RÜFÜS are fast becoming one of Australia’s most beloved live electronic band, bringing their infectious alt dance beats to life to the recent Falls Festivals around the country, blowing punters away with their incredible live aura. And with every single released in anticipation of their new album Bloom being put on repeat by fans and house lovers alike, we are all keen to see what these guys have come up with on their sophomore record. Bear Family’s Georgia Corpe chatted with drummer James Hunt to get the low down on Bloom.
BF: First up, you guys have recently returned home after a huge You Were Right tour, travelling around Australia, the States, and UK. How has life on the road been for the past couple of months and how is it being home?
R: Yeah, life on the road was been pretty awesome, especially after finishing up our album. I mean, we actually finished up our album while we were on that tour in our hotel room in Montreal. We did the last vocal take in our hotel room. But, we had essentially finished the majority of the album so there was this cool process of us being able to translate it live and start playing some of the newer material to our fans. Which I think for us was a huge deal because we have kinda been playing a lot of the material from Atlas, our debut album, and our EP’s for the past two years. So, it’s cool for us to be able to mix up the live set and start to figure out how to incorporate these newer songs and gauge some of the responses to the newer stuff.
BF: And you’re happy being home as well? Having a bit of down time before hitting the summer festivals?
R: Yeah, I mean to some extent we are having some relax time, but I feel like right now we are gearing up for the release of the second album and it kind of feels like the machine is in full swing again. We are doing more interviews and stuff and chatting about the album which I personally actually really enjoy because it’s giving me a chance to reflect on this whole last year and try and digest everything that happened in that writing process. You know, starting with when we were writing in Berlin pretty much a year ago we were there for about 2 months and the whole year since then has gone by in such a flash. We’ve been locked up in our cage just making as much music as possible and trying to make the best thing we possibly can. So, I guess right now I am just trying to get my head around the last year and it’s cool to kind of use this time to get some perspective on the process of writing the album.
BF: Whilst on the road you guys won Best Dance Release at the ARIA awards for your single You Were Right which has also gone Gold. How did feel when you found out about it?
R: I was ecstatic. It definitely wasn’t something we were banking on. But I guess, it is pretty cool, especially because it’s the ARIA awards. I mean, when we all grew up that was the sort of iconic and unattainable thing, you know for someone to win an ARIA. And so, even to be nominated was a really nice gesture. And I guess it showed us that there were people responding to what we were doing. And to actually win it was just a massive surprise. Especially considering everyone in that category in their own right is kind of killing it, not just in Australia but on an international level. And they are all friends of ours as well, and I think that speaks volumes about the quality of music and the Australian electronic scene at the moment.
BF: Does this give you a pretty good indication for how the release of Bloom is going to go? I mean, it’s not even released yet and you have already won an ARIA for one of the singles from it.
R: I think we are in really good spirits about everything and that’s definitely a nice reminder that things are connecting and it gets me really excited for people to hear the rest of the album because there are a lot of surprises on there as well that aren’t at all like You Were Right. In my mind, you know we’ve spent a year on it, and it feels like everything ties together now so I am more just excited to get it out there and see how certain things respond with different people and kind of get that thing into the world and let go of it.
BF: You were in London at the time… A great city for celebration I assume?
R: Yeah it was really good. It was pretty funny actually being in that situation. We did the live cross from a studio in London, like a TV studio. We were in this little box with a camera pointed at us and we could hear in our earpieces and see on our screen the whole proceedings of the night and then finally getting the actual award. So actually getting that was a pretty huge moment. We were really ecstatic and a little bit nervy, and it was a bit exciting. And then we walked out of the studio and it was like 7am in London, people are walking their dogs and going to work and it was like a complete contrast to the huge amount of people celebrating in Sydney. We had to pinch ourselves, it sort of felt like we were in a bit of a dream.
BF: So you weren’t popping bottles or anything, you were having breakfast?
R: Well, we went back to the hotel and had breakfast and then we started drinking some whiskey to celebrate. But, we were so jet lagged, we basically fell asleep at midday and then woke up at six and went out again. I wouldn’t say that was like your standard ARIA award celebration but it was a really good feeling either way.
BF: You have also kicked goals with another track set for release under Bloom, called Innerbloom; a song just over 9 minutes long, added to high rotation on Triple J. That’s a pretty great achievement that only a few bands can pull off. Were you pleasantly surprised by this?
R: It definitely wasn’t something we were expecting. During the writing process, that song seemed to have this really special place for all of us and today it even feels like the heart of the record in terms of what it’s saying. Also, it takes me back to our time in Berlin when we were exploring and finding all this music that has this real melodic, dark, brooding, and epic side or shade to it, in terms of the electronic music we were finding. And just writing that song, it kind of came out in one session. It just appeared there, and there was no overthinking it or anything. So once it was there, we were a little inspired by Tame Impala putting Let It Happen out, the first single from Currents. And even by Flight Facilities who a few years ago put out Clair De Lune which is around seven minutes long. And I guess seeing artists disregarding your traditional set of rules or whatever about getting a song on radio. Just putting songs out that they believe in and that they love and seeing that people really respond to that was something that drove us to put that out. That’s kind of really worked out in a beautiful way. It’s probably had the strongest response out of all of the songs we’ve put out. And people can appreciate it for what it really is without it needing to be too digestible or relatable or radio-friendly.
