How RÜFÜS DU SOL turned a California home into a musical haven and now, a label
Led by the Australian trio, Rose Avenue Records is more than just a label - it's a family.
Header photo and in-article photos by Tay Kaka.
RÜFÜS DU SOL are a band that needs no introduction. The Sydney-raised electronic three-piece have been mainstays within our dance music scene since their debut album Atlas captured national attention, debuting atop the ARIA Album Chart in August 2013 before their triumphant second album, Bloom, made it two-for-two; debuting at number one in January 2016. They've gone platinum twice, found themselves on every festival line-up from Splendour In The Grass to Coachella (where this year, at their third set at the festival in four years, they're billed higher on the poster than Anderson .Paak and the GRAMMY Award-winning Kacey Musgraves) and sold out what must be close to every venue they've ever been booked for in Australia, eventually out-growing their native country to the point where in current day, the trio largely spend their time in Los Angeles.
It's not too hard to understand why either. Their third and most recent album, last October's Solace, is as triumphant as it is tender, with a re-energised focus in analog instrumentation and location-influenced songwriting creating a career-defining album that removes some of the polish of their previous records to create something that feels rawer and more emotionally energetic; the haunting cries of frontman Tyrone Lindqvist drawn out longer as they meet Jon George's swelling synth bursts and James Hunt's intricate percussive pace. It's an album that "channelled the weird and wild desolateness" of the Californian landscape in which it was written, marked by a moving tenderness born from the album's engrossing writing sessions. "Intentionally or unintentionally, we were channelling these raw emotions alongside celebratory and euphoric moments" said James when we interviewed him in the lead-up to Solace's release last year, speaking on how the album's writing process found the trio becoming obsessive, neglecting other areas of their life to travel out to areas including Joshua Tree to work on the record. "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."
Solace is a record inspired by the Californian surrounds it was written in, but no place more than Rose Avenue. Sitting a few blocks away from the sun-soaked beaches of Venice in west Los Angeles, Rose Avenue is where RÜFÜS' new era became fleshed-out and realised, decking out a pool house with the synths and other instruments that would eventually come to define Solace's lush sound. With the exception of the album's closing moment Another Life - which was written after a "soul-searching" adventure to Joshua Tree - each of Solace's blossoming moments came to life at Rose Avenue, as well as a few moments from other artists who would frequently visit the compound to work alongside the band - or borrowing their pool room synths, if they were on tour.
There was Cassian - the Sydney songwriter, producer and engineer who worked on RÜFÜS DU SOL's Bloom and Solace extensively behind-the-scenes after doing a remix of RÜFÜS' break-out single Take Me - and Lastlings, a Gold Coast brother/sister duo once known for the delicate intricacies and subtle melodies of their earlier work and collaborations in 2015. Each connected by days (if not weeks) of writing at Rose Avenue, the trio of acts and the home they shared felt less like a house and more like a close-knit musical haven for each other to champion their respective sounds and accompanying mantras, or as Jon accurately puts, "a musical Brady Bunch-type situation."
Skip forward six months and within the tree-backed, picturesque grounds of Fremantle Arts Centre, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Cassian and Lastlings are together once again, touring a run of sold-out shows across Australia not just as tour mates, but label mates too. Taking the name from their Venice haven, Rose Avenue Records was built by RÜFÜS DU SOL as a family as much as it was established as a label, advocating, supporting and elevating each other's sounds and ambitions while also bringing the specific style of live electronic music each of these acts champion to the spotlight in a similar way ODESZA's Foreign Family Collective did the same for RÜFÜS. They have the freedom to be what they want to be as artists but are intertwined and interconnected, inspired by each other's works and actions - whether it be Cassian's background involvement with RÜFÜS and Lastlings' records, Lastlings writing the beginnings of their debut album at Rose Avenue, or RÜFÜS enlisting both acts to tour with them across Australia and the United States. This isn't a label where every man and woman are for themselves; it's a label where every man and woman elevates every other man and woman on the label - it's a hard thing to find.
