Rüfüs Du Sol has solidified themselves as one of Australia’s most ambitious dance exports of the last decade, making music that is designed to resonate universally and put them on an international scale (they played Coachella in both 2016 and 2017). They pair synth-heavy EDM sounds with live instrumentation and their natural knack for anthemic hooks. Their last two albums, Bloom and Atlas, both debuted at number one on the ARIA charts and have since gone platinum in Australia. However, Rüfüs Du Sol are more than just a chart topping trio, they want to make music that people feel all around the world. By transitioning into using their international name Rüfüs Du Sol exclusively (they were known as simply Rüfüs in Australia until this year), they are looking to show themselves on a global scale in the least top-40 of ways yet. The results can be found in their new project Solace, their riskiest album yet.
We chatted to drummer James Hunt about the LP, and the somewhat off-kilter inspirations that saw this project come together.
Hey James. The new album is out, how do you feel?
I feel like I’ve given birth [laughs]. I’ve been using that analogy a lot, but I can’t really lay claim to what that would feel like. But it does feel like we’ve put a year and a half of our lives into this thing, and we’ve finished it. Now, we’ve unleashed it to the world. It feels like it’s going to be a big release, and I’m excited.
The album title itself, Solace, is an interesting concept to explore; and you can hear it in the music. What prompted you guys to choose this word to represent this body of work?
Well, we relocated to L.A. We set up a studio in an AirBnB with all these synths, and we made a kind of playground for ourselves. It was a really exciting time—we had just been touring for two years off the back of the last album, Bloom. We had all of this pent up creative energy that we dove head first into, kinda recklessly. We were generating so many ideas and writing so many songs. But I also think we kind of got lost in that process, because we were away from home and our loved ones. All we had was making music. When we found the title Solace we were just jamming ideas, and that one had really stuck out. It really summed up this notion that resonated with all of us: being away from home, neglecting our personal lives, to the point where music was the only thing that comforted us, the only place where we could find solace.
The way this new album delves into emotion sonically, particularly on tracks like ‘Underwater’, really differentiates it from your other projects. Was there a different process creating this album in comparison to your last two?
Yeah, I think there was a bit more vulnerability here than the last record, especially with the closing track ‘Inner Bloom’; it captured an emotional rawness. We knew we wanted to explore that concept further with this album, but a lot of it just happened naturally. Not just on a lyrical level, but in the moods and sounds that we were going for on this one. It’s a lot darker and edgier. We bought a bunch of analogue synthesizers that kind of brought this retro sonic depth and space, and a sense of being out in the void. I also think our approach for this album came from this studio space we had created for ourselves;it resulted in a lot more jam sessions, and we ended up producing more songs for this album than we did with the past two. We were recording more live takes, rather than thinking in the box. We were embracing the mistakes; the unintentional things that would come out of these sessions. The end result was a more human-like finished product.
Embracing the spontaneous and the beauty in the imperfections is a hard thing to do as an artist.
A lot of the songs on this record weren’t overthought, and although we wrote more songs than ever for this new album, the ones that stuck are the ones that happened in a really short amount of time. They came together organically—almost just fell out! [laughs] We learned to accept things in their initial state, because if you toy with it too much the interesting aspects of these songs wouldn’t exist.
You’ve mentioned all the writing that went into this album, yet the end result is a clean cut nine songs. That’s a tight edit, especially in the streaming era.Did you ever feel the pressure to add more to this album?
I think we were lucky enough to not feel any pressure from any outside sources on this album. We can really just make what we want to make. Because we were delving into these raw, emotional spaces, we wanted to allow [the record] to breathe. We played with an 11 or 12 track sequence, but because there’s so much heavy material on the album, by the end you felt like you had gone through too much. This sequencing and amount of songs felt like the right journey to take our listeners on; even though it is two tracks shorter than our previous record.
All these different avenues you’re both sonically and lyrically exploring through this album almost symbolises, to me, your incredibly busy touring schedule over the last two years.
I think [the record] echos that sense of going into the unknown, which is what you’re doing when you’re touring the world. You’re going to all these new places and it’s very fun—we’re incredibly lucky that we get to do it. But at the same time, it’s an emotional rollercoaster. I think that’s what the record channels. It was an emotional washing machine in many ways.
Is there a particular moment that stood out to you on your two-year tour journey?
There’s one thing that I always weirdly come back to. We’re lucky enough to play all of these amazing festivals around the world. There was one called Osheaga in 2016 and Radiohead was headlining, they’re my favourite band of all time and I’ve seen them live four or five times. We got escorted to the front of house desk to watch them play, and it was a special moment where not only did I get to see my favourite band live, I got to see this huge crowd singing along to ‘Karma Police’. That just reassured me of how powerful live music can be, and it happened as we were in the middle of touring, playing the same songs again and again. It was really invigorating.
I’ve read about the inspiration you drew from the California deserts on this album. How does nature affect your art?
I think we’ve always been aware of how our physical location and surroundings can infuse themselves into our creative process. On the second record, we moved to Berlin to soak up that electronic music landscape and the spirit of the city itself. We knew we wanted to do it with this record too. California seemed to be a unanimous choice with all of us because on a practical level, it was halfway between Australia and the rest of the world. And we’ve been to Joshua Tree before, and we always talked about doing that kind of stereotypical writing trip there. So, we had access to all these crazy landscapes once we had moved to L.A, like Joshua Tree and Death Valley, and we did a couple of trips to these places. On one of these trips, we wrote the entire track ‘Lost in My Mind’, the fourth track off the new album. It came out really quick and organically, and it inherited the feeling of being out in the desert. That was that initial spark we learned to be content with. We tried to change it a couple times, but it stood out the most in its original form.
Looking into the future at a fourth album, where do you think you’d like to record next?
It’s so hard to say right now, as we’re still so close to this new record. I remember when we finished Bloom we had no idea what the future would hold, and right now we’re mainly focused on the live show and getting that together. We’re trying to change it up for ourselves this time in the form of allowing more space to jam, and allowing a bit more risk, as well as changing up the setlists night by night. That’s kind of where our heads are at right now.
Lastly, solace as a concept represents finding comfort and contentment in times of grief. How did you guys as a band find that comfort, and how would you recommend others in hard times finding it?
Writing music is where we found solace. The one thing that always was there was this studio space and the opportunity to keep writing. I guess one of my hopes for this record is that people could find something to resonate with or something that rings true to them. If they can find solace in the album, I would be stoked.
Rüfüs Du Sol’s new album Solace is out now. You can stream it here.