BF: I have had the pleasure of having a listen to Bloom and can safely say it is another cracker. You wrote some of the album in Berlin after touring around the globe. How did being in Berlin shape the sound of the record, if at all?
R: I think it played a pretty huge part actually. For that two months there, we didn’t really have any sense of writing a second record or any pressure or anything, it was kind of just like three dudes just walking around exploring and seeing all this music, and we were pretty spoiled for choice for what there was on offer there especially in terms of electronic music. So, I think being in Berlin was pretty crucial towards the initial sonic we had. A lot of the artists we were vibing off were based in Berlin at the time, like George Fitzgerald and Booka Shade, and there’s this sense of really melodic shades of electronic music. But, also a lot of the music we were listening to while we were there, you wouldn’t really expect it from listening to the record, but we were listening to a lot of sort of old sampley hip hop, given The Avalanches and these artists that had this sound where there was a real imperfection to it and things weren’t necessarily on the grid or tight or perfect and had this sense of air or had a bit of dust about it, and I think that was a huge drive for us at the time. Basically, we wanted to make something that sounded a bit more organic and had a bit more life to it and I think it was that time in Berlin where we were discovering these things that we were really responding to. I think throughout the whole record that came through even if it was in a subconscious sense. I think even the fact that a lot of the songs, you know for some of the vocal takes we would go back to using the first demo take because it ended up having the most life to it or the most imperfection or the most off-ness or something and I think that was sort of a policy we discovered early on in the piece.
BF: I am loving some of the musical elements you guys have incorporated into Bloom, which become more and more apparent after each listen. On Be With You, the fifth track on the record, you have a gospel choir pumping out the chorus line, is that correct?
R: We actually got them in sort of half way through the year when we were back in Australia. But that was something we really wanted to play with or experiment with, especially since those early days in Berlin when we were listening to these older sampley tunes, and even listening to songs sampling old mo-town vocal groups and these old choirey, gospelly vocal takes and we really wanted to incorporate that somehow on the record and make it sound almost as if we had taken a sample from like some old chap from the 1950’s and turn it into a straight up house tune. So, there’s a few songs on there where we sort of tease that or incorporate that but that’s kind of like the climax of that dimension of the record.
BF: You guys are also accompanied by Dena Amy, Jon’s girlfriend, on Hypnotise; how was it working with her?
R: It was really cool. That song hypnotise is probably one of the earlier songs we wrote on the album. That was while we were over in Germany. We didn’t really touch it for about six months and then when we were back in Australia we started playing around with it again and started writing the sort of vocal hook and melodies, and suddenly it felt from the feeling of the song and the feeling of the melodies that it would be a nice one to try and do a duet on. So we got Jon’s girlfriend in to sing the demo initially, and instantly there was this vibe about her voice. Throughout the year we experimented with getting other singers or session singers or other names but nothing really held accountable to that interplay of Dena’s voice and Tyrone’s voice and I think her voice has a really nice honesty to it but with also a rawness and a sweetness. It just does a lot of justice to what we wanted to do with that song.
BF: The album is pretty catchy and boppy, keeping in true RÜFÜS style, but also displays themes of distance and loneliness in Tyrone’s lyrics obviously inspired by your hectic touring schedule over the past couple of years. Did this affect the general tone of the record, do you think? Perhaps a bit more a mature sounding record?
R: Yeah, I think you’ve nailed it on the head. I think without even realising it was sort of a big thing for us at the time when we started writing that there was this sense of displacement and having this interplay, or yin and yang of coming and going back into the unknown every time we were going away for touring again. I think that’s why this record sounds a bit more mature because it’s probably truer to where we were at the time. We weren’t trying to force anything, it was just what was relevant to us at the time. Funnily enough, we had this kind of obsession with underwater animals at the start and we had these screen savers with these little whales and jelly-fish and things from underwater. For some reason it felt like we were really into things that were floating or like the fact that when you’re diving into water you’re going into the unknown. And I think there’s probably something symbolic in that as vague as that might be.
BF: Is there any track from Bloom that you’re particularly keen to play live?
R: Well we’ve already started playing Innerbloom live and seeing the reaction to it. Especially seeing how indulgent it is and how much patience it requires, but people are just really willing to go on that journey with us. But, I am really excited to play vulture as well. Oh vulture, I mean Hypnotise. It’s funny that I just said that. So I referred to that song as vulture because throughout the whole writing process, we were also naming each project title in alphabetical order, so starting with “A” would be angelfish and then “B” would be beluga whale. So all of the songs have their own identity. It’s funny, we are in this cross over period where we are referring to the songs as their working title. So, Innerbloom was alligator for six months, so we are having to train ourselves to not refer to them as that.
BF: Do they embody the characters of these animals?
R: I guess in a way they have their own little personality or something. But it was kind of more just like a game or something as we were batting ideas out. Each idea would be a new animal. And we went through the alphabet like three times. On this record there was a lot more of this process of pulling back and culling from the mass amount of material we had. On our first record it was more about growing it outwards, and now we are growing it outwards into what would eventually become this thing where we had all these little animals and we had to cull some of the animals.