In electronic music, the boundaries between organic and synthetic instrumentation are becoming only more blurred, with many musicians ditching the cheap, yet effective DJ set-up in favour of a live show that's more engrossing and involved. Along with ODESZA, RÜFÜS DU SOL were one of the first modern electronic acts occupying this live electronic space, sacrificing the low touring costs and simplicity of a DJ set-up to create something that feels more stimulating and absorbing, something capable of adapting to whatever stage they play - from theatres and open-air venues through to the festival stages of Bonnaroo and Pilerats' own Wonderland Festival. Rose Avenue Records is a label spotlighting acts bringing their own flavour to this live electronic space, something that immediately struck out on the Solace Australian tour and how it compares to others within the Australian electronic world. In addition to RÜFÜS' memorable, well-recognised live show, there are Lastlings - who perform more as a live band, with Amy and Josh Dowdle joined by a live, touring drummer - and Cassian, who welcomes Amy on stage at times, but largely operates as a one-man show, transforming the house grooves of his forthcoming album and past work into the live setting. It's something that joins Rose Avenue Records together - a commonality - and something that RÜFÜS DU SOL want to champion with the label.
Speaking at Fremantle Arts Centre before the first west coast show of their recently-wrapped Solace tour, RÜFÜS DU SOL says that the move to build Rose Avenue and sign Cassian and Lastlings as their inaugural signees felt like the natural move to make. "Both of the acts we partnered with for [Rose Avenue Records] occupied a similar space that we felt like we were trying to do - the fringe of live music and electronic music - and there are not many places out there that wish to embellish and push that type of music but it's a really exciting space," says Jon, who later that night, will translate the swelling synths of the band's recorded work into a live setting with intricate precision. "There's a unique and authentic sound to both Cassian and Lastlings and as we know from writing records from this space in particular, it's hard to get people to buy into it," continues James. "They're artists that are truly authentic about the way they sound and aren't going with the 'flavour of the month'. They really enjoy what they do, and we want to push them the same way that we got pushed; give people opportunities who are authentic to their sound - or to that sound particularly."
Attracted to their invigorating live shows and the passion they bring to the live electronic space, RÜFÜS were quick to take Cassian and Lastlings under their wing - all it took was sessions at Rose Avenue to make it happen. "Lastlings recorded at [Rose Avenue] for ten days or so in our studio, using the same synths and instruments that we used to create Solace," mentions Tyrone. "I don't think they had written much outside of Australia before, so them and Cassian working together in this Los Angeles studio we had all built and put together alongside one another was really fun," he continues. "We always talk about being influenced by the environment we're in, so for them to be able to mix it up and experience writing a part of their debut album at Rose Avenue, a place so special to us, was just magical. It's really what the label is about I guess: sharing these experiences as a family and doing the best we can to elevate each other in similar ways."
Cassian is well-accustomed to the Australian house circuit. The master-of-all-trades has released through a number of labels in his production life, including Sweat It Out - the label that ultimately gave RÜFÜS their first major push by releasing their debut album, Atlas. His productions are as expansive and cinematic as they are club-centric and sweaty, uniting lush synth layers with thick house grooves and ricocheting percussion that seemingly evolve and grow with every release. As a long-time friend and collaborator of RÜFÜS, Rose Avenue Records seemed like a brilliant home to host his work, including a long-awaited debut album he's been perfecting for much of the last few years. "It's kind of perfect, we've been close friends and working on music together since 2012," he says. "I worked with them on finishing off Desert Night maybe seven years ago now, and since then, we've worked so closely together, toured the world together, and releasing a record together seems like a natural step."
Cassian mentions that the idea of signing to Rose Avenue was initially pitched at a Cut Copy show at LA institution The Shrine - a 6,000+ capacity live music hall where RÜFÜS DU SOL would eventually play three simultaneous shows in November; himself in tow. It was an immediate yes. "They sucked me into their orbit and I haven't been able to float out of it, you know? We all get along so well. We're all close friends. We've known each other for so long," he continues. "Everything I do is connected to them in some way, even Lafayette - the first track released on Rose Avenue - was written in the front seat of their tour bus travelling through the US. I was working on the song on my laptop when we drove past Lafayette Street and I was like 'oh okay, Lafayette' and now, three years later, they're releasing it. It was just too perfect. We're all close friends. We like the same music. It just works."
