Album cover artwork for RUFUS DU SOL with black vinyl record popping outRÜFÜS DU SOL are following their three previous top-two albums with a record which implores us to allow ourselves something of a transformative breakdown – to dissolve those thorny emotional barricades we’re so deft at constructing. STACK spoke to James Hunt about the expansive and effusive Surrender.

Header image: Eliot Lee Hazel

In 2019, months before the world’s musicians began to get creative with what a ‘live performance’ could be – something now indispensable from an artist’s bag of tricks – RÜFÜS DU SOL bent their steps out to Joshua Tree Desert, the national park in southern California. The arid landscape has historically provided the scene of many a transformative musical exercise, and the electronic trio embraced and added to that rich history, filming a 45-minute set utterly alone.

Watching it back now, as the Sydney group build, layer and weave their atmospheric beats amongst the rock formations and the prickly flora for which the region gets its name, the deliberate isolation of the whole thing hits different.

“A lot of people thought that we’d pivoted, and went to record it as soon as lockdown hit, because that was the only way we could do a performance,” explains drummer James Hunt. “But it was something that we’d wanted to do for a while: a location-based performance akin to Pink Floyd, Live at Pompeii, that kind of vibe. I think the alien landscape inspires a lot of sounds and feelings. It was definitely the perfect place for us to start writing our new record.”

The group initially meant to stay for two weeks, but that stretched to four, then six, then eight, and finally 10, as they watched the world closing down. The place still remains, to Hunt, a completely inspiring location. “I think the allure never really goes away,” he says, “and we definitely feel a strange connection to it. We were waking up every day on this sick ranch, doing a meditation, doing a workout with a sauna, eating our food, and then we’d go into the studio.
I guess we [had been] touring pretty intensely on the back of [chart-topping album of 2018] Solace. [It was] a bit of a whirlwind.

“I think we weren’t taking very good care of ourselves, and we weren’t really connecting as friends as much as we used to. So it was a nice way to reconnect and we introduced a bit of structure this time around. Previously we’d kind of avoided structure in any way we possibly could, up writing till 6am every night, and we would be in this wild vortex.

“It was kind of serendipitous, the timing of everything. We filmed the piece in 2019, spend six months editing it, and then we premiered it in LA in a theatre in February, right when the world was about to go into full lockdown.”

Since that premiere last year, the trio’s feet didn’t hit a stage again until just a few weeks ago, at NYC’s Governors Ball. “It was a really, really sick feeling being back up there,” Hunt smiles. “It feels very surreal, it feels a bit dreamlike, ‘cos you forget what that feeling is like. You forget the experience of seeing thousands of people, bouncing up and down. Especially after the year and a half we’ve had, the gravity carried, with people being in a space together. I’m just grateful to be able to do what we love again.”

That feeling is about to become home once more, as Hunt and his bandmates Tyrone Lindqvist (guitar, vocals) and Jon George (keys) gear up to release their glimmering fourth album Surrender.

Its stand-outs are many, but the title track is on another plane, with a driving rhythm and heavenly synths. And that voice, imploring the rain to come down? That’s Curtis Harding.

“A lot of our ideas are a Frankenstein of other ideas, and we cross-pollinate different elements for new tracks,” Hunt explains of the song. “This one, initially it was a mantra that starts the track was just Tyrone singing, and we layered his voice ten times, so it was like a choir of Tyrone.” The next exhumed limb of an idea was to morph Tyrone’s voice, ever so slowly, into a children’s choir. “You get tripped out a bit, because [the morph] slowly occurs, and you’re not sure if the voices are changing or not. and that’s when we kind of had the idea of, let’s try and record a children’s choir on this record. That was partially inspired by listening to Justice; they have a lot of children’s choir moments that are counteracted by a super dark, analogue, heavy electronic music underneath.”

The next appendage sewed in was the “Let the rain come down” vocal, sung by Tyrone. But Hunt had a feeling this was an opportunity to fling the horizon wider still. “We’re like, this song follows no rules whatsoever; it’s just like weird, healing mantra, and then in the middle there’s this voice; it would be sweet to just have this really powerful voice.” It was Tyrone himself who suggested Curtis Harding, whose music he’d been recently listening to. The band contacted the Michigan native, and Harding responded immediately.

“He loved the song and he sent back his version of it, and basically straight away he’d nailed it completely. We were like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing!’ He was so easy to work with and I love the result. It’s definitely my favourite track to listen to at the moment, because it takes all these twists and turns, and it’s got this interesting psychedelic progression, and it’s strange and weird.”

Surrender by RÜFÜS DU SOL is out now via Warner.

Read our live review of RÜFÜS DU SOL at the Sidney Myer Music bowl in 2019.

Read our dive into how 42 minutes on a rooftop changed the course of The Beatles’ Let It Be.

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