The Sultans Of Sand: A Conversation With RÜFÜS – Best Before

No Australian band for quite some time has risen to such astronomical heights as quickly as Sydney's RÜFÜS.

Over their relatively short career, RÜFÜS have landed an ARIA award, a number one debut LP, and countless iconic festival headline slots. Their uniquely familiar brand of scintillating dance music swiftly struck a chord with Australian music lovers, capturing our carefree, beach-loving identity right from the get-go. From there, the band has evolved even further from their ambient, cinematic branding, establishing themselves as a premium, must-see live act. You'd be hard-pressed to find an Aussie festival-goer who hasn't lost their minds at least once in the throws of an unforgettable set from RÜFÜS.

So where to from the lofty, sand-riddled, sun-burnt perch that the Sydney trio have found themselves on? A desire for fresh inspiration found the lads submerging themselves in the antithetical land of Berlin for months on end, surrounded by new faces and a drastic change in climate. The direct result is their hugely-anticipated sophomore LP 'Bloom' – an album that fans may not have been expecting, but one that they need to hear. For round two, RÜFÜS look to new experiences and lessons to inject a fresh vitality into their laid-back electronic catalogue. 'Bloom' signals and mirrors life itself. There's heartache and there's joy, but above all, it's an unabashed, translucent display of the bands penchant for powerful, infectious dance music. As frontman Tyrone Lindqvist tells me, it's been quite the formative ride up to now.

Best Before: Congratulations on the ARIA! It's your first one, and should be the first of many.

Tyrone Lindqvist: Yeah, it's our first one! We actually only got the award yesterday. It's so heavy. It's like a sharp weapon – It's definitely dangerous.

What does it feel like to be an ARIA award winner? I can't imagine I'll ever win one, unless I suddenly become really good at music.

TL: *Laughs* Maybe a comedian? You could get one.

If Matt Okine can get one, maybe I can too.

TL: Exactly. Look, it's a pretty surreal feeling, to be honest. We didn't see it coming. We'd been nominated for five before, and scoring the nomination alone is crazy enough. Then you go into a room like that with all these other insane artists, and it's special. We honestly made that first record with no plans of seeing it go anywhere, so when we were there, we were nervous and excited. The night itself is amazing, but perhaps the best way to describe it for myself personally is that it felt kind of like a lucid dream. At the end of the day, it's a weird concept, because you look at the category and the other artists that you're up against, and you think they're way more worthy. It's kind of funny that there's an award for any one act, but fuck, that's not what we were thinking when we won it – we were like, "Yeah! Woo! This is awesome!"

So how are you feeling about 'Bloom'? What are your expectations? Were there any learning experiences this time around?

TL: To be honest, we spent a really long year making this god damn thing. We pulled a lot of it together in Berlin over three months, and then we came back to Australia and spent eight months finalising everything. Funnily enough, we actually wound up finishing it in a hotel in Montreal. When you're working on something like that for so long, and when you have three guys who are really passionate about the processes and music itself, to get to a point where you're all looking at each other and thinking, "Fuck, this is really something I genuinely love" is pretty special in itself.

Lyrically, the whole record is a nod to the coming and going of relationships between people, friends and family. It's about that feeling when you get to come back home and see everyone you love.

Actually, there was a point where we were driving through the snow from Detroit to Chicago and we had the masters in our hands. The album was officially done, and it was kind of like when you get a new car and you haven't had a chance to take it for spin because you're finishing off that final bit of polish, and then it finally comes back for that epic first drive. That was us listening to the record for the first time. I'm so proud of what we accomplished. You spend a year getting so used to analysing every little thing, and then you can finally sit down and actually listen to the final product with fresh ears. Expectedly, I found myself thinking about things three or four songs in, but by the sixth or seventh track, I found myself hearing things I hadn't heard in a long time and loving it all again.

It's so refreshing to hear that you really love what you've done. I know that as a fan, I love it when an artist I love are really proud of what they've made.

TL: Yeah. We've been really lucky with that concept, actually. We stumbled into that super early. We decided early on that we are never going to fully know what anyone's going to like, but the only thing we can be sure of is whether we like it, whether we are passionate about it, and whether we are proud of it. For 'Bloom', it definitely wasn't easy, but we got to that point where we were all like, "This is awesome." We were all smiling and giving each other high fives. It's a great feeling.

I'm just imagining you guys constantly high-fiving in slow motion after every drop or transition or hook.

TL: *Laughs* It seriously sounds so cheesy, but man – I reckon after every second song, there was no other way to celebrate. It sounds so lame when I put it that way, but it really was like that.

Please tell me someone recorded you guys doing that.

TL: *Laughs* God, I hope not. It would be super embarrassing.