Lastlings are the newest act to join the Rose Avenue Records journey, being welcomed onto the label after touring regional Australia with RÜFÜS through 2017's summer. However, despite being sucked into that RÜFÜS orbit some five years after Cassian, they're attracted to much of the same qualities he sees in Rose Avenue. "I think it's really cool that they've seen something in us and want to nurture that and help us grow and evolve," says Josh, the production half of the duo who, in their live show, toys around on synths and pads while Amy's slick vocal ebbs and flows amongst it. "They've been really instrumental in our album. The great feedback they've given us has really helped us shape and put together the record and making everything as great as possible."
On Deja Vu, the duo's late-2018 single which marked their debut release on Rose Avenue while also teasing their forthcoming debut album, the influence of Rose Avenue is ripe. Deja Vu swells with the bursting synth melodies and cinematic, high-pitched synth wails that you often find amongst RÜFÜS' lush productions, twisted and warped into a sound more characteristic of a mature and evolved Lastlings - bringing their past work together with forward-thinking moments that with its release later this year, may come to define the duo on their debut album. "We set ourselves up at Rose Avenue and used their studio with Cassian while they were away, and being able to play around with the instruments and sounds that they used on Solace with Cassian's guidance really helped us piece things together," Josh says on their time at the pool house studio, before Amy chimes in: "The place was amazing, it was a very good place to nurture the music and make magic - it felt familiar and comforting even though we had never really been there before."
There's a lot of excitement brewing within Rose Avenue Records. Even when spending as little as thirty minutes with RÜFÜS, the excitement and enthusiasm they hold towards Rose Avenue exuberates through their every movement - whether it be their gleaming smiles when asked about the label's future or the way they bounce off each other's answers and build on one another's ideas, something that shows their passion in its most simplistic form. The future is bright for Rose Avenue, and RÜFÜS are eager to see where it goes. "I think everything is an option at the moment when it comes to Rose Avenue's future," James mentions. "For us, we're just trying to build a similar sound and aesthetic and beyond that, a family - and that's why we have guys out on tour with us at the moment. We're trying to push what we're invested in. We're A&Ring with Lastlings and Cassian, plus giving feedback and working with them on their albums and whatever is beyond that. These are projects we're just as invested in as we're invested in our own thing."
Release-wise, Rose Avenue Records will release Cassian's debut album sometime later this year, teasing the record through Lafayette and his latest single, the Gabrielle Current-featuring Same Things. "It's a bit of a concept album on the cycles of going through relationships, and every song on the record is a step in that cycle - there are vocal tracks and instrumental tracks that all try to tell that one story," says Cassian when asked about his long-awaited debut. "It's still being worked on and finished off because I'm working on a million things at once - whether it be working on Lastlings' record, or working with people like Hayden James on theirs. It's all still in the works, but it's not too far off. It'll definitely be this year."
There's also Lastlings' aforementioned debut album too, which welcomed its first tease with Deja Vu last year. "Rose Avenue are putting out the album, which we're really excited about," Amy says on the duo's future. "We've yet to finish it though. We're slowly getting through the production and finishing the lyrics and what-not, but we're getting there - it's now really all about finishing off the vocals," Josh continues. "I'm super proud of it, and I'm really excited with how the new sound is progressing. It's a lot more mature than our old stuff, but it's been a natural progression, and I don't know if we would have that natural progression without working at Rose Avenue alongside people like Cassian and RÜFÜS."
There's a lot to look forward to from Rose Avenue, and while RÜFÜS are tight-lipped when it comes to plans beyond the forthcoming albums, you can be assured that there are some remarkably special moments to come. "Who knows how this might go," Tyrone concludes. "We're just creating a little world of our own to support our friends and make them our family, and champion each other's artistic endeavors. There's just us at the moment - and having all of us on one billing creates a special night. Maybe eventually, when we start collecting more artists in the future, we'll be able to put on more than just a night. Who knows, the world's our oyster."
RÜFÜS DU SOL will return to Australia for three Sydney shows as apart of Vivid Festival, with special guest Willaris K.
Listen to Rose Avenue's latest release, Cassian's new single Same Things (feat. Gabrielle Current), HERE.
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