Interview: RÜFÜS DU SOL talk Solace Remixed and playing to tens of thousands of fans in America

If you haven’t been paying much attention, the news that RÜFÜS DU SOL (FKA RÜFÜS) are about to play two sold out nights at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, may surprise you. Indeed, the Sydney trio who have spent nearly a decade making a name for themselves have grown up from the small clubs of the city they grew up in, and are selling 20,000 tickets in major centres around the USA, the place they now call home.

They are part of an Aussie invasion of electronic acts who have broken the US market, led in recent years by the talk of Burning Man, Flume. A point of difference though – and something that has helped cement their status on live stages around Australia and now the rest of the world, is that they have mastered a completely live set, with a spectacular light show to boot. Embracing the growth of EDM, while thrilling audiences with an unforgettable live show, has proven a successful combination. A stellar record in 2018’s Solace, which was written in the States, following their relocation to the market, didn’t hurt matters. And now this week they’re releasing a double remix album, Solace Remixed. It’s their first remix project, and features Aussie and International guests such as Cassian, Icarus, Lastlings, Will Clarke, Made in Paris and many more.

Last month I sat down with the band, shortly before they were playing one of their sold out shows – in this case, Washington D.C.’s Anthem, a 6,000 or so cap room that’s run by the team behind the city’s iconic 9:30 Club – the room the group played the last time they were in the city. It’s not lost of the group just how much things have grown for them, nor the impact of focusing on the market, telling me how much easier it’s made to tour, and do promotional stints, like 2017’s last minute pop up show at Coachella. Fast forward two years, they were part of the worldwide Coachella live stream, and one of the festival’s most talked about acts.

Jon George of the group, reflected on this growth. “We were just in Philadelphia two nights ago,” he told me, “I think we were in a 300 person venue the last time we were there, and now we’re in a two and a half thousand room on a Tuesday night, and it’s sold out. They are some of the moments you’re just starting to realise that everywhere, including the smaller markets, are growing, and it doesn’t matter what night of the week it is, people are turning up and ready to dance. The festivals we just did on the weekend, Lollapalooza (in Chicago) and Osheaga (in Canada), we were playing to over 20,000 people each time, just as the sun sets.”

“Which is what we love, just as it starts to get a little dark and creepy, and everyone’s mood shifts a little bit, which is such a cool thing to witness as well. Everyone just starts getting a little crazy, seeing the lights come out. I feel like we’re having a lot of pinch ourselves moments at the moment, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. So we’re just pretty excited about what’s to come.”

Obviously the music has translated well with US audiences, but it’s not like they’re new to the scene. I asked what they thought the catalyst was for being able to take things up to the next level, specifically in terms of the size of the venues they’re playing.

James told me, “I think it’s the series of opportunities we’ve had, where we’ve been able to convince people that we’re a good live act. And we’ve been working at this for years, before we even started coming to the US. And by the point we come here, I think we had a bit of a clearer idea of what we wanted our live show to be about. And we’ve become tighter as musicians, and we already had a basis of what the live show was.”

“But I definitely think the live show is a big part of what has translated over here. And we had a lot of opportunities. Back in 2016, Odesza put us as support on a run of a bunch of pretty major cities like New York and Montreal. And that definitely felt like a big catalyst. And that was around the same time Bloom came out. And so from there, it kind of kicked off. And then, straight off the back of that, it was kind of a perfect storm because then we had Coachella, and then I remember we felt really good about what we were able to convey about what we do there.”

“And since then, I think it’s just, that momentum, and a lot of good timing as well as we put a lot of work into the show. And of course it’s the music as well, off the back of Bloom, and trying to put our heart and soul into Solace. It’s just kind of been a perfect storm.”

That perfect storm has resulted in one of the best light shows going around right now. Tyrone, the group’s lead, told me a bit about how this came together.

“Matty, out lighting guy, is a major key player in designing the lights for us. But we work as a unit, as a team, we have Alex, who tours with us, who is Jon’s younger brother, who has done a lot of our film clips. I guess he’s the creative director of a lot of what we do since Solace, but hes been there since we started. But we all get together, and we talk about what we like, the influences, we referenced Moderat‘s live show that they did maybe two, three years ago, we love the use of blank space. The dialogue starts like that. And it starts coming into form when Matty might come up with the stage plot or something.

“And then sort of starts to take shape when you have a canvas that you’re working with. Say if it’s an LED screen, or the fact that we have transparent risers, or if it’s a clean look and we want it all to be very minimal. Then it’s all about the content, and what we were putting on everything. And Alex was a really big part in sourcing other artists to make the content for it. And then it’s a lot of work. There was a few days in a space where you have a digital set up of all the lights, so its like a fake iteration of everything, and you get to see an idea of how everything is interacting.”

“And then you have a studio space where we hire it, and we set it all up, and we get to run the show, and then sit down and just watch it and listen to it, so it’s like a recording of the audio, and the lights, and you get to watch it, make notes. And then we’re all in there just making calls. And they’re big calls to make it feel like the journey that we want, the cohesive vision that we all want. So it’s a really collaborative effort.”

