Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Ruby and Pete are PRESIDENT STREET. The pop fusion band taking the UK by storm.
Creativity comes from the most unexpected places. Drunken nights out, family tragedies, strange role models. And we never know when it will surface.
Take Pete, the founder of Australian two-piece President Street, who have just wrapped up the prestigious opening-act gig for UK artist Roachford on the back of two top 5 hits in the dance chart, not inconsiderable success on the UK college radio circuit and two headline UK tours of their own.
Pete’s first musical thunderbolt was when he was working in Hong Kong, on a client night out with maybe a little too much refreshment when he joined the Mexican band on stage at a restaurant, as you do on drunken nights out, and started banging out some rhythms on the congas. And even though he’d never even thought of playing music until that (drunken) moment - the drummer came over to his table later and asked where he was gigging. When he heard that Pete had never played anything before, he decided to hook Pete up with local musicians.
Ruby has a strangely similar story to tell. Growing up in a Greek-Macedonian/ Hungarian family in Melbourne, she was singing before she could talk and taught herself to build enough of a tune by ear on the electric piano bought for her brother. She used to run home from school to pen her own songs in secret, starting around the age of 7, to release her imagination and as her form of therapy and escape from reality and is now the voice and half of the songwriting talent in President Street.
‘I remember I resisted joining the high school choir for years and eventually joined for one term at the insistence of one teacher in particular but was so bored by it - it was too rigid and creatively restrictive for me and took away from the spirit of it - I wanted it to be just me,’ she says, another one who never had a music lesson in her life. ‘I wasn't allowed to go to singing lessons anyway or performing arts schools or holiday programs or even listen to certain artists, so my high school's musicals were all I had."
‘I didn’t grow up in a house that was filled with music’, says Pete. ‘The musical one was my mother but I never really got to know her. I was the youngest of 5 kids but unfortunately, before I was 2, my mum, my brother and a sister were hit by a car while they were walking down the street and killed. Then two years later another sister died suddenly from a complication in hospital and at that point that left just me and my oldest sister (she was about ten) and my dad.’ Unfortunately for Pete the tragedy continued when his dad died when he was 13.
From an Indian/Portuguese background he grew up in Perth, his mum was from a highly creative family and was classically trained in piano and voice and sang live on Indian radio. ‘Had my mum survived I’m sure it would have been important for her to get me to music lessons,’ says Pete. ‘But because of what happened, I wasn’t exposed to any of that.’
Pete’s world was President Street in a gritty working class area of Perth directly under the flight-path and the street where his mother and siblings were killed. The only music around was Aussie rock like AC/DC and it was only later that he came to r’n’b, the likes of Prince and Maxwell - huge inspirations ever since.
Ruby, growing up surrounded by sexist expectations where her musical aspirations were discouraged and disallowed, studied at the same school as one Kylie Minogue (and Dannii) albeit decades later.
The coming together of the strangely similar Pete and Ruby is the story of a million bands worldwide through the ages: wanted ads - but in this case through a creative arts online audition and casting platform. Rather than put an ad looking for a singer/collaborator, Pete thought he’d actually go through the profiles placed by singers/collaborators. And Ruby’s stood out. ‘Everyone else’s profiles had the same sort of professional head-shots,’ says Pete, ‘whereas Ruby’s was a picture of her on holiday. That just seemed really natural and confident to me. And while everyone else included professional recordings done in studios, Ruby’s was just her singing acapella into her iPhone in her bathroom.’
A Sydney-based producer and friend has banned them from ever having music lessons, fearful that it might detract from the totally natural approach they both have to music. ‘He said to me, I don’t want you to get guitar lessons. I could never be a session guitarist but it’s my tool for creating.’
2019 tours of the UK were more low-key acoustic with just Ruby singing and Pete and one other guitarist. Since then they've moved things up a level with the supporting slot on the huge UK tour for musical legend Andrew Roachford MBE - for which they had an eclectic roster of songs lined up and created a fuller sound still with a small footprint though with Pete on loop pedals, keyboards, djembe and acoustic guitar an also have an electric guitarist. The Daily Express reviewed their show as delivering "a vibrant and entertaining performance" where "the songs are perfect to a stretch" and "kept a wanting crowd more than happy".
The duo are dubbed by numerous music curators as "the ones to watch" for 2022, PRESIDENT STREET have their sights set for a big 2023 and beyond!