RÜFÜS DU SOL are one of Australia's most successful electronic exports and despite their three full-lengths debuting right at the pointy end of the Australian ARIA Charts (Atlas #1, Bloom #1, Solace #2), the environment the guys really thrive in is on stage.
The Grammy-nominated trio frequently play massive festivals like Coachella - billed well on the bill, too - along with a number of Australia's biggest music festivals, and they're gearing up to play iconic venues in the US like the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
With luscious soundscapes and top-tier lighting setups, off the back of Solace in 2018, the boys began cooking up a plan to record out in Joshua Tree National Park, the desert that surrounds popular summer oasis, Palm Springs. It's a desolate but inspiring landscape, barren but somehow full of possibility, and RÜFÜS DU SOL found themselves recording not only a live album but an artful live performance film there recently.
Amazingly, RÜFÜS DU SOL - Live from Joshua Tree the film lives in full on their YouTube channel, so we sat down with the band's keys player Jon George to talk about how it all came together.
What city are you chatting to me from?
I am… in Florida. We've just had a show last night in Charlotte. And we're just traveling through, but we’ve just been down at the beach, just had a massage. I'm pretty relaxed.
Is it hard living out of a suitcase?
I'm so used to it and am quite efficient with my packing and stuff. I find it quite easy being in different places. It’s harder for some people. For me, I enjoy it. We’ve been doing really well recently. We’ve been training every day and yeah, being really healthy. So it's been really fun.
Congrats on the live album and this amazing film! It’s so visually stunning. What helped you guys make the decision to record and film a live album? Were fans begging for it?
It’s something we wanted to do, for sure. These shows that we think that we put so much hard work into, we really want to document it, and yeah, remember all the hard work and where the shows have got to. So I think that was definitely part of our conversations over the last few years. And we also wanted to just be ahead of the curve in terms of like, what we have to put out, what people were demanding. And we wanted to surprise people. It all came together with this piece. My brother Alex is the creative director of the band. He came up with the concept with us, but we fleshed it out from there. Yeah, he's a visionary. He was able to put out something that is visually stunning, that we're proud of, that documents what the live show has been recently, and came up with that lighting concept which feels so extraterrestrial. It really seemed like something that we were all very excited about.
It’s out of this world – it seems like you’re on Mars or something.
Yeah, that's what we love about that landscape. That's why we did so much writing out there for Solace, and we're heading back out there in a few weeks to do another writing trip. It’s something that we can't get enough of.
For Solace, we got AirBnbs and brought equipment and fully DIY'd it, but this writing trip we’re going to a studio that has a house that we all stay in. It’s gonna be the best of both worlds.
And is the studio surrounded by the rugged terrain, right in the middle of the desert?
100%, that’s a prerequisite for us. It's got to feel like you're completely isolated. It just brings out such a mood, it brings out such inspiration. So we thrive off that, you know, that's sort of what we captured with the film.
How did you guy pick the songs that would be in it, because there’s stuff from all across your discography right?
Yeah, I guess Desert Night seemed appropriate to bring back for it, we haven't necessarily been playing it recently. We had a good discussion about it for a while leading up to it. We were also in the middle of revamping the whole new show, mid last year. So we were so busy but we’re glad we dedicated the time to think about two different types of shows that we were working on and we just sort of scaled down some things with the Joshua Tree film. We didn't want it to be over the top. And Desert Night’s nice and moody. Yeah, we just had fun programming it and making it a nice even journey. The fan favourites that go off in the live show like Treat You Better, we had to make calls like that [to not have them in] because the mood’s not right.
On a technical note, is it hard to record in the desert?
It's really good ‘cause it’s dead. [The sound is] not bouncing off any surfaces – when you’re recording in a room, it's bouncing off all the stuff and coming back to the mic. But you know, the nearest surfaces are so far away so it's actually quite dead. And we close mic everything anyway. So yeah, our front of house engineer recorded and mixed the whole thing. He did such a good job, it sounds so nice. And again, we're just so proud of the whole product.
What was the most difficult thing about filming in the desert?
In between takes our manager Danny would run out a big cloak for me because I was the only one wearing just a shirt. Yeah, so I was freezing out there and it got really, really cold.
I guess we had a production crew that was pretty big. It's like 50 or 60 people, our catering, and yeah, it was a big thing. So the production started getting in the day before, setting up the lighting and trailers and green rooms and there’s no reception out there, so it’s hard to communicate with people coming in and out. And one of the cars got bogged in the sand. Little things like that you have to battle. We hid the crew well.
So are you guys working on a new album?
Yeah, so we started writing again, like late last year. There’s a few songs that we’re really happy with but we're gonna keep pushing, because that's all we have to do. I think in the last album we had about, I don't know, maybe 30 songs, left over. Like, we're really happy with them, but we just want to keep pushing to put the best stuff out there and try and capture the mood of where we're at personally, emotionally, so we're forging ahead. We've got this writing trip after this tour and we're going to try and just carve out some new music and hopefully that turns into something pretty soon. The idea is to try and get something out this year, but maybe an album next year.
We all know it takes a while to finesse and get an album perfect.
Exactly. And we're not in a rush. We want to put out something really special again.
Stylistically do you think it’ll be different in sound?
I think we'll keep trying to progress on sound as we have over the last few albums. We’re inspired by such a wide range of music already, so much new music that's coming out at the moment, like the Caribou record, new Tame Impala, the new Nicolas Jaar record. Yeah, there's just so much cool stuff coming out that we’re being inspired by and yeah, we'll continue to try and progress our sound as well.