philodendron, or snake plant are all really easy as pie to take care of.
Speaking of plants, with the release of your new single, “Root Rot,” you created a live stream benefit/festival.
Andrew: It started as a song. We were like, “let’s make an 80s song.” John made a killer beat and I ended up writing the lyrics over that. As I said earlier, I have a lot of plants and root rot is a problem you run into if you don’t have a drainage hole or you have too much water. It’s something that will kill the plant and you won’t notice until it’s too late. The roots will rot away. On the surface, the plant will look fine until it randomly dies. That’s the metaphor that can be used for mental health in the song. Everyone is going through something. I know for myself there have been times where I’ve deteriorated mentally, but kept a facade that looks fantastic. Looks like I’m thriving and doing so well.
This song also can be used for climate change. We are doing things that have been affecting the climate. It will continue to negatively impact human life on earth and we’re not gonna see the real results of it until things get really bad. Poor communities, marginalized communities, already feel these pressures already feel these things but it’s not publicized. It’s not the front page of the media so it felt really natural to do something focused on climate.
We were helping raise funds for Berthams Garden in Philadelphia. They have an awesome program that helps inner-city kids, West Philadelphia to be precise, gain skills, and help maintain the community garden. So because of COVID-19, they weren’t able to continue their operations this past year and suffered a lot because of it. So, we decided to use our platform to help elevate marginalized voices. Give people who are working in climate a safe space. Also to make interesting music and art.
Are your current views and platform on climate-changing something you want to bring up to the city level? Philadelphia City Council or Mayor’s office?
Andrew: I want there to be an activist lens on whatever I do. I always try to create diverse lineups. Tend to use my social media platform to elevate people’s voices when I see something that needs to be shared. I’m always open to working with institutions, but I think the most powerful thing we can do with our platform right now is getting people engaged and keep people informed.
Is this fundraiser something you want to do next year?
Andrew: Yes, but I would love to focus on another program that might need help. I would love to make it live and do something in person. Overall, I want to continue to do events like this that bring people together, not only artists but people who are experts in the climate policy side of things.
How do you view America’s impact on climate change in recent years?
Andrew: It’s basically genocide. We contribute, not just the US, but the people who are affected the most do the least. There are islands in the Caribbean that are going to be underwater in a couple of decades and it doesn’t affect us on the US mainland. There are, on the southern coast of the United States that are harshly affected. In the end, things are not going to change unless we have one unified voice.
As Rubber takes the next steps in its journey, what’s the roadmap for the rest of the year?
John: Right now, we are wrapping up our batch of singles that we’ve been releasing since the beginning of the year. We have one more coming out and then, the plan is to buckle down and start to build a foundation for our debut album. We wanted to wait until the world kinda started turning again before we released our debut album. We haven’t even toured Buggy Bumpers. We were supposed to tour our first EP, Rubber Baby, all along the east coast down to South By Southwest and back. We have all this new material and want to focus on playing shows now. Also, hit the road as hard as we can and, hopefully, release the album sometime in 2022.
What new sounds are you looking for on this new project?
John: We definitely want pop, but also more electronic. Like the singles we released this year, it’s going to have the same effect. We hope to have dancing on the album as well. Interested in bringing neo-soul and disco.
Finally, what’s something you want people to take away from your music upon first listen?
Andrew: I’ve always treated music as something special. It’s something so scared and at the same thing, can be shared. If given a chance, it can bring so much color to your life. So, give our music a chance. We just love making music and want to do it for the rest of our lives.