Giving Back With Rüfüs Du Sol's James Hunt
Eight years since a rainy Byron Bay holiday turned into a jam session, Sydney alt-dance trio Rüfüs Du Sol leave their souls bare on third album Solace, released last month. Vocalist/guitarist Tyrone Lindqvist certainly felt drained after his performances on the record, in a much rawer state than on previous releases ATLAS (2013) and Bloom (2016).
As drummer James Hunt picks up the phone, invigorated from playing shows in the US and Europe, he thinks about the band's collective experience of recording Solace, having been "a thing that we were really close to for a year-and-a-half".
He affirms,"All of us channeled every aspect of our emotional experience from writing the record, and it was pretty turbulent. We were dragging ourselves into the ground a little bit, staying up until 6am trying to work on music. In a lot of ways, it still is quite raw just playing these songs live. At the same time though, it’s cathartic to play it to people and see their reactions. It feels like you’re letting go of it a little bit, because it’s other people’s now as well.”
The band having to action all their feedback on the mixing and mastering of Solace while on tour is a testament to the turbulence Hunt mentions. The drummer reflects on listening to the finished album for the first time, remembering,"When we got all the masters back, we were in Croatia, so we went for a walk on this island. It’s a pretty sick location. We put it on our phones and listened to it. It was pretty surreal to go, ‘This is it. It’s done'". He chuckles.
Writing and recording Solace at their makeshift home in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, the band's self-belief was reinforced by getting to collaborate with some local talent on parts of the album, including artist and producer Jason Evigan.
"The three of us write inherently as a constant collaboration, but we wanted to shift it up, and LA is such a creative hub," Hunt explains. "Jason turned out to be a good creative partner on some of the songs. If anything, it reiterated that the three of us know what we want the best."
Something the group avidly talked about was visiting Joshua Tree National Park, which Hunt describes playfully as "stereotypical". However, it was their trip there that actually provided Solace with fresh, layered perspective.
He admits, "We initially went to Joshua Tree to write lyrics. We took a small synth and audio setup so we could record, and got side-tracked making a song which became ‘Lost In My Mind’. The entire lyrical journey and most of the production and beat came out in four hours. That definitely channeled the desolate desert landscape, we’re out in a place that almost looks like you’re on Mars. I think that was really important, that isolation.”
Second single 'Underwater' is one of Solace's standout tracks, sparking a particularly powerful connection with fans even before its studio release. Hammered home by powerfully repetitive synths and lyrics, it's a track harking back to 'Innerbloom' on the trio's second album.
"It’s really cool that we debuted both those song live before we put them out, so we got the chance to see some naked reactions to the music, with no-one having preconceptions about them," Hunt says. "It’s crazy to see people cry to a song you’ve made. The other day we were playing in Denver and during ‘Underwater’, there was a guy in the front row who was bawling his eyes out, and this huge security guard was giving him a hug, consoling him. He was this bikie guy with tattoos."
The band will be bringing this experience to local fans, ringing in the new year with a huge national tour, kicking off at Field Day in their hometown. With several tour stops being outdoor venues, Hunt reminisces about one of his strongest memories as a punter himself at Splendour In The Grass in 2010.
“I saw Tame Impala when they first put out [debut album] Innerspeaker. They weren’t headlining yet, but the sun was still setting, and there’s such a crazy energy about the sky changing as you’re watching a band play. So it’s really cool for us to be able to do that. One of my favourite memories of us playing was at Falls Festival at sunset around five years ago. There’s something really electrifying about playing with scenery."
Bringing the conversation to the future, the musician says of the venue quality on the upcoming run, “They’re all pretty sick venues, I’m pretty blown away, but the Sidney Myer Music Bowl [in Melbourne] is iconic. Also Riverstage in Brisbane… We played that two years ago and that’s just amazing. The outdoor setting provides such a cool backdrop to this journey we’re trying to make. I’m so stoked about that.”
Rüfüs Du Sol are placing an increased focus on live jamming and improvisation, set to bring new analog gear and visuals to the tour. Hunt pinpoints this shift to wanting to push themselves for their fans, saying, "If I was a fan watching multiple shows and there were three shows in each city, I’d want to see something completely different each night. So we’re allowing ourselves more space to jam in the middle of a song, covering songs or bringing older and newer ones in."
Even from a position of being able to bring so many shows to their fans both locally and internationally, it's clear from chatting with Hunt that they're not only humble, but giving. The three-piece's new record label Rose Avenue sprang to life during the album process as a deep commitment to supporting young, homegrown artists.
Thinking about his relationship with the label's first signing, Sydney-based musician Cassian, the drummer says, "We’ve known him for five years, he’s been a long-time collaborator. He mixed all of Bloom and pretty much all of Solace. We love him, he’s just a really good friend of ours who’s been honing a more refined sound for the last few years. He has a bunch of amazing songs, so it’s really exciting for us to curate music. It’s a different way to interact with it – for us to give a platform to other artists is really cool. Another group called Lastlings put a song out on the label called ‘Deja Vu', which is a sick electronic jam.
"That was really important when we first started, getting given a chance in Australia, and then being given that by Odesza’s label in the US… These opportunities really helped us, so we want to do the same."
Check out the dates on Rüfüs Du Sol's mammoth Aussie run below, and grab your tickets here.