Finding Solace In The Desert: How RÜFÜS DU SOL Lost Themselves To Make Album #3
With their third long player, the Aussie trio are on the cusp of world domination.
One of the earliest CDs (remember those?) I ever remember reviewing was for a print magazine (remember those?), covering RÜFÜS DU SOL’s debut self-titled EP, RÜFÜS (remember when they were called that?).
I remember it distinctly as they were the first live electronic act I’d been excited about in the post-Modular era, their solemn take on indie-dance in tracks like We Left and Paris Collides tickling my already very depleted serotonin receptors in all the right places.
The second thing I distinctly remember is remarking at the time that while the EP showed plenty of promise, I was looking forward to seeing if they could reach the lofty heights of forefathers like Cut Copy and The Presets.
And so here we find ourselves some seven years later, and the Sydney-based trio are about to release their third (and most accomplished) album to date, Solace.
It’s been a wild ride too, navigating an Australian music market obsessed with Flume and his army of imitators, big drops and trap bangers, in the process passing on the live electronic bands of years gone by in favour of glowing Apple logos.
However, whle citing international acts like Booka Shade and Joris Voorn their meditative, house-leaning take on electronic music has found fans the world-over, wielding them two adored albums in 2014’s Atlas and its Berlin-born 2016 follow-up, Bloom (featuring their almost-10-minute magnum opus, Innerbloom, a track that would assure their place amongst some of this country's electrnoic greats).
And now we find ourselves at Solace, one of this year’s most anticipated albums, electronic or otherwise, crafted by arguably the biggest band in this country right now.
The album is the result of intense upheaval for the band, moving to California a couple of years ago to spend time in the middle of nowhere and get lost in a writing process that, as you’ll discover in my interview with drummer James Hunt below, became almost obsessive.
It’s also resulted in their most accomplished and exciting release to date. A product very much of its time and space, crafted through writing trips to Death Valley and Joshua Tree, with an enhanced focus on analogue equipment and instruments, in the process removing some of the polish of past releases.
In its place – a raw, unbridled emotional energy, more focused songwriting, and richer sonic textures that reward repeat listens, something Solace doesn’t so much require as demand.
I had the chance to chat to Hunt about it, their new label and more while the group were on a recent trip back home before they jet back overseas for another huge US tour, one that will be quickly followed by a hugely anticipated tour back in Australia early next year.
Check it out below, along with the full run of dates down the bottom:
Let’s start with what prompted the move to the States after Bloom’s album cycle wrapped up?
The whole point of moving to the US was to shake up our senses and where we were at. We did that with Bloom but only a small stint in Berlin… With this one the whole idea was to go overseas and we wouldn’t come back until we finished the album. So we went to LA and we found this AirBnB with a disused studio in it so we bought a bunch of analogue synthesizers and decked it out and made this escapist playground for ourselves.
How did it differ to previous experiences?
At the start it was very much soaking in the Californian landscape and we had access to Joshua Tree for writing trips, Death Valley… But after a while we started working crazier and crazier hours and getting lost in the studio, so at times we could have been anywhere. We were in this little space with all these amazing toys and so creatively inspired and obsessed with making new music.
I think being able to go out to Joshua Tree and things like that were really informative in terms of channelling the feelings of those spaces into the record. On one of the tracks lost in my mind we went up to Joshua Tree with the sole intent of writing some lyrics for a couple of songs, and then we managed to bring a Prophet synth with us as well and some mics and within like four hours we bashed that song out. We definitely channelled the weird, wild, desolateness of that landscape.
What was the group’s headspace during this process, it sounds like it got pretty intense?
We were excited to work on this stuff, but at the same time we got so lost in the writing process and we got so obsessed with it that it became this emotional rollercoaster in a way. Neglecting our personal lives completely, we weren’t communicating with our friends and family really. We were just sucked into this writing process, it became really unhealthy at times.
That’s where a bit of a darker edge came through. Intentionally or unintentionally we were channelling these raw emotions as well, alongside celebratory and euphoric moments. And given we’ve been playing together for such a long time, we had a better ability to channel the emotional spectrum, the dark and the light.
What influence will the new album have on your live shows?
When we went into writing this record we had more of a jam-based set up, so it was lot more out of the box, and there was a lot more moments of imperfection, more human takes rather than dialling it in to perfection. There’s vulnerability in that and I think now off the back of it we’re trying to allow more of that imperfection and unplanned happy mistakes.
So a big thing in the live show now is we’re hunting for more tangential moments, we’re not sure where we’re gonna take it, so there’s a bit more freedom and also to keep us on our toes. When you’re doing stuff that’s a bit more safe or a bit more similar from night to night you can sink into your muscle memory a bit more, and you might lose the vitality in the performance.
We’re trying to flesh out some of the new songs so from night to night you might hear an extended version of one song, then a different one for another. So if people come to multiple shows it can be a different experience night to night.
Tell me a bit about the new label too, Rose Avenue?
It gives us an opportunity to share electronic music that we’re loving, when some of these artists might not be given a chance otherwise. We were lucky enough to be given a chance like that through Sweat It Out! who gave us a chance on our first record and Bloom. ODESZA’s Foreign Family label helped us in the USA. I think we owe it to other artists to give them that opportunity and a platform to expose them to a wider audience. Especially with the music we believe in we feel like it’s important.
Cassian is a pretty great first drop.
He mixed pretty much all of this record, he’s just a really close friend, we’ve toured with him a lot. We love his music, he has like an album’s worth of amazing music, and Lafayette, the first track on Rose Avenue, is just one of many sick tracks. He’s got such an amazing engineering ear, and he’s so creative and it’s exciting we get to champion his music through this.
SOLACE AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES:
Wed 1 Jan – Field Day, Sydney
Fri 15 Feb – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne
Wed 20 Feb – Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Fri 22 Feb – Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle
Sat 23 Feb – 3 Oceans Winery, Margaret River
Sat 2 Mar – Riverstage, Brisbane
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