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Interview: James Hunt from ‘RÜFÜS’


RÜFÜS 2016 Article

Sydney’s golden trio of electronica RÜFÜS are now just days from releasing one of the most anticipated albums of the year ‘Bloom’ (yes, even though we’re still in January!), with all three of its singles expected to chart in the 2015 triple j Hottest 100. After managing to get our hands on ‘Bloom’ a week before it’s release, we talked to the band’s designated drummer James Hunt about the album’s year-long writing process and how, even though they’re an internationally acclaimed electronic act, the trio still get excited about new toys, sounds, and software plugins.

When Triple J premiered Innerbloom I heard a caller describe himself as “butter slowly sliding down hot toast” when he heard the song, is that the state of mind you were aiming to put listeners into? 

Haha! I think subconsciously “butter sliding down toast” was what we had in mind, that feeling of being totally absorbed into something and being able to lose all your inhibitions. Like, when you listen to a piece [of music] and you become so indulgent and allows you to just sink in further and further. That [feeling] was very apparent in the kind of music we were listening to while writing the album, like songs that were warm, buttery, and really nice. Making shapes with electronic music that warble in this kind of warm sense of humanity, that’s what we were really into.

Another caller after the Innerbloom premiere said RÜFÜS “can’t make a bad song”. So, have you guys ever listened back to a new song idea and wondered WTF?

Yeah, I think that’s probably 90 per cent of [our] writing process actually! Especially when we’re up late in the studio and the further we get into the night like the seventh idea or the fifteenth idea of the day and we’re trying to bash those out as quickly as possible. It’s easy to kind of lose perspective and get overly obsessed on one thing, so it’s always pretty funny waking up, coming back in, and listening with fresh ears and just sometimes we all look at each other and go “what the f*ck, what were we thinking?” But I guess that’s the surprise, when if we come back and we’re really vibing still, it shows that the initial spark had something to it.

I guess it’s kind of refreshing to some of your fans to know you guys actually are human and not just some amazing electronic-music gods…

Yeah, or robots…

The new album ‘Bloom’, in my opinion, is like a great big 50 minute hug for your ears, a kind of cocoon of groove for your head. What was the approach to your sound production and instrumentation like compared to your first album ‘Atlas’?

I feel like with this album we could have rested on our laurels a little bit and follow the process we’d figured out for ‘Atlas’. But with ‘Bloom’ we were really excited, like kids with toys and software plugins and synths…we ended up with a fair bit of gear by the end of the [recording process]. We kind of had all of [the gear] set up in the studio as when we write all three of us do a bit of everything. Like someone will go over to the “mofo”, which is this little synth that we [used] across the whole album, and create a cool patch, and so we’d all play around it, and someone might be on the computer at the same time writing a beat. It was kind of haphazard where we were drawing upon lots of little sounds and instruments that we were excited by and toys we were obsessed with, and so the process of a song would start that way and then we would see where it would go from there. There really wasn’t a linear instrumentation or not one person was focusing on any particular part, which was cool because of there was an unpredictability to everything! 

In several songs on ‘Bloom’ such as Brighter and Be With You there’s quite a lot of choral sounds and melodies, did you guys make a conscious effort to incorporate more vocal sounds into this album?

We definitely did and I think that was one of the stronger creative directions that we initially had while we were still finding the sound for the album and gauging what we were responding to at the time. One of the earliest things was we starting listening to this old sampley hip-hop like Dilla and producers like Vanilla and Hony, who make like great house [music] but also have this real old sampler to it. [Their music] warbles and crackles and have these Motown vocal samples which are just a bit stretched or sound a bit old, and for some reason we became obsessed and wanted to recreate it. Initially we thought the whole album would be [that], but I think the cool thing about writing over the year and a bit longer was seeing that element was only sort of a part of what we wanted to do. Seeing how that played off other things we were being inspired by, like more current ways of expressing the songwriting aspects, and how the synthy and electronic side of things counteracting the old warbley nice vocal samples, it was all very cool!

‘Bloom’ seems to carry a dreamier sound and softer drum & bass compared to ‘Atlas’, and to me Lose My Head is probably my favourite track on “Bloom” because it’s kind of the middle ground between the two albums. Do you think your substantial fan base will be as receptive to the softer songs as they are for the bangers?

I think that we have demonstrated a little bit of variation [in our sound] over the years because we write to what we’re inspired to at the time. I think even on ‘Atlas’ there were some softer shades as well as some heavier and more punchy shades. I think even from the songs we’ve released [from ‘Bloom’] so far there’s been a growth in the stylistic expression of each song, like some are softer than others. But it seems so far we’ve had an amazing reaction from [old] fans and even newer fans, which is pretty cool for us because we’re totally detached from all that when we’re writing in the studio. It’s like we’re in this little cave whilst making stuff we want to hear. Hopefully this kind of reaction [from fans] continues to play out that way!

Late last year you guys won the ARIA for “Best Dance Release” with You Were Right, do you think RÜFÜS are at present Australia’s best dance act and artist?

Nah, I can’t really say that as Australia’s at a pretty crazy level right now in terms of a big music scene and especially in terms of electronic music. So it’s more that it feels really cool to be a part of something where there’s a real burgeoning scene in electronic music and everyone’s kind of treating each other nicely back and forth and sharing ideas with each other, it’s [was] such a small scene in Australia so that’s kind of inherent. I couldn’t really tell you we’re the best in any sense but it feels like there’s a really strong traction and response to what we’re doing at the moment, so I’m really happy with the success and it’s really cool to do what we do!

You guys are on the bill for Coachella 2016, will you guys be approaching that set differently to say your recent Falls Festival sets?

I guess we will be, something we learnt from playing in different territories and overseas is being able to gauge different crowds and what they response to, and I think what people respond to in Australia isn’t necessarily what people respond to in the U.S or in London. We’re looking to lock in some shows around that time, which we’re yet to announce, so I feel like we could go over [to America] and get a feel for how the new songs are playing out and what the vibe is, and then to formulate a set plan. But getting on that bill [Coachella], as it’s such an iconic institution of a festival, is pretty amazing!

Lastly, as Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown is just around the corner what were your favourite 3 tracks of 2015?

George Fitzgerald’s Full Circle, Roland Ting’s Pala, and Sticky Finger’s Ghost Town I’d have to say were my favourites.

‘Bloom’, the second studio album by RÜFÜS, will be released in Australia Friday 22nd January.

RÜFÜS Bloom artwork Article Size