Reuben Bullock spent 10 years on the cusp of emulating skateboarding legend Tony Hawk before an injury forced him to switch to music.
And since honing his skills on guitar, piano, drums and vocals 13 years ago, the 38-year-old Calgary-bred singer-songwriter has excelled.
Along with fronting folk-rock outfit Reuben & the Dark, Bullock has also written music for film and TV, including iconic shows such as Game of Thrones, Grey’s Anatomy and the Breaking Bad spinoff movie El Camino.
Reuben and the Dark play the Capital Ballroom in Victoria on April 12 (7 p.m.) and will feature a blend of their standout current album In Lieu of Light, plus tracks from their first three: Funeral Sky, Arms of a Dream and Un Love.
“We’ll be playing the majority of the new album, plus dipping into our back catalogue,” said Bullock. “The Yes Oui Still Tour (which began on March 22) is the first time we’ve played the songs live.”
In Lieu of Light was partly recorded at Bullock’s home studio in California’s Joshua Tree (made famous by U2’s 1987 album) — a place he admits greatly stokes his fires of creativity and inspiration. He bought a house there during the pandemic after being drawn to it.
“Joshua Tree has a lot of artists and musicians. It has a creative spirit and has forever been a mystical place; visually a hotbed for alien conspiracy stories. Kind of magical.”
“I ended up buying a house there and moving. It’s pretty isolated, so I started doing Sunday morning live streams on Instagram. Playing piano and guitar. A lot of the songs on In Lieu of Light started in that really improvisational way. Eventually I introduced my bandmates to the songs and we started playing them.”
After his skateboarding days were halted, Bullock got into music and initially performed solo. For the last 10 years he’s led the rebranded five-strong Reuben and the Dark.
And what’s behind the ‘Dark’ in their name?
“The word ‘dark’ was in every single song I’d written. 30 songs. It was a strange throughline. But it felt right to include ‘Dark’ in the band name. It’s representative of where the music comes from. Me dipping into the dark side of my personality. Tragedy, anger, sadness, sorrow. It comes from the dark side of life.”
Bullock’s music has also struck a chord with the film and TV industry, and he describes this career element as his “bread and butter”. The band have contributed to iconic shows including The Handmaid’s Tale and the new Dr. DoLittle movie.
“I have a strange knack of drama in the way I sing. People reached out to use my music; films and music supervisors. I now work with publishing and licensing companies and a bunch of producers in LA and around the globe.”
Bullock says his biggest inspiration is not a person, but curiosity.
“I’m constantly curious. When you think how strange being alive is. I draw from the mystery of our existence. Our capacity for pain, joy, suffering, sorrow and excitement. No-one ever told me life would be so complex. I draw from that as a spectator.”
Looking forward, he hopes to further stoke the fires of that creative curiosity.
“Hopefully we’ll have more summer festivals. There’s a tour of Japan in October and we have a bunch of film projects in the wings. We’re also scoring music for a play in Syracuse in June: Odissea. We’re merging more into film, live production and the visual side of music.”
“I feel like we’re just hitting our stride as a group after 10 years and myself as a songwriter. I still feel like I haven’t done my best work yet — and I hope to always feel that way.”
To learn more about Reuben and the Dark and buy tickets to their April 12 gig, visit reubenandthedark.com.