It’s a rare grey day in Los Angeles, and on the Venice Beach boardwalk, the usual collection of street performers, t-shirt vendors, weed doctors, tourists, hustlers, and drifters are assembled under the May gloom. Strong waves crash on the beach, and inside the Venice Ale House, the weekend is starting early as a packed crowd drinks beer on a Friday afternoon. Among them are Tyrone Lindqvist and Jon George, two thirds of the Australian live electronic trio RÜFÜS DU SOL.
The guys moved to Venice only five weeks ago, making the 7,500-mile jump across the Pacific from their native Sydney, Australia. They landed in a house not far from the beach, and it is here they’re living and working on their next album – the follow-up to 2016’s smart, dreamy Bloom. With George’s oversized sunglasses and Lindqvist’s white blonde surfer hair, they already look like SoCal natives.
In fact, RÜFÜS’ reception in Los Angeles has been a warm one. The guys closed out the second weekend of Coachella with a DJ set at the Do Lab stage, taking the gig last minute after another artist dropped out. Thousands of people showed up to hear them. On his phone, George shows off an app containing all the details for their upcoming tour, from venue capacities to the hours of each hotel pool.
Life on the road will be a constant for RÜFÜS this summer. Their tour schedule includes festival dates throughout the United States and Europe at events including Lightning in a Bottle, Sasquatch, Governor’s Ball, and Electric Daisy Carnival, with a string of club shows in between. While the guys – Lindqvist on guitars and vocals, George on keyboards and James Hunt on drums – have been together for seven years and are huge in their home country, they now seem well-poised to break into the big time in the States.
Last night they were up writing until five in the morning, but George and Lindqvist show no signs of fatigue as they order pints of Great White, a Belgian-style white from Eureka, California’s Lost Coast Brewery. We struck up a conversation about music, drinking, and life on the road.
Do you guys remember when you drank your first beer?
Jon: We got my friend’s sister to buy us beer. In Australia there’s a beer called Victoria Bitter, just a shitty beer in these little brown bottles. I think we slammed a case of 24 beers. We were like 16, trying to be men. I drank a beer. Hated it. Fucking hated the taste of beer. I probably drank like five, and I remember how painful it was to even down one.
Tyrone: I hated beer too. I was drinking it because it was convenient.
Jon: My dad would always have a few beers lying around the house, but it was always your parent’s liquor cabinet that you would punish yourself on. You know how you overdo it on Malibu?
Tyrone: And then the next day you’re like, “Shit, how are we going to cover this up?” And then you filled the bottle up with water. Never worked.
I think the hardest thing for me to disguise was my painful hangovers.
Jon: It takes a full ten years to get over that shit! You can really never drink that same liquor again. I remember one of my first experiences with my parents seeing I was hungover was when I’d come home at 6am or whatever. I don’t even think they knew I had snuck out of the house. They came in my bedroom like, “Why isn’t Jon up?” and there was this big pool of orange liquid in the middle of my carpet and my bedroom smelled like alcohol. I guess I’d come home and drunk a full bottle of Fanta to hydrate, and then in the middle of the night I’d thrown up everywhere in my room. I remember my mom next to me in the bedroom going “No. No! Why Jon, why!?” I was like, “I don’t know! Leave me alone!”
Tyrone: I remember my first beer wasn’t a big deal for me because I had been drinking with my parents. They’d be like, “If you want to try you can try” from a young age. I didn’t really like it so I didn’t feel a need to drink it. But this beer is tasting delicious, so I guess things change.
Now that you both know more about beer, is there a certain style you’re particularly fond of?
Tyrone: I personally really love Hefeweizens. I grew up drinking Bud Light or the Australian equivalent until I was 21, 22. Then we went to Germany, and I got to taste some of the heff beers. We’d buy Schöfferhofer. That’s my go-to. When we were writing our second album, every day we’d treat ourselves to one of these giant beers.
Jon: We’d get so excited about it.
Tyrone: It’s not too sweet. I’ve found that a lot of the Hefeweizen beers end up being really sweet, at least in Australia, whereas Schöfferhofer isn’t too fruity, and it’s really creamy and thick. That’s a really nice beer, and from a tap it’s so good.
Jon: Tyrone and James would get so excited about leaving the studio and going down to get some Schöfferhofers. It was also really sick in Berlin how you can go down to the corner store, grab a beer and walk around town with a beer in your hand.
Australians have a reputation for being very gregarious partiers. Is that true, and if so, why?
Jon: Good question. In Europe there are parents who give their kids little doses of wine and beer to get them used to it, but in Australia, from 16 onwards, kids are just getting ruthless behind their parents’ backs. It starts from there.
Tyrone: Then there’s the theory that we’re all convicts. It’s only 300 or so years ago that that happened.
Jon: There was an ad campaign in Australia where they were trying to curb domestic violence, which is pretty serious obviously, and part of the ad campaign was about not being a bad role model to your kids. They showed backyard parties with all the parents boozing on and being bad role models, and that’s definitely a thing in Australia, where everyone just gets loose at a barbeque or whatever.
