Austrailian indie-electronic three-piece act, RÜFÜS DU SOL, entered into a new phase of artistic maturation over the past year. The moment began when the trio made the bold decision to uproot themselves to Los Angeles to write and record their third studio album, Solace, which was named Conscious Electronic‘s Top Album of 2018.
The multi-talented livetronica band, composed of lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist, keyboardist Jon George, and drummer James Hunt, bunkered themselves down in a tiny house off Rose Avenue during the recording process. The would draw their inspirations for the album on the landscapes of Joshua Tree and their personal experiences in Los Angeles.
“We made a record that was a little bit more raw emotionally,” said James Hunt to Australia’s Herald Sun in an interview. “I’m really proud we stuck to our guns and made something that rang true to us, and for it to still connect in the way it was represented in the [charts] it feels good to not compromise and still have such a strong connection.”
Not only did the album strike intense emotional chords with their fanbase, it also spoke true to their experiences living in a completely new country and in the culture of LA. The band has long been known to draw on authentic experience in the penning of their albums, whereas Atlas was inspired by the coastline of New South Wales and Bloom on the vibe of Berlin. But LA would become the bedrock for iconic new singles like “Lost in My Mind,” “No Place,” and “Underwater.”
That was almost a full year ago, and the band is still making rounds on the second leg of their North American album tour. They’ve gone onto to incredible new heights along the way, launching their own imprint in Rose Avenue, performing “Treat You Better” on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night talk show, and hosting a visually spectacular feat at Coachella’s Antarctic Dome.
Now RÜFÜS is knee-deep in the tour bus life as they sell out large concert venues all over the country, with a final performance at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Conscious Electronic was invited to the band’s sold-out Wednesday night performance in Dallas, Texas to experience Solace live. What we were treated to was an only-of-its-kind performance of raw emotion and visual spectacle.
The evening got off to an hour-long delayed start due to the fact that the entrance line into the venue stretched four city blocks of downtown. RÜFÜS made the executive call to wait for fans to get past the strenuous security line so everyone could find solace together from beginning to end. Not only did the move speak to their care for the fan community, but it also showed just how passionate they were about sharing their art.
After a soothing, emotionally authentic, and serenely cathartic night with RÜFÜS DU SOL, we came down the venue steps stripped down to our most vulnerable bearings. We also came back into reality with the conclusion that RÜFÜS DU SOL has reached a pinnacle new point in their artistic career. Here are five reasons why the Solace tour marks a career-altering shift for RÜFÜS DU SOL.
1) Tyrone Lindqvist’s front-and-center performance displays true emotional grit, artistic torture, and immense calm.
Lindqvist’s dynamic energy is what defines the Solace experience. He is a master of absorbing the spotlight of being a leading man and then projecting that energy back onto his bandmates and his audience. To watch Lindqvist sing live is to see the torture and pain of his personal experience in an unfathomably truthful display. Much like watching a live late-Kurt Cobain, this is an artist who finds solace in sharing his inner turmoil openly and uses the stage as a space to shed those feelings. At the same time, Lindqvist has mastered channeling this sort of emotional grit with intense calm, exuding an acceptance with his lyrics as he sings them out for all to see and feel. It’s a rare quality to find in a frontman who can put out this emotional grueling display night after night. It’s also what makes RÜFÜS destined for a larger-than-life following that demands larger venue spaces moving forward.
2) The constantly sold-out venues show how RÜFÜS is primed for the arena format.
Nevermind that RÜFÜS sold out one of Dallas’ larger 3,000+ capacity venues. This is one rising electronic act that managed to sell out three full nights of Los Angeles’ 5,000-person venue at The Shrine. Coupled with the fact that the Solace tour has been selling out all over the country speaks to the notion that RÜFÜS is gaining an audience that stretches far beyond the electronic music fridges. We’re reluctant to call them mainstream just yet, but with a growing catalog of songs that stretch into pop/alt-rock/indie territory, RÜFÜS is well on their way to the radio waves. Their dual night Red Rocks performance will be the ultimate test, but it may be only a short matter of time before fans will see the band performing at large outdoor amphitheaters and indoor sports bowl arenas.
