Australian Band Rüfüs Du Sol Makes Music For Two Worlds

Catching up with band member Jon George prior to the group’s Royal Oak Music Theatre performance on Nov. 15
Australian Band, Rufus Du Sol
Photograph by LeFawn Hawk

Life-long friends Tyrone Lindqvist, Jon George, and James Hunt formed rising electronic band Rüfüs Du Sol in 2010. After graduating high school, they’d set out to create a sound that fused haunting melodies with jazz-like, instrumental improvisations; an eclectic mix that redefines the alternative dance genre. Their debut album, Atlas, which was released in 2013, topped record charts in their home country of Australia. Bloom, the band’s sophomore album, would do the same, earning them an ARIA Award for the 2015 Best Dance Release for their single “You Were Right”. Since Rüfüs Du Sol’s inception, the members have performed at a number of large-scale music festivals like Coachella and Electric Forest, being one of only a few electronic bands to perform live. After a two-year hiatus, the band is now back with their new album Solace. We sat down with band member Jon George to learn about Rüfüs Du Sol’s move to Venice, Calif. and what fans can expect with their national Solace tour, their largest one yet.

Hour Detroit: Tell us about the beginnings of Rüfüs Du Sol. How did you connect with band members Tyrone Lindqvist and James Hunt?

Jon George: We knew each other growing up, and quickly discovered after high school that we listened to the same music and wanted to make our own in one way or another — it was a pretty easy formation in that sense. We also shared a dream to create a new sound, one that had not been heard before. Our compatibility played a major part in making music that we liked and wanted to listen to. It’s sort of been that way ever since. Even today, we keep growing together as producers. As a team, we’re capable of switching roles, as Tyrone, James, or I can play the drum, synthesizer, write a vocal line, et cetera. We work out the logistics of how that translates into a live performance later.

How does Rüfüs Du Sol differentiate from other rising electronic bands?

The three of us are focused on playing for two different worlds, which seems to be an exciting niche for us. We exist between the electronic realm of music and the ways that we can manipulate that alongside live, organic sounds. This comes into play with the light and shade in our vocals and lyrics. We have a deep love for songwriting, and electronic music, which stems from our appreciation of genres like house music and techno. With every album, we try to fuse these two worlds.

Where did you find the inspiration for your new album, Solace?

For this album, we built a playground for ourselves. We bought a number of new synthesizers and different toys to make the sounds featured in Solace. After we got a studio space in Venice, Calif., the three of us filled it with instruments, plugging in drums and vocals, you name it. We’d just jam in there for hours, until like 6 a.m. Luckily, the space is soundproof. It was fun to connect with our music outside of a computer, which was a first for us. After a couple years of touring from our last album Bloom, we were excited to start writing music again. There were some ideas and experiences that we had wanted to get off our chest, and that translated lyrically and in the feeling of our songs. We were pulling ourselves away from family and friends, really isolating ourselves. I’ll admit, it was tough at times, and you go through your ups and downs, but that’s what the album represents for us.

This process of isolating yourself – is this how you always make music?

Yeah, it’s a great way to write creatively, to remove yourself from distractions. It can be lonely and you can certainly get into a hole, but that’s where our writing came from. While we were making Solace, we would go into the studio in the morning, write all day and night, sleep, and then go back into the studio. This process can be addictive in a way that leaves you forgetting to come up for air.

How does Solace differ from Bloom and Atlas?

We try to force ourselves out of our own comfort zones with each album. With Solace, we pushed each other farther than we’ve ever had to before, and in doing so, we fostered a different emotion, mood, and feel, which I think you can hear throughout the record. There’s a lot of exploration. The three of us dived into the production by really tugging on our own heartstrings, and using these emotion as the basis of our songs.

When you formed, did you ever think that you would be leaving your home in Australia to tour around the United States?

From the beginning, we were ambitious, setting goals that, if accomplished, could take as far. That being said, we didn’t really know what was to come. To be able to explore the world and play music for people who come from different cultures, cities, and countries — it’s a dream come true.

What’s your favorite song on the album?

Well, I go through different phases. It’s like having kids, you can’t choose your favorite. At the moment, I love playing Solace live, the title track. There’s no drumbeat but a lot of emotion in that song. For the live version, we take it even further and create this electronic monster that just sort of lurches. We’ve been rehearsing the song for the tour, which we are two weeks into now. It allows me to play with people’s emotions on stage; while there’s bit of danciness and drum beats throughout the set, there comes this moment where everything — sounds and lights — fades. This presents an opportunity for our fans to dive into that lull and feel our lyrics, our emotions.

There’s a short list of electronic bands that perform live. What has been your experience as a live performer? 

We’re musicians at heart, and from the beginning, when we started writing in 2010, we wanted to have a live show with drums and guitars and synthesizers and vocals — that was always part of our plan. Electronic music fans, specifically American ones, are used to seeing much more minimal setups when they attend concerts. Because of this and our live performances, we’ve had a few fans start crying down the front. When we performed in Houston, there was this big, macho guy in front of the stage who just burst out bawling. Eventually, a security guard came up and hugged him for the last whole chorus of the song. I definitely didn’t expect that. Every time I think about that moment, I’m brought back to the studio when we played the track for Solace for the first time. I remember getting  goosebumps. It’s amazing to relive that feeling over and over each night.

Has moving to California had an effect on your sound?

Our relocation to California came after we found and fell in love with the studio space in Venice. We picked up the lifestyle, just chilling and drinking coffee. Our trips to the desert played a huge part in the album; these deep, desolate earthen spaces inspired us to use more minimal layering in the tracks. Like the desert itself, the use of synthesizers feels otherworldly, like our songs could be coming from another galaxy, another planet.

What are you looking forward to at your upcoming show at the Royal Oak Music Theatre on Nov. 15?

The way that we’ve been able to incorporate the new album into some of our older work and create this new journey is electrifying. Every night, we try to change up our show, mix the set list around, and just keep it fresh for ourselves. Needless to say, we’re having a lot of fun.

Related: Q&A: Blue October Front Man, Justin Furstenfeld