Rüfüs Du Sol’s profile in America has been steadily on the rise the past five years, thanks in no small part to incessant touring — the trio has played everywhere from Michigan’s Electric Forest to such festivals as San Diego’s CRSSD. Since their 2015 breakthrough single in the United States, “You Were Right,” the act has been winning over not just dance music purists, but increasingly alternative rock fans, with strong songwriting at the root of it all.
Now, Rüfüs Du Sol has been nominated for a pair of Grammy Awards (best dance recording and best dance/electronic album), proving if nothing else that Recording Academy members have a soft spot for acts from down under who can write a tune that works as well in a club or festival setting.
Curiously, two Aussie artists will battle for the dance/electronic album category as Rüfüs Du Sol goes head-to-head with EDM producer Flume. Variety caught up with the band’s Jon George, who plays keyboards and a drum pad when the act plays live, to ask him about the trio’s Grammy nods, the recent fires in Australia and more.
When you found out about your two nominations, and were you surprised?
It was a complete surprise. Woke up to my phone buzzing hot with messages of support and congrats from friends. It was a pretty great way to start the day. Did not expect it.
It seems like playing festivals such as CRSSD, Coachella and your own shows at iconic venues such as Red Rocks have really helped you cross-pollinate your fan base in the U.S.. Are there stand-out festivals or gigs the last year that felt the most impactful to you?
Any day we play Red Rocks is gonna be one of the best days of that year. It’s iconic for a reason. We love it there. We just announced a show there for August. It’s moments like that, where people can come to a show and feel apart of something bigger than themselves, that create a sense of community amongst fans. We’ve built our career on big moments like Red Rocks or Coachella connecting with people and creating moments of shared euphoria with strangers.
“SOLACE” is up for best dance/electronic album. Is there a message you want audiences to take away from this project and how does it differ from your previous efforts?
There are a lot of messages in there from that time in our lives. It was a time of transition for us, we got a little lost in the sauce at times making the record, you can feel that in there, the loss and hurt. I don’t feel like it would be doing the time justice if I said there was one message in particular that audiences should take away from it.
On that note, do you think the concept of an album is going away in the streaming era? Or do you still feel albums are an essential tool for an artist?
There is a market for whatever you want to do in music, you just need to keep doing it and find your audience. Finding an audience for an album is getting harder, yes, but a great record is always going to have an audience. We love albums. All our favorite artists are our favorites because of the albums they have created that we’ve lived with. So we are gonna tell you that if artists want to make albums, we are going to listen to them.
“SOLACE” was heavily influenced by where you wrote and recorded it in Venice, CA. Will you return to the same studio for the next album?
Not to the same studio, no. We have a trip out to the Valley Of the Yuccas planned in April for a few weeks. We recorded a live album out there late last year. No one knows about that just yet, so I guess this is the exclusive on that. But, we loved it so much out there we thought that we need to come back on our next writing trip and set up here for a couple of weeks and really dig into some ideas.
For “Underwater,” which is nominated for best dance recording, you collaborated on a short film with James Frost at Coachella last year. What inspired the visuals and the collaboration?
I don’t want to speak for James on this one in terms of the inspiration, but I can say he nailed the feeling of total immersion in that film. It’s something that people could watch at Coachella in this air-conditioned dome, which was somewhat of an oasis in the heat out there. People lay down and listen to the song while looking up at the ceiling and being immersed in these stunning abstract visuals James and his team put together. Love that guy.
Your audience in the States seems to have grown and evolved from primarily dance music enthusiasts, to both EDM and rock fans. What do you think that’s a product of?
There are more of them now, so that means they are discovering the music from places other than SoundCloud and the blogs where we started to get momentum many years ago.
You recently donated $50,000 and your merch sales to the Australian bushfire relief efforts. Have you or any of the other band members been personally affected by the fires?
We are fine. Those we care about are fine. But it’s a national disaster. There are areas on the South Coast of NSW where Tyrone has a lot of family that has been affected. The scale of the fires is hard to take in. Huge areas have been scorched and continue to be burned. We are working on a couple of other initiatives to raise more funds for those affected. But money is only one thing, the next step is trying to affect real systemic change at the federal government level to address climate change. The current prime minister of Australia is known for bringing a lump of coal into parliament as a prop, so there is a lot of work to be done.
What are you most looking forward to in 2020? What’s new for you this year?
Writing new music and spending time with those we love. We have the best job in the world and don’t take that for granted, of course. One of the hardest parts about it is being away from friends and family so much. The flip side of that is it teaches you to make the most of the time you have with those you care about.