3) RÜFÜS’ ability to create authentic moments raises the bar.
Solace ventures far beyond gimmicky dance tracks or manufactured moments. The tour is a musical journey that is every bit as technologically stunning as it is raw and real. Lindqvist draws out emotional intensity with intense subtlety — in the subtle raise of the hand, a slight turn of the head, moving intentionally across the stage. Every movement is motivated and natural, uncalculated and yet controlled, so as to draw out the importance of the song and what it does to the body.
“We’re allowing more than ever to have some of those mellow moments. The setlist is more dynamic than it used to be, still having big danceable moments but also allowing space to let it breathe a bit more,” said Hunt.
The band fosters these mellow moments with such expert precision that it’s almost impossible to put into words. Not only do fans feel the lyrics, they can also feel the band feeling their words with authenticity and ease. It cultivates a form of artistry that is rare today with live electronic music. When watching Solace, one is seamlessly transported to that small home off Rose Avenue in Los Angeles, where the three crafted their third studio album.
4) The visual production, while spectacular, still manages to spotlight the artists and their music.
Perched across three towering risers, RÜFÜS DU SOL stands tall over the audience against a massive LED display, verticle lighting bars, and countless spotlights. It’s a visual spectacle, but not so much that audience members cannot make out their silhouettes. There are no complicated background LED visuals beyond flashes of light, which reads as a conscious artistic choice to allow the visuals to complement the music, rather than detract from it. Instead, fans are encouraged to watch the performers and listen to the melodies and words. It’s clear that RÜFÜS wants viewers to focus on the art itself over the accompaniment of the art. Not only does the choice situate RÜFÜS as true artists, it says they are focused more on fostering authentic moments than using bright lights and lasers.
5) No set is ever the same, displaying RÜFÜS’ drive to create real moments.
“If a superfan came to two shows in a row they’d see a different show each night, that’s important to us,” Hunt said. “We don’t want to do the exact same show night after night.”
Finally, RÜFÜS has managed to learn from their EDM predecessors who take their craft to the next level by changing up their sets every single time. It’s all too common to see artists playing the same exact set a day or month apart. Personally, it was massively disheartening to see my favorite artists like ODESZA, who delivered a completely copied set during both nights of Red Rocks, or REZZ, whose set is distinguishably the same when seeing her play a month apart. No discredit to any of the artists who choose to take this route, since they may be more comfortable with rehearsed moments or simply don’t have the depth of discography to fill the entire time. But the mark of the true greats are the ones who experiment with different track variations and switching up song order in real-time. RÜFÜS is no exception, as Hunt explains,
“I love this realm we get to play in which is in-between the world of electronic programmed dance music and live instrumentation. We do a different show each night, which keeps us on our toes too, without relying so much on the muscle memory of it.”
It’s much harder to feel out the audience than to go with along with the safety net of a pre-planned setlist. The fact of the matter is it takes more focus and conscious effort to say to one’s self in real-time, “my audience may not be feeling this so let’s switch it up,” rather than fall into the trap of auto-pilot. Audiences can tell when artists aren’t truly listening to them, even in the DJ format. RÜFÜS is keen to never fall into this trap. Quite the opposite actually, the band had such an emotional grip on the audience that the crowd was holding onto their every word, every transition, and every movement.
When all is said and done, fans will leave RÜFÜS DU SOL’s Solace tour with far more than feelings of emotional connection and catharsis. They will leave with more clarity for the direction the Aussie band sees itself going — that is, straight to the top. To see the group go from the DJ set to the live instrumental format over the years is to see how much they’ve evolved artistically and personally since bursting onto the scene in 2011. After three wildly popular albums, RÜFÜS displays an artistic development on Solace not seen before from the three Sydney natives. For that reason, the Solace tour marks a seminal new moment in RÜFÜS DU SOL’s career.
Featured photo: Derek Rickert. All other photos: Bridgette Mitchell.