It’s been a lively year for Tyrone Lindqvist (pictured centre) and his mates from Sydney based electronic music act RÜFÜS, culminating on Friday 22 January with the release of their new album Bloom. Written mainly in Berlin and Sydney but also refined in Montreal and New York, Bloom is a flawless electronic pop journey. There are no filler songs or even superfluous notes or noises. In every practical sense, the toil and passion that has gone into the creation of Bloom should be rewarded with the global recognition it deserves. It would seem that this is RÜFÜS’ moment. Whatever hand 2016 decides to deal RÜFÜS, the band is content in the knowledge that they have given their all. After a major North American tour last year and the travel, thought and energy involved in the making of Bloom, Tyrone is on the verge of his first entire month off in five years and is happy to be chatting to me from his home in Coogee, “under a road, next to a tree.”
Before beginning the album was there a discussion about what kind of album you wanted to make?
We actually did have a discussion fairly early on but the discussion changes as you go through it. Leading into it, we were so hungry and excited to start writing this record because we had been touring for about a year and a half with the first one. I guess you just don’t get enough time to write, which is essentially why we are here. We were so eager that the first chance that we got, we were talking about all of the influences we wanted to reference. We were throwing around names like The Avalanches and Moby. I guess a lot of sample-based acts that utilised music that was a bit older, so maybe going for a bit of a nostalgia feel that sounds kind of timeless in a way. I think we really wanted to explore that because we hadn’t done it before. So we tried everything and anything in the process in Berlin and back in Australia. We weren’t really afraid of trying anything. We wrote a lot of crap to be honest but we wrote a lot of good stuff too. We went through the alphabet about 3 times for project titles and ideas.
How many tracks did you have available to play with for the album?
There were probably 70-plus ideas, not fully formed songs but maybe 20 songs all up we enjoyed. The other nine which didn’t make it are not completed but we are really happy with what we chose. It was pretty tough actually. We ended up with an array of songs we really liked and you try to work out what it is you want to cover in this record because you don’t really want an album of more than eleven songs in this day and age. A lot of my favourite albums are shorter than 50 minutes.
A couple of things strike me about this album. The first is that sonically, it’s very uncluttered. There aren’t a lot of superfluous sounds. Everything on there seems to have a purpose. Was that a conscious thing?
That’s cool that you noticed that because to be honest, after our first two EPs, that was something that we noticed. I think we just stumbled upon whatever we did on the first EP and then the second one, we set up to try a few different things. Then I think we realised how important space was and how important it is to focus on the bare essentials. Essentially that is just the songwriting and the little production ideas, utilising what you have there, which sometimes isn’t a lot. In this case, I feel like we are definitely conscious of it and we try to remind each other that we don’t want to clutter something. If it isn’t there for a purpose, for us, then maybe it is not necessary.
The other thing about Bloom is that it is as hypnotic and meditative as it is danceable? It’s as much a Saturday night album as it is a Sunday morning chill. Is that something that you strove for?
No we didn’t discuss that. I think it’s just what we like naturally. A lot of the music we listen to is probably on that tip, like Booka Shade, David August. They could probably be heard on dance floors but some of their songs and albums are more about a feeling. I guess they are focussing more on the music and using dance music techniques, whether that be the instruments or the structuring of songs or layering of things. I think a lot of electronic music is hypnotic, especially the ones that are more emotive. I think we just really like that and play in that zone a little bit. Whether that translates or not, I don’t know but it definitely sounds nice to us in the studio.
In the iTunes age, people download music in any way they like … as a whole albums or they cherry pick a few tracks. How important was the track order and the flow of the album?
Super important actually. That’s something you can’t really be aware of until later in the piece. As I was saying, there were twenty tracks maybe three months before we completed the record. It’s at that point you are looking at what’s there and thinking about how it’s going to play out. What songs are leading the pack and out of those songs, how do we want to tell the story? What’s the journey we want to take with this? For us on this record, and Atlas too to be honest, you want to get taken high, some feel good songs earlier on and some songs that mellow you out towards the end. I don’t know, maybe they’re a little more personal or a little more just for us at the end. The later ones, sonically are probably more just for us.
What was it about the final track Innerbloom, that you thought needed over 9 minutes of album time?
It definitely wasn’t conscious. We’d written most of the record and we were really happy with it and we were just having fun with it. I think it was at that point in the studio where we’d worked day in, day out for about a year on that album. We really didn’t have much time off at all. Not because we were labouring but because we really wanted to work on it. We were excited about it and just wanted to spend time on it. So we were at the point that it was done and we were reminding ourselves that the whole point of being there was to have fun. We wrote that chord pattern and it is about forty seconds long. If you want the chord pattern to run a couple of times then it is probably going to make the song run a little longer. I don’t know, we didn’t set ourselves up with any boundaries. At the time we were thinking, well this song will never get to radio or probably not even make it to the album, so we may as well have a good time with it and ride it out until we feel it needs to end and that was nine minutes forty I guess.