Tyrone: My dad didn’t drink. My mum either. Dad hated hangovers and he was a hard worker and never wanted to, but he’d go to the pub to socialize, so I’d go there too. The place I’m from is called Lightning Ridge. It’s an opal mining town, and the only place in the world where you can get black opals. The bars were tin shacks with dirt floors, and you’d just play pool in the dirt.
Jon: So if your parents were never drinking, when were you exposed to it, because my parents like, drank a bottle of wine every night.
Tyrone: It was more at family functions. Christmas, or if we were at dinner at their friend’s house. I wasn’t really exposed to it until I was a teenager.
Jon: Did you ever have the classic drunk uncle?
Tyrone: I don’t know if I should say this, but I’ll tell a drunken uncle story. An uncle of mine got really wasted. He had a big night and kind of came to when he was at the door of his own place. He’s knocking on the door, and his housemate answers. It’s really late, and his mate opens the door and is like, “What the fuck are you doing man?” My uncle is standing there tapping the side of his legs like “I can’t find my wallet or my phone.” And his housemate it like, “Mate, I think you’ve lost more than your wallet and your phone.” My uncle is standing there butt naked. He had no idea that he didn’t have clothes on.
Was he able to piece together what had happened?
Tyrone: So there’s this little creek. You can basically walk across chest depth, but he had taken his clothes off and folded them neatly with his shoes right on one side of the creek, then crossed over. I think his intention was to carry it over. He honestly didn’t really drink after that.
Do you guys drink on the road when you’re touring?
Tyrone: I don’t, because I sing. Beer before singing isn’t that great. We’ll do a shot of whiskey before we walk out. It’s probably better not to do it, but if we’ve been touring for a month my voice gets a bit tired and the whiskey helps open it up. It’s become a bit of a ritual before we go onstage, and two or three songs in you feel this nice warm tingle like, “Ah, alright!”
Jon: I usually drink two beers before I go onstage. I’ve definitely had more than that, but I just don’t enjoy it that much if I’ve had more. It’s like, “Oh I didn’t really get to take in last night’s performance because I was four beers deep.” I keep it to two beers before I go onstage, because that way I can really acknowledge everything that’s happening around me.
I’m always fascinated by what musicians are thinking about when they’re playing.
Tyrone: We always talk about it, because you just really want to be there so you can enjoy it. If anything goes wrong, and you’re there, it’s never really that big of a problem. If you’re kind of in fairyland thinking about whether you turned the toaster off or whether you left the TV on –
Jon: What you’re going to eat later that night –
Tyrone: Should I hang the washing up after the show tonight… sometimes you end up in these meaningless wormholes, and when that happens and something goes wrong, it’s that much more intense to deal with it. But when you’re really there and something goes wrong, you’re really chill about it.
A lot of musicians say that when a performance is really going well, they’re not thinking about anything at all. It’s almost a meditative state.
Jon: Because there are three of us on the stage and we’re all sort of in line with each other, when shit’s at its best, we’re just playing with each other.
Tyrone: Throwing each other hand signals to try and make each other laugh.
It’s not really for the crowd to be honest.”
I think that’s so cool, to be able to perform and also be playful and able to interact.
Tyrone: We’ve been doing this for seven years, so that helps, but it’s true that it’s so sick to be able to walk onstage and just be there. It’s the nicest meditation. It’s like the ritual of putting in the inner ear [monitors], having a shot, giving the guys a high five and a hug and walking up some stairs onto a stage. That process in and of itself – our brains are trained after having done it for so long, to go to a place of just being here. I feel like there have been some days when one of us has had a bit of a rough day, and we’ve had to walk out and do the show, and as soon as we walk out it’s like, “Ahhh.” It levels you. Everything disappears.
That’s also seems like an important part of having a ritual. It snaps part of your brain on like, “Alright this is what we’re doing now.”
Jon: That’s really true. You could look at it as a bit wanky or indulgent, but there’s something super therapeutic about it, and it sets a tone for what’s about to happen and what needs to happen – the hug and last goodbyes before we go onstage. If we missed one of those moments before the show, I’d be a bit fucking edgy. As soon as we do it, everyone’s calm and we walk onstage. It’s easy to get straight in the groove and do the best performance we can do, to the point of actually being able to laugh with each other and joke about it. We spend so much time before the tour just repetitively going through the set over and over so by the time we’re doing it onstage, we’re not thinking about it.
Tyrone: And we get to be there for it. It’s purely selfish. It’s not really for the crowd to be honest. I reckon that pre-work Jon’s talking about is just so we can selfishly walk out and be there for that show because it’s so lucky. Some shows we’re pinching ourselves like, “We’ve heard about this venue.” Red Rocks was like that. All these things you hear about when you’re growing up that you don’t even think are remotely attainable, the last thing you want to do is walk out and only be there for the last three songs. That pre-work is so we can really be at any room we’re at.