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Playing dark-hued pop music that strikes a balance between melody-driven pleasure and guitar-fueled malaise, New Ruins started as a two-man recording project featuring Elzie Sexton on vocals, guitars, and keyboards and J. Caleb Means on vocals and guitar.

Sexton and Means both grew up in southern Illinois, and became friends in their early teens. Sexton and Means formed a punk rock band together when they were 14, and worked together in a variety of musical projects until they both left town to go to college. Means traveled north and attended film school, while Sexton enrolled in an art college down south; however, the two friends kept in touch, and in addition to getting together to make music during breaks from school, they began sending tapes of works in progress back and forth, collaborating through the mail.

After graduating, Sexton and Means both ended up back in Illinois in the Champaign-Urbana area, where Means opened a small recording studio, Boombox Studios. When not busy with clients, Means would work on new music with Sexton, and in 2004 New Ruins were born. After a year in which the duo was strictly a studio project, New Ruins began playing occasional live gigs in the summer of 2005, and before long they added a rhythm section to fill out their sound — bassist Paul Chastain and drummer Roy Ewing. In 2006, New Ruins began recording their first full album, The Sound They Make, which was released by Hidden Agenda Records in the spring of 2007.