With this new album, will you need to rethink your stage set up and the gear you use when you eventually take the album out live?
We actually re-thought our set up a little bit on the most recent tour, so it was a nice little step in the direction we wanted to go. We were running a lot of MIDI controllers on stage and there was a lot of stress on our laptops side of stage. We would have keyboards running several synths on the stage and it was stressful because technology can fail. So we wanted to wanted to move over to hard synths and we got ourselves to Nord Electro 5s, which have really changed things for us a lot. Even sonically, I think it has this warmth and width that it is hard for a computer to create. There’s also that non-predictability about it. Even though we are putting on samples of our own and utilising that for the live show, it gives it a little bit of unpredictability which is exciting for us and our sound guy who we love and respect. He says that it is more fun out the front. He has more control. But we are going to throw in some new and exciting things for sure.
From the stage photos I have seen, you seem to have been using quite a few trigger pads too?
Yes the (Roland) SPDSX’s. We can put anything we like on those, whether it’s a bongo pattern or a melody. They are great little toys. John and James use those.
I also notice you’ll pick up the bass sometimes too. Why do you prefer that to playing the bass notes on the keyboard?
The other guys would probably say it’s just a little bit of a selfish thing. I bought that bass when I was 14 and I think it was the biggest purchase I have ever made to this day. It was a three thousand dollar bass and still to this day is one of the sexiest instruments I have ever seen. It’s a Warwick Thumb 5 and looks so nice and sounds really great. I think I have had many in-depth chats with the guys and saying, there’s got a be place in the live show where we can put it! They’re like, God it’s just yet another instrument we have to travel with … which it is definitely a pain and can be expensive if you are going overseas, so I feel like the bass has been put on the backburner for the next tour unfortunately. It’s had its time.
When you were exploring sounds for the album, which plug-in sets were you using?
We used Native Instruments a lot and the Arturia plug-ins. There’s a Rob Papen Subboombass, so a lot of our subs are through that. It’s a really clean, even sub that’s really good. We used the Waves plug-ins and the CSR reverbs. Those are the main ones we used in the box.
You were writing in Berlin, which is famous for many legendary albums and has a feel associated with it. Did you find that you were influenced by the city?
I think so. I don’t think it is anything that you can see when you are over there. We went over for two months, which isn’t long but it was enough. We set up in an AIR B&B a little 3 bedroom place and made a make shift studio. For me, as soon as you get into the city, the vibe just walking around the shops … you go into a shop and you ask this guy what this thing is on the shelf and 99% of the time they are going to know what it is and where it is from. They are just passionate about putting everything that they love and believe in, on that shelf. It just feels like the city is built on freedom and love, which given its history is really strange. I honestly haven’t felt that with a city as much as Berlin and that excited us. A lot of our favourite acts are based there too, so we wanted to see if breathing the same air made our music as magic as theirs.
Mixing is very important to an album. It can could be a completely different album depending on how you mix it. Was it a lengthy process with this album?
We mixed the last record, Atlas and Cassian (Stewart-Kasimba) mixed one track, Desert Night. On this one, Cassian mixed the whole record. It was kind of a miracle for us. It was strange to let go of a song. There was a lot of back and forth. He’s so close, he’s a good friend of ours. Just taking what we had and putting a bit of polish on it and taking it a little step further and making what we’d been doing a little brighter and he definitely did that. You put so much energy into the writing and the production and coming up with creative choices. You can almost be burnt out to do the whole process, there’s a lot to do. I’m not against it. Massive respect to anyone who mixes their own record and feels like they have got it to a point where they are proud.
When most people form a band, they dream of touring the world, playing their music to international fans. You guys do that now. Does the dream match the reality?
It’s funny because I never dreamt of it. I used to listen to Muse a lot when I was growing up. i went to boarding school and I used to lie in bed and listen to the record and imagine I was Matt Bellamy just slaying it on the stage during a solo. I used to get excited by that but I never considered or dreamt of touring the world. It was never a craving. I think it was more of a bedroom project between me and John at the start, then Jimbo came in and we worked out how to do it live. We knew what acts we loved. We really enjoyed The Presets and Cut Copy and how they translated electronic music to a live room. We took inspiration from that and then a few years later we find ourselves playing our favourite festivals and touring the world. It’s a bit surreal. We definitely need to look at each other every now and then and say, shit, this is sick! Give each other a high five as cheesy as that sounds.