RUFUS, the olden children of the Australian indi-electronic scene. They don’t seem to be able to put a foot wrong. With a number one song, an Aria topping debut album and now just days away from dropping what is tipped to be one of the hottest albums of the year ‘Bloom’. We had a quick chat to drummer, James Hunt, about their creative process, what it’s like to be on the world stage and the festival of festivals, Coachella.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to The Wandering Lamb, so first off; After an Aria topping debut album did you feel any unexpected pressure in the development of your sophomore album ‘Bloom’?
Actually I’ve been asked that question a couple of times and I feel like there’s always this thing of the sophomore album pressure of meeting expectation or whatever. What was cool about this is album is part of the writing process was on the back of a lot of touring overseas. We ended up in London for a little bit and Berlin and I think, kind of being totally separated from Australia where we kind of found a lot of success, we felt totally detached from that in our own little bubble. Which is pretty cool especially when we were in Germany. We were there for two months and built our own little studio in this Air B&B and it was like being in this little cave and we were writing every day and not thinking about the end result. We were just making music that we wanted to write. I think that was pretty healthy for us.
What were some of the differences you faced in recording ‘Bloom’ compared to ‘Atlas’ besides the isolation from the fame you received in Australia?
I guess the big differences was the musical landscape we were surrounded by not just geographically being a different city with different tastes in music there, but kind of just where our own heads were at and the kind of music we were listening too. I think we were being a bit more broad with the kind of stuff we were being inspired by and not just limiting ourselves to stuff that might be stylistically similar to what we have already put out. I think when we started trying to find the direction of the album we were listening to a bit more old ‘sample-y’ hip hop and sort of vanilla stuff just because we really enjoyed that aesthetic. Which is not something you would expect considering the kind of music we had previously put out. Bands like the Avalanches and such, we really enjoyed that old warbly and dusty aesthetic and things being really sample-y and the old gospel choirs being pitched a little bit. All these musical influences that we were absorbing by process of osmosis, slicing all these things up and then spitting out and seeing what we came up with.
Well speaking of influences, before the release of ‘Atlas’ you have mentioned in previous interviews that your music was a ‘melting pot of influences’. Do you still think this holds true to the same extent or would you say ‘Bloom’ has a more distinct sound that is more certain in itself?
I think it’s still, to an extent, a melting pot. I guess considering especially the fact the three of us are all inputting something or injecting something that we’re being inspired by. I guess we all have a big common ground of music that we are all sharing with each other and we’re all kind of on the same page about it. I think it’s inherently, with three people, more of this mixture of stuff in a group setting but I do think that, that being said, I feel like we have become a bit more savvy as to what we enjoy. A bit more specific about the music that we like and maybe we’re a bit more savvy in production in how to emulate these things and maybe a bit more knowing about how to get what we want in the music that we are making but I still think it’s ‘three dudes in a studio’, mixture going on.
So would you say over the years you have become a bit more efficient in you process?
Yeah, I do think so. I think that’s another key difference in the writing process. We wrote a hell of a lot more material even if it was snippets or a four bar groove loop. I think because we would be getting more prolific in our output and getting more efficient at bashing an idea out and by the end having more to choose from. So it was the process of pulling back rather than on ‘Atlas’ where we grew it outwards. The whole material is there from the start in a way.
In your press release you have talked about this album being more ‘feeling over narrative’ based. What is it about the way you three write that lends you more to abstract expression over traditional story telling?
I guess inherently it’s something we are better at probably expressing, or a medium we are better at expressing in, is mood. We often talk about the mood of a song and we deal in terms of melody and chords way before we start talking about lyrical content or the more relatable meaning of the lyrics or the meaning of the song. So I think that tone is a bit more familiar to us in that abstract sense. I think for this one we found this weird way of translating that later in the process into the lyrical content. We don’t try to radicalize it and have too much of a heavy message or be too intellectual in what we are writing about. But I think it was cool with this record to be a bit more personal and more relevant to where we were at in terms of our lives and this displacement because we had been touring so much and we were longing for home and there was this ying and yang of that side of it but also celebration of coming back to something more familiar and that kind of just seeped into the record.
In your media release water is referenced a few times as an expression of your ‘feeling over narrative’ theme which is seen throughout the album. What was it that you found appealing in water as an apt metaphor?
Well I don’t know, I think the actually meaning of that metaphor of water came a bit later and I think we kind of figured out why we were into it so much but at the start we were just enjoying these images or feelings of jelly fish floating or whales gliding through the ocean. We had a bit of a screen saver playlist we put on in the studio and put on a blue lamp in the corner to make us feel like we were underwater and it definitely helped in the initial stage of writing our songs. We would be going for sounds that were more warbly, watery and flowy. We were talking about certain sound effects like a whale screeching that would be on one of the synths we would be playing on. There was something just about the serenity of weightlessness of water that we were really into for no particular reason and in hindsight it was a bit more clear what we were enjoying about it.
So you would say your creative process is to induce certain feelings within your environment and then work from there?
Definitely I think that’s always been the case but I think we were being a bit more straight forward about it in terms of having a lamp in the studio that looked a certain way and having a certain image in front of us or talking about a certain environment that induced that feeling of floating or weightlessness and the serene of just drifting.
Australia is taking great strides on the international music scene across the board. How does it feel for you to be really part of that new wave of Australian music?
It’s really special and I think the cool thing about the Australian music scene and even the Australian electronic scene is that it’s so close knit since Australia is such a small place really. So everyone kind of knows each other and everyone is sharing musical ideas. We always run into each other at the airport lounge or flying to the few major cities in Australia. So there is a sense of community that I think is really cool and I haven’t seen that nearly as much around the world in the last few years of touring internationally. It feels really good, I think Australia right now is on a world stage and being looked to as the pace maker. It’s just a compliment to be considered part of that.
Well you’ve definitely earned your place there. Your Coachella performance has been confirmed. How does it feel to know you will be participating in what is essentially the holy grail of music festivals?
It’s amazing, I think for the last five years it’s been the goal. It’s one of the top things on the bucket lists. We were shocked, we had to keep it super tight because we didn’t want to leak anything and we were just like religiously tight lipped because we didn’t want to ruin the amazing thing we had received. I think we want to plan something special for that set and try and make the most of it. I think we’re just a bit over the moon about it.
Understandably, I’m sure you will make the most of it, so to finish up; In what direction would you like to see RUFUS take in the near future?
Well that’s pretty hard to say, because if I was asked that when ‘Atlas’ was about to be released I wouldn’t have had any clue that we would be writing the sort of stuff we wrote on ‘Bloom’ but I think there was some cool territory explored on this album especially on the closing track, Innerbloom. I really enjoyed that we were a bit more patient with it and allowed ourselves to just make a song as long as it needed to be. Instead of trying to be a bit more space aware or time aware. Not that’s necessarily the case with all our songs. I think it was really exciting to be writing that song and I felt something really special in the process of writing that. I think it’s a pretty open canvas at the moment.