As I stood watching Rufus Du Sol get interviewed for a YouTube channel I started realizing how far away from home this indie-dance-trio from Sydny, Australia natives actually were. Fresh off the bus from a show the previous night they smiled, answered their questions politely, they knew this was all part of what they had to do to expand their fan base. I made small talk with their tour manager while I sipped my tea and patiently waited for my turn with RUFUS DU SOL.
“Do you have a lot to set up; is there anything you need?”
I hesitated to tell this tour manager that I was, in fact, late for a Thanksgiving dinner but simply explained that all I really needed to do was ask them a view questions.
Their new record, Atlas, had been picked up by Columbia Music Group just last year and here they were on the last leg of a whirlwind tour still dealing with bullshit from people like me. Honestly, I almost felt sympathy for these guys – if I were hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner I would’ve had half a mind to invite them over instead of making my hasty exit to my friends place.
Recording in a makeshift recording studio in an emptied out water tank on a cliff looking out over the water outside of Sydney their first full-length LP had been a 9 month endeavor that brought them here.
You could almost still smell the sea air off these guys’ clothes when they sat down. You know that vibe that some people give off that, although they’re completely comfortable with their surroundings, they still wear where they’re from like a indistinguishable patch on their sleeve? These guys we’re the ocean, and although they were now becoming world famous (and fairly adept world travelers) they still looked like they had never left.
That’s how I found them on this Thanksgiving weekend.
Playback: So.. guys… touring? Yeah? How’s it going so far?
RUFUS: It’s going great!
Playback: This isn’t your first time in North America, right? You did SXSW last year…
RUFUS: We did a bunch of touring in March and we were here for CMJ as well.
Playback: How do you like it here?
RUFUS: I find it pretty hilarious, Canada in particular, where you go across the border into Quebec and it’s French speaking, for some reason that’s just a wild change. We didn’t really expect it, cause when you travel in the US everybody pretty much speaks English for the most part, but in Quebec it’s almost like two countries.
Playback: Ha! That’s more true than you realize – but tell me about where you guys started, Sydney Austrailia – are you all from Sydney?
RUFUS: Yeah, yeah.
Playback: There’s not a whole lot of information out there on how you guys formed up – how’d you guys meet?
RUFUS: Well… we started a little after we were done school, John was living in Byron Bay and I was visiting there with his younger brother who was my best friend at the time, and… well… I guess it was just kind of a rainy night and we just sorta made a song. We had a mutual admiration for Trentemoller so we figured, why don’t we try and make a song like those guys?
Playback: What was the song that became of that?
RUFUS: “We Left”
RUFUS: …after that we wrote a bunch of other songs and it just kinda evolved from there. Then about 4 years ago we wrote our EP, then 2012-2013 we wrote Atlas, and here we are.
Playback: Do you find that most of your writing is inspired from where you came from?
RUFUS: I would say that most of our writing is a product of where we actually did it. Since we did most of it on the coast-line of Australia, we sort of identify this album as being representative of the weather there. Byron Bay is a really relaxed, stoner kinda place. A little like Portland, Oregon but on a beach. It’s a massive tourist town but they go there to wear tie-dye and eat began food. Really, it’s an amazing town.
Playback: Nice. So you’re playing in and around this sorta beach/hippie kinda place. Where do you go to show this music off? Do you start playing tourist bars in the area or what?
RUFUS: *laughter* .. okay a little clarification here: we live in Sydney, we play in Sydney, but Johns brother who lives in Byron Bay is our engineer and we just go there to write and be creative. We went back and forth writing, doing vocals in Sydney and eventually we put out an EP, online, didn’t think much about it, and a radio station called triple j which is pretty internationally known, became a huge supporter which helped us get people to our shows. So we ended up working pretty hard touring in Australia and having that sort of exposure really, really helped.
Playback: What’s it like doing an Australian tour?
RUFUS: It’s different because over here you’d probably have vans, or a tour bus, but in Australia you have to fly everywhere.
Playback: That’s fucking insane, you’re a independent band having to fly everywhere and you don’t even get to leave the country?
RUFUS: Yeah, well, there’s only really like 6-7 big cities that you can really play a show in. I mean, you can do smaller cities, smaller venues, but you need to be doing really well to be getting people to the shows.
Playback: So triple j is playing your record, you’re busting your hump across Australia touring, there’s some steam behind your EP, how does Columbia Records get involved?
RUFUS: That didn’t come till much later – we built a pretty big fan base through touring and the next step, to us, was to do a full album. Really, we just wanted to do something that they all really loved. Once it was done we managed to get it on a very local indie label to help us spread it out. …
*everybody breaks out laughing*
RUFUS: I’m sorry we’re all really tired… we’re 5 shows deep in a row right now.
Playback: Where did you just come from?
Playback: Yeah, that is a pretty long drive.
RUFUS: …but yeah, the album was doing fairly well in Australia and we were lucky enough that Columbia got on board to help us out internationally. For us, that was a huge deal and Columbia was a really good fit for us.
Playback: …but you had to change your name?
RUFUS: In North America, yeah.
Playback: RUFUS was Chaka Khan’s band, right?
Playback: That sucks. It happens all over though. There’s even bands here in town that had to add “The” in front of their name or something.
RUFUS: We tried something like that but apparently it was going to work for some reason. “The RUFUS”, “RUVUS”, there were a few options, but we ended up deciding on RUFUS DU SOL and we’re really happy with it.
Playback: So, when it comes to being this Indie-House act, and kinda being pigeon-holed as this ‘type’ of band, do you feel a sort of disconnect with this? I mean, you guys aren’t behind laptops up there.
RUFUS: There’s always a disconnect when someone else tries to label us as something, I mean, it’s all really about perspective. When you really get down to it, we’re just making a song, we’re not sitting there going “we’re going to make this genre”. Really, you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re just making what you make.
Playback: Okay, so from my perspective, a writer who has to try and find, a least, a common denominator that my audience, the readers, can grab a hold of and come away with a little bit of perspective on your sound, so I’ll end up using general descriptors like, ‘electronic’, or ‘house’, or ‘indie’, or what have you. But on your side, while you’re in the writing process, at any point are you thinking about the “audience”?
RUFUS: With the first EP we defiantly just “did it”, but with the second EP we took into account our live shows and the audiences reaction to the live show, and that had an effect on the writing a little bit. I think overall we learned heaps from that – so when we sat down to make the album we focused on doing only what we wanted to make. So now, I mean, there’s an awareness of “the audience” but now we’re sort of just treating ourselves as the audience. You’re trying to be a person listening to the melody that you’re writing for the first time. Then once you get a feeling like, “oh! That’s really exciting” you sort of build off that feeling all the while trying to stay as excited about it as possible.
Playback: The real difficulty comes when you’re listening to it for the 50,000th time and you’re trying to stay excited about it, yeah?
RUFUS: Yup, I know that feel.
Playback: So what’s next for you?
RUFUS: We’ve got about 6 or 7 shows left before we get a week off in LA to do nothing (thank God) then we’re in Berlin for 6 weeks where we’ll be doing our next album.
Playback: That’s awesome! How far along is it?
RUFUS: We’ve already started the process, and we’re just going to keep writing and get shit out during our time there, then we’ll be back to Australia around Christmas and keep writing then.
Playback: That’s awesome. Well, guys best of luck!