I’m terribly ill prepared. Just a couple of minutes ago I was asked to do an interview with Rüfüs. I know hardly anything about the Australian three-piece, let alone their music. Luckily, Jon George, Tyrone Lindqvist and James Hunt are more than happy to give me some private lessons on Rüfüs. We talked about the spirit of comradeship in the Australian music scene, their manifesto not to let any producers lay hand on their music and the distractions that Berlin has to offer – the place where they chose to record their second album.
Hi guys. Before we start I must admit this could become the most horrible interview I’ve ever done. It all happened rather spontaneously and that’s why what I know about Rüfüs is not an awful lot. I hope you don’t mind.
Jon George: No problem.
Just to let you know what I got from my memo: You’re from Australia. You’ve had four EPs out that made quite an impression over there. You’re now in Berlin recording your second album while your first one is about to be released in Germany in a couple of weeks. Correct?
So let’s see if I can become a little more familiar with you guys. First of all I must ask the lamest question of all, but in your case it seems to make sense: Why are you called Rüfüs?
Tyrone Lindqvist: There’s a really small island, just off of Australia. It’s kind of like not there anymore, but it used to be 200 years ago. Now it’s under water. And it is called “Rufus”. We named our band after that.
But what about the dots? I guess you added those?
Lindqvist: Yeah, that’s what we did.
Is that like a Mötley Crüe thing or a Motörhead thing?
George (laughs): No. We just wanted to make it feel a bit more foreign. Like it is from a different place.
James Hunt: But it could be an island, anyway.
Lindqvist: You can’t really pin where it’s from, and that’s what we wanted. We always get asked where we come from and we’d prefer if it was more about the music and less about us.
On the other hand – the place where you live and where you record stuff does influence the way you sound, doesn’t it? As far as I know you recorded your first album in a self built studio inside a water tank. Why did you do that? Do you need something like an exotic environment to record?
Hunt: It weren’t necessarily about an exotic environment when we started writing. But we were in a place that was pretty sunny, some property in the East of Australia. We lived there for about a month and that definitely influenced the sound of the kind of songs we were writing.
George: It was during the Australian summer, it was on the coast and so it was sort of pretty hard not to have that sun-soaked vibe. But the water tank itself was a way of locking ourselves down away from society.
Like a submarine?
Lindqvist: Exactly. And we didn’t have much of a budget. We made it all ourselves. Recorded it, produced it and wrote it. And that was just a space that we could use. It’s not a perfect environment for recording and mixing, though.
I assume it’s quite hard to squeeze an orchestra into a water tank.
Hunt (laughs): Yeah, it was a cosy tank.
Lindqvist: If you’ve got five people, it gets way too hot and crammed.
Do you feel comfortable with being branded as part of a new wave of Australian bands? Is there any comradeship with other bands from your home country?
George: I think that rather than being attached to that musically or as a genre, there is certainly an attitude that’s coming out of Australia. I think that’s why we could be attached to that sound.
Lindqvist: It’s a really exciting scene right now. A lot of artists that are there are just pushing the things that they love. And I think a radio station like Triple J, which is a national radio station, broadcasts a lot of different genres of music and it gives the public a wide palette of sound. So you can use a lot of influences to make your songs – and they will listen. Apart from that, it’s such a small market over there, so we are all very good friends with most other bands. We’re playing shows together, always. The relation ships are really friendly because if someone’s making enough money to survive of what they’re doing and tour around Australia, everyone is kind of giving each other a pat on the back.
If you tried to pinpoint what Australia sounds like right now – how could you define it?
George: I think it is the summer-soaked vibe, the positivity. On our album, there’s a warmth that you can hear.
Still, the record is not yet out over here. How does it feel playing songs to an audience that doesn’t know your album?
George: It’s cool. People just react in their own time and in their own way. I think that people are really feeling what we’re doing.
Hunt: I guess that’s the most honest reaction you can get. There’s no preconception. They just hear the music as it is.
But I guess it must be more fun if everyone sings along?
