Sydney trio RÜFÜS were running late for their interview with Chase the Compass at a wet and rainy Brixton Academy. Fellow Aussies Flight Facilities had zoomed across the planet direct from the ARIA Awards to headline tonight’s sold-out show, but their live console had broken down in the process, delaying soundcheck by an hour. While the Flight Facilities boys performed a stellar version of their unrequited classic Crave You it was RÜFÜS who picked up the award for Best Dance Release at the acclaimed awards show.
Already scoring a number one with their debut album ‘Atlas’, RÜFÜS’s follow-up was gaining huge traction since the winning track ‘You Were Right’ was first previewed back in August. The latest tease is an evolving epic ‘Innerbloom’ that’s racked up 190,000 plays in less than 10 days, setting the scene for the trio to smash the ‘difficult second album’ cliché. With seconds to spare, a restless crowd was finally let into the venue and we retreated upstairs to talk beats, Berlin and ‘Bloom’.
You had a number one album in Australia and have just won the ARIA award; What’s it like when you come to Europe? How do you find the transition?
Tyrone Lindqvist: “It’s been a cool little rollercoaster. We started six years ago in Australia and were touring a lot and had the opportunity to go overseas. Coming over here has opened our eyes to other venues, other acts we get to meet. Even fanbases – some cities are quieter, but they’re still enjoying it, then others are really outspoken.”
It must be nice to play somewhere with a brand new audience to continue to challenge yourselves and improve your live show?
James Hunt: “It’s been cool – over the last two years I’ve definitely learned a lot more about performance. We played in Malaysia recently and you could tell they were having the best time, but there was no rowdiness, no moshpits, everyone was being really polite!”
Tyrone: “That was actually more crazy than a crazy crowd. You start to question things thinking ‘They look like they could be into it, but they also look like they could be having the worst time of their lives’ but at the end of the song they’d start screaming and clapping. So it’s about getting used to different cultures.”
Jon George: “Even at festivals there’re times when the stage is so far removed that even though there are 20,000 people there you still feel a bit disconnected and that’s when we have to play for ourselves and just do what we do.”
The sound of the new album is definitely more mature and more confident both in the songwriting and the actual sonic textures and production
Tyrone: “The first album was written on the coastline of Australia – basically anywhere we could find a place to work and I think that influenced the sound of the record. Off the back of that we got to see the world, which we didn’t exactly anticipate. We knew we wanted to go somewhere new because we’d be throwing ourselves in a new situation [that could help our creativity]. Berlin was the place we all agreed on – a lot of our favourite acts that were influencing us at the time were from there – especially David August, Booka Shade.”
There’s definitely a darker and moodier tone to ‘Bloom’ so it makes sense that it was influenced by a rainy city known for its techno
Jon: “Yeah for sure and production wise, we were super stoked with the first album we made but we definitely were keen to try and push ourselves and try to figure out what our favourite artists were doing. We bought a load of analogue synths and stepped out of the box more.”
James: “We were really pushing ourselves creating textures and things that felt really organic – that was a big thing on this album. Even if things were ‘wrong’ or warped or not perfectly in tune, that was OK.”
Tyrone: “On ‘Atlas’ we wanted to get the perfect vocal take every time and we’d do it over and over until it was right. On ‘Bloom’ if it didn’t fall on the right rhythm or it was early or late, we just thought ‘Hey, that sounds pretty cool.’ It was a challenge to remind ourselves to not go for the clean take all the time.”
Jon: “When everything’s perfect, it almost sounds like your voice is auto-tuned – we took the same approach to the recordings of synths and riffs: It wasn’t always the perfect take but if it had feeling it was the right one.”
Did you go out clubbing a lot while you were based in Berlin? What influence did that have on the new record?
Tyrone: “In Australia, we were very conscious of our neighbours so we couldn’t really turn things up too loud and there isn’t really a nightlife anywhere near what you have in Europe. In Berlin, we could be writing and be on a roll and then all of a sudden you might be lacking inspiration and we could just look up what was on that night. There’d always be someone playing that we were into and we could head out and get inspired again.”
How did you transition the album for the stage?
Jon: “All three of us can write any part on a song, so we’ll look at what parts will be most exciting to play live and decide who’ll play what.”
James: “It’s made us think a lot about the visual focus – things that translate well to an audience. We keep that in mind when we’re figuring out what to play and who’ll play it. There’s a song we play from ‘Atlas’ [‘Tonight’] that has a call-and-response part between Jon and me.”
Tyrone: “Some shows, we’ll see an act up there for 45-mins and wonder ‘What are they doing?’. It’s not that it’s not awesome, because some shows are all about sonics, but a lot of our favourite shows utilise the fact that there are three people on stage. It’s important for us that someone who might not know a lot about how the music is made is able to look up and see ‘Oh that’s that sound that I’m hearing’ and they have that visual key of something being hit or a key being pressed.”
For us, ‘Innerbloom’ is the standout track on the album. Can you tell us how it came together?
James: “The germination of the track was that eight-bar loop of chords at the beginning and we just thought ‘Let’s be as indulgent as we want to be right now’ and take our time with it.”
Jon: “A lot of the time we write a really extended version of a song, and then you can strip it back later. With this one, we made it really progressive so it was always evolving and had a change of feeling throughout, so we never thought about stripping it back. We made a radio edit that was seven minutes! [Laughs] But, Triple J [Australian radio station] have already added it to their playlist so I guess it’s OK.”
James: “I feel like if this track had a personality it’d be really stubborn and just refuse to be shorter.”
Jon: “It’s been finished for about six months now, and it was always the most exciting track to share when friends and family came into the studio. There’s such a vulnerable nakedness to Tyrone’s vocal that we ended up using the demo vocal for the end of the song.”
Tyrone: “They weren’t even lyrics that we wrote down – when we have a melody we’ll just go in and record the vocal and we can come back to it later. Most of the time it’s shit, but with that one, with the simple lyric, we just thought it was really nice.”
Being in Berlin and in a space where you were focused and allowing yourself to be creative; that’s when those magic moments tend to happen. When you don’t have to worry about the neighbours
Tyrone: “I think that’s so true – when you’re in a space you can over-think things and you lose the freedom to just spit some shit out. That was a big learning curve for us, to realise that it’s pretty valuable to have a space where you can be separate and not be too conscious about your surroundings.”
What are your roles in the studio? Is there someone who’s more hands-on with mixing while others are more focused on songwriting?
James: “Jon went to audio school so he had more of an expertise when it comes to leading and driving a session and I’ve learned a lot from him. I come from more of a traditional music background playing in jazz bands so it’s cool to be able to teach us other a lot and make the unit stronger.”
Tyrone: “We decided to get Cassian to mix this album. We worked with him initially on the first single ‘You Were Right’ and had worked with him on the last record but on this one he took over the whole thing. His mixing is incredible – we tested it out and he understood what we wanted and he’s such a pedantic perfectionist, it took it to the next level.”
The mix of Berlin’s influence on your songwriting, incorporating more organic textures and Cassian’s mixing seems like the perfect combination.
James: “Yeah, totally!”
‘Bloom’ is out January 22nd 2016 on Colombia Records. Pre-order here.