I suggest having a bigger budget hasn’t hurt the process either, and Tyrone continued, “It is interesting though as well because the more budget you have, and the more moving parts there are, the more decisions that need to be made. It gets a bit complex. It’s hard to keep the heart of the show true to what it is.”

“Recently we’ve been talking about reinvigorating the show, and we’re finding that there’s so many big things and it’s easy to get lost in all of the glits. All of the tools that we can use, and we can afford to use. And we find ourselves needing to come back to the heart of the show, it’s like, what do we want to feel? And what’s the simple thing that we’re always coming back to when we’re a bit lost? I think that’s been a really important part in us being able to have a concise idea of a show. Hopefully it looks, from start to finish, like an experience.”

As as much as the show they’ve put together is already a strong proposition, they’re constantly thinking about what’s coming next. Part of that isn’t just more dates around North America, but a run around Australia too. And with that will come new aspects to the show. As Jon told me, “Yeah, we’re out in the middle of this run, but we had meetings all day yesterday about our next iteration.”

“That’s why it’s got to be exciting, I guess, the good part about being on tour, and the road again, is that we have everyone that we need to be able to have these chats and get ahead of the ball, go ahead of the curve, and try and work it out right now. And that’s exciting because we’re playing some big headline shows over New Years back home. So we want them to be fresh, and to refresh the journey for them, and make sure that they’re having a different experience to last time, and hopefully a more mind blowing experience. And we’re just trying to work out what we’re going to do musically, and exactly how we’re going to make that shift and be excitingly different.”

All these dates are coming now off the back of the double remix album. They’ve attracted an impressive list of acts to be involved in it. I asked James about the process being putting it all together.

“I guess like always when we’ve sought after remixes, we’ve made a little bit of a wishlist. And I remember six or seven years ago, we would approach all of these artists the we were obsessed with, and most of the time they’d be like, “Nah, sorry, I’m working on my album at the moment.” Or, “I’m a little bit busy.” It wouldn’t really pan out. But then I think as we’ve gotten to know a lot more of these artists from touring around, or even being able to just have a bit more presence in the world of electronic music, we’ve been able to actually get access and be liaising with some of these artists that we love, and some of these artists, to the point we reference their music.”

“So over the last nine months, it’s been a slow process of reaching out to people, and some of them reaching out to us as well. One of the tracks, “All I’ve Got”, was remixed by an Italian project called Mathame. And they specifically came to us and said, “we love this song.” And we already knew about their music, and we loved their music. So it was kind of a back and forth. And yeah, I guess we just cumulatively came together.”

The remix album is sitting at the background of the upcoming tour dates, which will take them back to Australia at the end of the year. So how do they stay sane on the road? James let us in on how he keeps it together, telling me, “I’ve been actually doing a little yoga, and really getting into doing meditation before I get on stage. So diving into proper wellness. But we all like to keep fit in our own ways, if it’s hitting the gym, or F45 is pretty big over here now, so we’ve been doing that sometimes. Massages too.”

“There are a lot of tools at your disposal to keep yourself in a good mindset, in a good space. Another thing is, because I’ve been noticing that I will overheat on stage because I’m playing drums very aggressively in the live show. And so I got this industrial fan that sits next to me, and it basically just blows air at me at like a million miles an hour. It keeps me cool, so I’ve been in my head space, which I’ve been noticing has been much more collected as opposed to when I’m sweating.”

Tyrone continued, “And it definitely is a constant evolution of learning. We’re definitely still learning what makes touring possible, and healthy, and okay. I was at the therapist, and I was talking to him about that today, and I’m like, “I think I need these, so and so, and this and that.” And it’s just so funny that we’ve been doing this for nine years, and it’s still like I’m in school learning how to do this, and be really happy and healthy doing it. Jon is pretty savvy with it, he has all of these little compartments for different things in his bags, like pants go in this one, shirts in this one. And it makes sense, but I’ve been way behind the curve ball, I’m new to that, and that’s changed my life in terms of being able to unpack my bag quickly and pack it back up again. Yeah, same for James doing the yoga, and you haven’t been drinking coffee.”

“Yeah, I stopped drinking coffee three weeks ago,” James replied. “And I feel really good actually. Because I used to smash coffee a lot, in the studio I would be doing five a day, and doing doubles and stuff. It would be ridiculous.”

Solace Remixed is out tomorrow, 6th September 2019. For more details head to their official website.

Upcoming Tour Dates:

pomona, ca, us

las vegas, nv, us

missoula, mt, us

boise, id, us

ogden, ut, us

aspen, co, us

morrison, co, us

los angeles, ca, us

madrid, spain

barcelona, spain

paris, france

amsterdam, netherlands

berlin, germany

cologne, germany

hamburg, germany

frankfurt, germany

london, uk

fortitude valley, qld, australia

lardner, vic, australia

perth, wa, australia

adelaide, sa, australia

hobart, tas, australia

Headline photo and the first photo in the article were taken by Julian Cassady in New York City. Other photos are by Derek Rickert, taken at the The Anthem in Washington DC on 8th August 2019. The author was in DC with the support of Visit Washington DC and Brand USA. While in DC, we stayed at the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel Dupont Circle.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.