When her band Cinco broke up mid-2015, Hamilton vocalist Rachel Kibblewhite started focusing on her own acoustic jazz-pop sound under the name Rubita. The name comes from her strong interest in Hispanic culture and music, after living in Argentina on an exchange in her last year of high school, and subsequently studying Spanish at university.
“Rubita is another way of saying ‘blonde’ in Spanish, or ‘little blonde’. I was often identified as ‘the blondie’ at school and home in Argentina, so I thought it would be awesome to have that as a stage name and band name.”
Though obsessed with music since childhood, Rachel didn’t start out as a singer.
“In primary school I remember always wanting to learn guitar. What actually inspired me to learn guitar is the last scene in Back To The Future where he gets up on stage and just goes crazy.”
As she got older she began songwriting, and only started singing as a way to give life to her words.
“I never thought I had a very good voice until my mum was like, ‘Rachel, you’re actually a good singer.’ But I was like, ‘That’s Mum, so who knows if she’s right.’”
But right she was. Rachel began to take singing seriously, working with a band made up of drummer Seth Clement, Alex Sipahioglu on bass and her saxophonist cousin Luke Kibblewhite. They worked with local Hamilton producer and sound engineer Scott Newth to record her first two songs, Black Underwear and Milky Moon, released earlier this year.
“Scott Newth is amazing, I couldn’t have done it without him. I was in the process of wanting to record stuff but I didn’t really know who to go to. I went and talked to him and he kind of helped me figure out what I wanted it to sound like. In Black Underwear there’s quite a bit of drastic space, I was really keen to have that. He just made everything come alive.”
Rachel recently graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Music majoring in guitar performance, as well as a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Spanish literature. She cites Leisure, Lorde, and UMO as some of her local favourites. Ella Fitzgerald is named one of her biggest influences, and she’s also a big fan of Tame Impala.
“I love them so much. Random jazzy stuff. I’ve been trying to listen more to the classic jazz artists, old-school people as well. I’ve also been listening to quite a bit of Radiohead recently.”
Her eyes light up when talking about her new music.
“We’re working towards releasing an EP in July, it’s exciting! We’ve recorded two songs already, we’re just waiting for a few parts to go on. So we might record another one and have a five-song EP, with those three and then Black Underwear and Milky Moon.