Back in the USSR

Rubles Plunge

Commies? Jason Crawford, Chris DiPaolo, Matt Leone, and Brion Hill are the band Rubles Plunge.

Commies? Jason Crawford, Chris DiPaolo, Matt Leone, and Brion Hill are the band Rubles Plunge.

Photo/Kent Irwin

Rubles Plunge perform on Friday, Jan. 30, 211 N. Virginia St. at the Knitting Factory with The Convulsionaires and Hellbusters. For more information, visit

The band name came to bassist Brion Hill in a fortuitous moment of ignorance. In the 1990s, he was working as a plumber when the Russian ruble took an infamous dive. He was on a job fixing pipes in a basement, when he caught sight of a newspaper with the headline “Rubles Plunge Rocks Moscow.” It was then that Hill uttered a Wayne’s World worthy line in total sincerity: “Rubles Plunge? I’ve never heard of that band.”

The name Rubles Plunge stuck with him. When the time came to christen a group assembled from the ashes of several other projects, the old punchline came back to him. Singer and guitarist Jason Crawford embraced the name in terms of feel and aesthetic. The band now practices in a loft above a machine shop, where the winter occasionally creeps in.

“It sometimes feels like the cold Russian winter up here,” said Crawford. “Up here in this industrial building, it lends a kind of Soviet vibe.”

Rubles Plunge incorporate Soviet elements for imagery, from their logo, derived from the Russian flag, to their stage outfits. The music is purely American issue, particularly the kind coming out before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Rubles Plunge are devotees of raw rock ’n’ roll. The guitars are loud, the lyrics are daring, and the attitude is carefree.

The Soviet aesthetic also helped the band sidestep a more obvious gimmick. All of the members are doctors of some form, holding either an M.D. or a PhD. They didn’t want to be a “doctor band,” especially since, according to Hill, they’ve been down that road before.

Rubles Plunge approaches topics as diverse as hitting the road, experimenting with drugs, and killer robots. One song, titled “Artifact” contemplates the decay of a woman who’d had a boob job. How long the silicon would outlast the rest of the body is only a guess, but Rubles Plunge turn it into a vehicle for delivering the song’s hook: “Gimme something real to believe in.”

In more ways than their preference for natural breasts, Rubles Plunge longs for the kind of raw sincerity that made such a splash in the early days of rock music. Although the band incorporates different styles in its songs—everything from funk to country to rap—the feel is very much in line with the guitar-slinging heroes of the 1970s, and the various echoes of hard rock that paid tribute to that era.

Rubles Plunge songs vary in style, but instead of a blend, they like to designate genre shifts to individual tunes. One song may be an homage to arena rock, another to heavy metal, another to soul inspired by Al Green. They even include a song in their set that plays in with their Russian imagery—a syncopated, minor scale dancer described by Hill as “ass-blasting Soviet surf.”

At the moment, cover songs make up most of Rubles Plunge’s set. They want to give more stage time to their originals before having an entire set composed of them. The covers do a good job of informing the band’s energy, allowing them to deliver high-octane shows to their built-in crowd.

The band members aim to polish their songs, record them, and look for opening gigs with touring acts while acquiring more stage time locally. Then they hope to expand to the greater West Coast region. For now, they’re happy playing to their audience, who they describe as “employed” and “alcohol drinking.”