2016 has been the year of RÜFÜS. For the three Sydney talents, the year has birthed the release of their acclaimed sophomore album, gigs at some of the largest music festivals on the planet, and a noble 5 ARIA nominations. We caught up with James Hunt of the trio and talked surreal Coachella moments, creative hurdles and the upcoming “Full Bloom” regional tour of Australia.
This year has been a huge one for RÜFÜS: hugely successful new album, Aussie and international tours, and now 5 ARIA nominations. It must be hard to pick just one but is there a special moment that sticks out for 2016?
It’s pretty hard to pick a moment for the year, it’s kind of been a series of pretty amazing shows and occasions but I do have to say that those home town shows we did in Sydney back in May were pretty special. There’s always an extra, heightened feel when you play a sold out home town show, and especially doing the Hordern [Pavilion], which is an institution in its own right, that was pretty amazing. It feels like this year’s just been a whirlwind of awesome moments. It’s not stuff that we set ourselves up to expect when we were writing a record, we were just hoping that it would the best thing we could make and that it would connect with people. This whole year’s been kind of a dream.
You also played Coachella this year which must’ve been something else. Tell us a bit about that experience.
Yeah after the Sydney shows, I was going to say that Coachella was a pretty ridiculous moment. That’s been at the top of our bucket list, to be able to play Coachella, and then for some reason everything lined up in a little bit of a perfect storm and there seemed to be a bit of buzz near it. We’ve been coming [to the US] for the last 4 years and it felt like we were always trying to make it cross over a bit. Then it felt like something clicked and it culminated in the 2 weekends at Coachella. We had the tent packed out, they gave us a really amazing set time, even though we were clashing with Ice Cube and the N.W.A reunion, but still there was a very special vibe…that was a really cool moment. I just remember standing on stage while we were playing “Innerbloom” and we got everyone to pull out their phones or lighters and there was a sea of glowing, glittering little fairy lights and I was like, “I can’t believe that we’re doing this.”
Yeah that’s definitely one of those rock star moments.
Yeah, exactly. [Laughs]
You’ve already played at other huge venues such as Red Rocks and Lollapalooza, are there any other bucket list shows or places that you’re dying to play at?
Yeah there’s still a lot of the Europe and UK-based festivals like Glastonbury. We haven’t done as much of those sorts of festivals. Or even like Dimensions and EXIT Festival and all of those iconic, sick European festivals that always have such a tasty, electronic line up. I’d love to delve into that at some point, so I guess we’ll see what happens.
Bloom was my first taste of RÜFÜS and I absolutely loved it. For me the album doubles as a feel good relaxed listen while also having a sort of emotionally-stirring aspect to it, and I think a big part of that is the synergy between the lyrics and the production. How did the songs on this album come together? Were the vocals constructed around the beat or what came first? What did the creative process involve?
Well I guess that at the start of the writing process, we hadn’t written for a year and a half because we’d been touring off of the back of our first record, Atlas, so it took a little while to get the wheels turning again and to find the ideal process for the creation of songs. We started writing when we were in Berlin and then in the UK for a bit as well, and we were pushing the production quite a bit. I think that’s because we were trying to find the sound and the aesthetic still. We were still shooting out different references and ideas for how we wanted things to sound, so we started finishing a lot of ideas even when there was no strong vocal melody which was the central hook for the song.
So we did that for quite a while, but when we came back home, we started realising that the key to the success of getting a song to the best point it can get to was when the initial vocal melody would come with the basic chords and skeleton of a song and then afterwards doing the production. And that’s sort of what happened with “Innerbloom” and “You Were Right”, they happened in the most organic way. Just jamming: one of us would be on the keys, someone else would come up with some vocal idea or a little melody or hook. Then from there we would be like “OK now we have this basic idea, let’s push the production of this song to be like this.” And then we would have a reference to a certain song or album, or say, “Let’s mix it with this percussion.” All of us are pretty capable of doing all of those things in terms of production, so we’d all bounce back and forth between each other. I think that was a really good lesson to learn that the heart of the song is what you need. That’s the initial spark, rather than trying to produce something and then revisiting the feeling of it.
Yeah and it comes through in the music I think, when it’s made organically and it just feels natural and feels right.
Yeah exactly. It feels right and it feels like it’s meant to be that way.
The album was so well received by critics and fans and even garnered the attention of What So Not with his remix to Innerbloom. How did that remix come about? Did he tell you about it before it dropped or was it a surprise to you guys?
That was actually a less than normal way of getting a remix. Chris [Emerson aka What So Not] actually approached us, just messaged us on Facebook asking for the stems to work on a proper remix. He’d been testing out a previous edit [of the song] during a festival last year and the footage made its way onto Youtube. So there was footage of this edit he’d made being played to thousands of people and having this crazy effect and we were like “This is sick! Of course you can.” That remix has basically taken on a life of its own which is amazing, and it’s really been cool for us to see how it’s connected with a different side of electronic music that we are probably not as relevant to. It’s been really cool to see that. He nailed that, it’s one of our favourite remixes. When a remix becomes its own thing, rather than just a remix of another song, that’s amazing.
You’ve recently secured 5 ARIA nominations for Bloom, more than you’ve ever got in previous years, including a nod for Album of the Year. Firstly congratulations, that’s absolutely huge.
Yeah thanks, that’s so crazy.
How does that feel and how much does this mean for you guys? Did you ever seen yourselves being recognised in this way for your music?
Not really I guess. It’s pretty mind-blowing and just to be nominated is pretty crazy. All of the artists nominated in all of the categories are killing it and doing their own thing in a really amazing way. If we were to win one that would totally surprise me and I’m not really expecting that. It’s a testament to the Australian music scene, not just the electronic music scene but in any respect.
Definitely. Well you’ve got five chances so hopefully you can lock down one.
Hopefully bro! [Laughs]
You also just announced the “Full Bloom” 2017 Australian regional tour which is set to hit some awesome places such as Rottnest Island for Castaway. What made you stray from the regular touring spots?
Well I think we’ve never really had the chance to explore some of these smaller places in Australia. I think one of my favourite parts when we are touring overseas is going to these little pockets that we’ve never been to and discovering a new audience and seeing how our music is being reacted to by a certain town. Like I’m speaking to you now from St Louis in Missouri. We’ve never been to anywhere near here. [Laughs] But we’ve never seemed to be able to do that in Australia. We’re always hitting major cities and maybe a few smaller places like Wollongong and Newcastle. It will be really cool on this tour to get to some of these people who may be into our music but have never had the chance to visit a major city near them to see a show. We really want to bring the whole package of the show: the lighting, the sound, the whole journey of the live show that we’ve worked on. I think Rottnest will be sick too I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place.
Yeah it really is. The Aussie summer will be the best time to see all these spots too.
Yeah it’ll be like a cool little holiday trip while playing awesome shows to awesome people.
Sounds like a blast. Finally, I know you guys have had a jam-packed 2016 but are there any ideas brewing for album number 3 yet?
Nothing concrete, but I just know we are all itching to write again, having toured the material from Bloom and Atlas. We needed time away from writing because we did that all last year and half of the year before that. But I think that space has taken its effect and we are keen to write again. The first half of next year there’s still a lot of touring but we are going to try find some time to start working on stuff amongst all those shows. But as for a direction that remains to be seen.
You can catch Rufus on their “Full Bloom” Australian regional tour in early 2017. Tickets here.