I actually think I saw the photo of you on that very bus ride. I was scrolling through your Instagram, and there was a photo of the snow. The caption was "Listening to the masters".

TL: Yeah! Our tour manager on that bus ride was like, *puts on American accent* – "Ok guys, we gotta stock up on some beef jerky and drinks, because we could get snowed in, boys". The drive from Chicago to Detroit is usually around four to five hours, but we were on that bus for more like eight. The snow was literally everywhere. It's definitely not something we're used to.

That's interesting, because it's actually quite paradoxical when you consider what your sound originally became synonymous with – surfing and the beach. Was this association something you guys always envisioned? Was there perhaps an intention to move away from that sound the second time around?

TL: With our first EPs, we didn't really consciously know what attracts the crowd. John is from Cronulla, and I'm from the North Shore, and we do spend a lot of time around the beach – so maybe that does influence our sound somewhat. With 'Bloom', we didn't go in there with any other intention than to just make another good record. We did go in knowing that we wanted to mix it up, which led us to Berlin, and that obviously had quite the impact. Lyrically, the whole record is a nod to the coming and going of relationships between people, friends and family. It's about that feeling when you get to come back home and see everyone you love. I guess if you couple that with the hot, sunny surroundings of home against the cold, dark days in Berlin, it all plays a part.

As a band, we write the best when we just start with a single feeling or a chord, and then we begin to reference acts, songs or albums we really love. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but at the core, there's usually a relatable feeling to us all collectively. That's when we write our best material – not when we try to aim for something conceptually.

I definitely picked up on that cyclical aspect across 'Bloom'. Does the album explore the circularity of life?

TL: Again, I don't think it was a conscious choice, but I do think you're right. Where we ended up – and you don't know when you're in it – was a point where we'd recorded maybe four or five demos around the time "You Were Right" was out, and those demos were pretty much on their way. We quickly found a common theme through all of them – we were saying "home" a lot. Usually our process for writing a song is that I'll jump into the booth, do the vocal bit, and jot down some ideas, but it never usually involves a specific lyric. But this time around, for almost every song on 'Bloom', my improvised lyrics ended up being in the final versions. Inherently, it's a theme in itself, but it's being communicated subconsciously. It definitely reflects where we are at this point. We're constantly leaving loved ones for long periods of time.

It's all the rage at the moment to make a concept album. Is this something you see happening in the future?

TL: It could be something if it excites us down the road. As a band, we write the best when we just start with a single feeling or a chord, and then we begin to reference acts, songs or albums we really love. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but at the core, there's usually a relatable feeling to us all collectively. That's when we write our best material – not when we try to aim for something conceptually.

The one track I really wanted to delve into is “Be With You”. It's so intricate, from the laughing samples at the beginning to those choir vocal loops all throughout. It gives it this sort of retro disco feel. How did it all come about?

TL: I'm really happy you're noticing those sorts of things! When we started doing the record, we set out to do some more sample-based songs. We were listening to The Avalanches, Moby and some older snippets of songs we loved, and it gave some of our tracks a time-washed feel. I think we wanted to try and explore that side of the musical spectrum.  When we were in Berlin, "Be With You" actually became one of the first records we had on the album – sans the vocals. We sat down and tried to come up with the vocal lines, and we couldn't find anything that was true to us, but we knew that this was a song we loved. Then six months down the track, we were like, "Fuck – why don't we just take the song, sample the hook that's there, and then re-write the song?"

So you sampled your own song?!

TL: Yeah! *Laughs* We made the song again, but slightly different. It excited us about "Be With You" again, and we gave it this driving house quality. We quickly wrote the first verse vocals, and then tried the chorus, but it felt kind of cheesy when I was singing over the top of it. We came up with the idea of a gospel choir of some sorts. One thing led to another, and it all started to fall into place. We tried to write the choir in on a few other tracks, but as soon as they started on "Be With You", it was instantly so much fun. It immediately revitalised the track – especially when we got them to do that laughing bit. They were a bit confused, and they almost didn't believe us, but we were just adamant on ensuring an authentic response, so we told them to just go stand in there and muck around loudly. It was so great just seeing them genuinely pissing themselves. You couldn't get more real characters to do it.

Did you use that same choir on "Brighter", the album opener?

TL: Yeah! Same four people! We used them in "Say A Prayer For Me" as well. We didn't want to overuse them, but it definitely didn't end up being just a left-of-field inclusion.

I'm looking forward to the album release and seeing what 2016 has in store for you guys. I'll be down to see you guys again! It was actually my first time seeing you live at the recent Enmore show.

TL: I'm so glad you got to see that one! The Enmore is one of my favourite venues, and that was a pretty special night for us.

 


'Bloom' arrives on the 22nd January. You can pre-order the album right here.

Interview by Alex Kelly | Live Photos by Jordan Munns