Armand Ruby and Julian Colbeck, the duo behind Karmic Neighborhood, are still riding the high off of their soundtrack album for the feature film, Equinox the Musical, which hit streaming services on the autumnal equinox, September 22nd.
The 14-track opus harmonizes seamlessly with the accompanying feature film, weaving a poignant narrative about the journey of two destitute young lovers. Their story unravels the profound truth that within life’s harshest trials, forgiveness, gratitude, and love serve as guiding forces. The songs are sung by different characters in the film in a variety of settings, driving the narrative forward.
Ruby and Colbeck have taken different life paths that eventually converged into their musical partnership. These two lifelong musicians serendipitously crossed paths when they both relocated to a charming neighborhood along California’s central coast, and the rest was history.
With his roots as a London-based keyboardist, Colbeck boasts an illustrious career spanning decades in the music industry. In stark contrast, Ruby dedicated himself professionally to environmental science within the United States while nurturing his talents as a part-time musician and lyricist.
We got to chat with Ruby to learn more about the duo, the soundtrack, the feature film, and much more.
So what are the origins of Karmic Neighborhood, and how did you land on the name?
The Karmic Neighborhood artist name arose out of my collaboration with my neighbor, lifelong music industry veteran Julian Colbeck, which began shortly after my wife and I moved two doors down from Julian and his wife in the rural community of Royal Oaks, on California’s central coast, in 2019.
I landed on ‘Karmic Neighborhood’ for a couple reasons: our meeting felt karmic, like destiny to me, and we were literally living in the same neighborhood; and we were collaborating with other local singers and musicians (and the occasional out-of-area session guitarist). And we were producing music and I desperately needed to pick an artist name; so there we are.
Both of you have had very different upbringings on two different sides of the world – how did those experiences translate into your music and creative direction?
Although we grew up several thousand miles apart, and eventually our career paths diverged quite significantly, our childhoods had important things in common. We grew up in stable middle class households (though Julian’s was more upper middle), and started playing music early, in both cases with a classical orientation, with strong support from our parents.
As our playing progressed to more modern/pop areas, our parents continued to support us; my parents bought me my first guitar at around 12 years old. Then of course, both being Boomers, as youths we experienced the rise of modern pop rock with The Beatles and everyone else who followed, something that was mutually experienced transatlantically by Brits and Americans alike.
Our musical tastes, knowledge and appreciation, while not completely overlapping (Julian doesn’t ‘get’ The Grateful Dead, for example!), have a lot in common. In fact, Julian’s musical tastes in the early stages of his career leaned to American rock. But a key thing we share is our interest in musical creativity and innovation, something we’ve both been driven by since childhood.
What is it like working with each other, and how does that process usually work?
It’s basically hell; involves a lot of screaming and sometimes throwing things. Haha yeah, actually it’s not that bad. In fact, from my standpoint it’s been pretty great.
We’re able to communicate really well, which is a key, and both possessing a similarly offbeat (wry?) sense of humor is a big part of that. So we end up having fun working together. Generally, I’m the composer and Julian’s the arranger, but then we’re co-producers, which is a highly collaborative process.
We don’t always agree on what sounds good, but much more often we do agree, and musically we respect each other’s ideas, so the collaboration produces tracks that represent input from both of us.
Can you tell a little bit about the film, Equinox the Musical, and how the soundtrack ties into the plot?
Equinox takes place during one day, the fall equinox, where there is equal day and equal night everywhere on earth. During the course of what becomes a tumultuous day, two homeless young lovers discover that forgiveness, gratitude and love and be the keys to achieving balance even in the most challenging circumstances. The songs occur at key moments and help drive the plot, giving us deeper insight into the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the characters.
How is making a soundtrack for a feature film different from a regular album?
Julian, who has himself made many record albums over the years (this is his second musical soundtrack; the first was for a musical for which Julian wrote the music in the 1970s), says a regular album has to stand on its own two feet, and work as a complete entity in itself, whereas a film soundtrack has a specific purpose to support the narrative of what’s on screen.
What are some of the underlying themes and motifs that tie all the songs together?
Underlying the plot and its characters is the idea of a shared humanity, and the importance of compassion for the life experiences of another. Everyone has a story, and when we see someone on the street we typically have no idea what their story is, what personal life path has led them to the present moment. Everyone is capable of change, and forgiveness, gratitude and love can be agents of change in sometimes unexpected ways.
How challenging is it to write from the perspective of the characters in the film?
Haha – this is a great question; creating authentic, believable voices for individual characters is the biggest challenge in writing a screenplay, and I initially found it disorienting to step deeply into a character and write from their perspective. For some reason this was easier in the songwriting, maybe because songwriters are used to being able to tell stories from a perspective other than their own; honestly I don’t know.
Which song or two are you most excited to see performed in the film?
I think the opening ensemble number, “It’s A New Day”, which introduces the characters and has a lot of energy and motion, will be really fun to watch. And the angst and depth of despair of “Where Do I Go Now”, though emotionally difficult, also will be a trip.
What was the most fulfilling part of making this soundtrack?
The joy of the collaborative working with Julian and our contributing singers and musicians – in producing music that we really like – was the best part for me personally.
What kind of response do you realistically hope to get from both the film and the soundtrack, and what’s next?
Realistic or not, I hope that the Equinox preview soundtrack gets into the ears and hearts of a lot of people, and leads to financial support for the making of the feature film, which I then hope becomes a worldwide hit movie, leading to Academy Award nominations and Grammy Award nominations for the soundtrack, followed by the recreation of Equinox the Musical as a hit play on Broadway, eventually to be adopted into the standard theatrical repertoire and produced on an ongoing basis by professional and amateur theatre companies throughout the world; at the same time the success of the Equinox film also leading to production of the prequel film, Eclipse the Musical, and then the sequel, Solstice the Musical, as well as a musical film based on the life of Sojourner Truth.