Unlike their ant-snorting rock star predecessors, for Rufus Du Sol, the only acceptable vice is exercise. The band's on the road for their 25-date North America summer tour, and drummer James Hunt is strolling California’s Avila Beach. The sea breeze is blowing while an unruly flock of seagulls rudely chirp during his phone call. It’s three hours until sound check for the debut show of the tour, which gives the band plenty of time for a workout, a shot of wheatgrass and some superfoods.
“We’re focusing more on health and fitness for this tour; it’s something we’ve chatted about,” Hunt says. “I’ll probably get in a jog after we finish talking here.”
The live-electro trio from Australia is playing out their third album Solace, which dropped late last year. Artists, by nature, are in the business of taking risks, and it's the public that holds an approving vote. Rufus Du Sol’s first two albums were platinum successes, and the band had earned a following. A deviation from a proven recipe may have seemed insane, but the band took a gamble.
“We took risks and changed the formula when we made our third album Solace,” says Hunt. “But we’re proud of the reaction the album is producing. Been good to see the cathartic experience. It’s mind-blowing actually.”
Their first two EPs and first album Atlas were made back home in Sydney. Bloom, the band's second album, was released in 2016, inspired by a relocation to Berlin. The German capital is a hub for creation, flowing more than ever with art pouring out in every medium.
“We lived in the Friedrichshain neighborhood in Berlin, right next to the Spree River," Hunt says. "Everyone’s selling vinyls there. It’s a very cool culture there and extremely infectious. We would write music until 1 a.m., then go watch Dixon play a DJ set, get inspired and go back home to write more music. And I only went to Berghain (nightclub) once, but I got in. I was one-for-one. The other guys in the band didn’t have such good luck,” he says with a laugh.
From dark, cold Berlin days to the warmth of Venice Beach, the band relocated again to record album No. 3. The three bandmates, their girlfriends and manager found a house with a studio and posted up on the West Coast. The studio had been neglected for years, so they called a friend — part carpenter, part shaman — to transform the studio into something special through several small installations.
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“We’re not sure if he’s a real shaman or not, but he definitely brought some kind of vibe to make the studio space something more special," Hunt says of their studio's designer. "He has these mystical concepts. He doesn’t go anywhere without a compass and a notepad in his pocket. He initially said it would take a week to do the improvements, but came for two months and would stay until 4 a.m. every night,” Hunt adds.
Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl once said, “What's the last thing the drummer said before he got kicked out of the band? 'Hey, I wrote a song.'” Sorry, Dave, but the cliché doesn't hold up in Rufus Du Sol's case. They have a writing setup and a live performance setup where everyone in the band writes music. While the band members play several instruments when they’re creating, the group's live set consists of Hunt on drums while Tyrone Lindqvist sings, plays synths and an occasional cowbell, and Jon George plays keys, synths and a drum pad.
Legendary musicians are often derailed by temper tantrums and addiction, but Rufus Du Sol appears to be on a different path. Their decade-plus friendships date back to high school and are still going strong. And unlike many gifted artists, they understand the importance of wellness. While a lot of bands decline with each album, Rufus Du Sol is getting better.
Armed with lucid minds and healthy hearts, perhaps the only thing that will rattle their tour bus is someone hogging the kale.