Lindqvist: It’s just different. Sometimes it’s really nice to have that. But sometimes it’s nice to have to work on stage. We don’t know the market, we haven’t spent a lot of time here. But to stand on stage and to smile and to play with your best mates and to really try and translate the music across to an audience and to watch them respond really authentically – that is extremely cool. That’s sometimes even more exciting for us. Because it reminds us of why we wrote the music and the feeling that we had when we first wrote it and listened to it.
So it’s like a road test, but after the album is out?
Lindqvist: Yeah, kind of.
You will be in Berlin until the end of the year. In how far can the city influence your sound?
George: Like you said, it is good to road test worldwide what we’re doing. We know that we’ve had some success with our sound in Australia and now you’re testing that material again in different parts of the world. It’s good to broaden that perspective. I guess we’ll see what is universal about what we’re doing.
Hunt: We chose Berlin as a place to shape the kind of sound we would like to get for the second album. We were here for about a week last year and we’re really fond of the place.
Did you also try to get away from Australia and all the things that might distract you there?
George: There’s always distractions. And that’s why the water tank was a good place for the first album, it was the place that we needed to get away from that. In some respect, Berlin might work in that manner.
But there are some distractions in Berlin…
Lindqvist (laughs): Yeah! But the difference is that we soaked up the Australian summer vibe for the last record. And for this one we wanted to dive into something different. And Berlin seemed like a nice place to do that. A lot of our influences are from around here. And the clubbing scene is something we’d like to explore and take a lot of influence from that. Last but not least the winter is probably going to force us to be inside a little bit more.
George: The week that we just spent here was pretty surprising in a lot of ways. You can really feel a vibe of freedom and independence. It’s an immediate, welcoming, creative place.
Lindqvist: It’s a crazy energy. For example, here in Friedrichshain, any shop you would walk into, every owner would know everything that was on the shelf, every little thing. And they owned the shop because they loved it. They weren’t doing it because it was their job. That was a real common thing everywhere we went. People here are very appreciative of life. It felt a bit like a gold mine that no one had really discovered yet. I know that everyone is talking about Berlin right now but it feels like it’s sort of untapped.
Whose idea was it to come here?
Hunt: Our manager’s. He realized that we all loved it when we were here last year and he thought it might be an inspiring place.
Lindqvist: Still, we will finish the record in Australia. We will go home in December and try to finish the record in January and February. We’d like to have some time away from what we’ve written over here.
Considering Berlin’s creative atmosphere it might be an obvious move to invite people in to work with you. Is that on your agenda? Or would you rather work on your own?
George: I think rather than collaborate it’s more about trying to meet some people that are like-minded for us. Of course, there are some of our idols that live in Berlin and we would love to meet some of those people. Trentemøller is a massive influence, for example. Or David August.
Lindqvist: It would be great just to see how they work, just to sit in the studio, talk to them, see what gets them excited and learn from them. That could help us, probably. But we write together and mix together and produce together and it works very easy for us.
Hunt: We’re not really looking for any extra party. It’s nice and exciting to keep things between us. That is as important as the music.
Lindqvist: I think if we were lacking inspiration, maybe we would try and find someone to respark inspiration. But right now, we all have so many songs that we would love to write and the thing that we don’t have is time.
Would you like to make a tradition out of recording your albums abroad. Like #3 in Chicago, #4 in London, #5 in Nairobi?
George: I can definitely see the appeal of that. Particularly because we’re doing a lot of touring and we get to a lot of places that none of us have ever been to. We’re witnessing what they have to offer creatively and it would be great if we could connect to some scene there.
Have you got any favourites? Where would you like to record the 13th record in Rüfüs career?
George: I really like London. And I could see myself in New York as well. L.A. I really enjoyed, too.
Lindqvist: I could actually see some place in South East Asia. Just because of the warmth and the weather.
All jokes aside, could you really imagine producing 13 albums with Rüfüs? Or is that a frightening perspective?
Lindqvist: Not really. We’re too excited about now and the next album that we’re doing.
George: But what I would say is that we are really committed to the band. I can’t see ourselves giving up music any time soon.