Surrender

RÜFÜS DU SOL

Surrender

Coming from a group synonymous with strobe-lit, dance-tent-toppling jams, the opening track of RÜFÜS DU SOL’s fourth album, Surrender, begins with a sound that’s startling in its raw simplicity: a repeated piano chord echoing out in an empty room. It’s a modest yet highly symbolic gesture for a band that had to break it all down in order to build themselves up again. Emerging at the time of RÜFÜS DU SOL’s 10th anniversary, the COVID-19 pandemic had a bit of a silver lining for the LA-by-way-of-Sydney trio, who used the downtime to not just work on new music at their adopted spiritual home of Joshua Tree, California, but repair the personal dynamics that had become strained after a furiously productive decade together. “We had time to look after ourselves a bit more,” keyboardist Jon George tells Apple Music. “As we were nurturing the relationships and creating routine and structure, the songs started to get happier and reflect where we were at.” The result is an album that continues RÜFÜS DU SOL’s fluid juggling act between classic house, edgy alt-rock and bedroom-bound indie, but is fuelled by a more palpably positive energy. Here, George, drummer James Hunt and singer/guitarist Tyrone Lindqvist provide their track-by-track guide to Surrender’s dance into the light.
“Next to Me” Jon George: “This felt like a really good opening moment for the record—the nakedness of the piano was the perfect summary of where we were at. We bought a piano for this record, and we really had fun being able to lay out tunes bare-bones, with just the vocals and piano, to see if the songs were working in their purest form.” James Hunt: “Ty tried to sing the song at his wedding, just a cappella, and he couldn't get through it because it was so real.” Tyrone Lindqvist: “I didn't intend on doing that when we were writing the song; it felt like a nice thing to do for myself and my wife at that moment. But I struggled to get through it because the picture that was being painted was just too real!”
“Make It Happen” JH: “Early on in the writing process out in Joshua Tree, we had this routine where we would be working out every morning and listening to our favourite throwback dance albums—old Moby records, Röyksopp records, Mylo and Justice. A running theme throughout a lot of those songs was a children's choir paired with these darker analog-synth instrumentals. Later, we were writing with Jason Evigan at his studio, and we were jamming on this idea of having a simple mantra—like The Beatles' 'All You Need Is Love'. Tyrone and Jason were jamming on that idea while me and Jon were working on the beat and the percussion and making it really housey. And then it kind of all just came together and we thought, ‘This would be perfect for a children's choir to sing.’”
“See You Again” JG: “This came out of the latter half of the writing period when things were a bit in a lighter mood. It came together the quickest of the whole record—we had the bones of it within a day. Even the vocals and melodies stayed true from that moment onwards. Me and James have been doing these DJ sets once a month throughout the whole pandemic, and we were able to reference that experience.”
“I Don’t Wanna Leave” JH: “This is another one we worked on with Jason Evigan. This started as almost like a Bon Iver idea of having a rising falsetto on the chorus. So we had a really beautiful top half that was very cloudlike and dreamy with a beautiful vocal, and we decided to counteract the beauty of it with really hard, edgy drum programming that's sampling wood knocks and lots of wobbly percussion. That just felt like an interesting interplay.”
“Alive / Alive (Reprise)” JH: “A lot of Ty's lyrical gems often come out when we're just jamming on instrumental parts and creating a mood and an emotion. I remember we started this about a month before the pandemic, and I showed him this song by an artist called Lorn called 'Anvil', which is this really beautiful, weird and twisted electronic piece that sounds like it's being crunched and destroyed a little bit, and it has these rising arpeggios. We really wanted to make this on a broken beat, for a bit more of that '90s rave throwback feel. But then as the pandemic progressed, the words took on new meaning.” TL: “This song was really a light at the end of the tunnel for us, after having gone through a tough time reconnecting and talking about uncomfortable feelings and resentments between each other, and then reconnecting as a unit and being excited to get back on the road together.”
“On My Knees” JH: “This one started off more of a techno jam, and the pulsating bass sound reminded me of 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)' by Eurythmics. And then as we progressed, it took on a new identity. We were chopping up Ty's vocals through a Kaoss Pad, which is a trick that I know Radiohead did when they were writing Kid A. We just liked the idea of the song having a more punchy structure.”
“Wildfire” JG: “We'd actually written this track during the period of [2018’s] Solace. We knew there was an amazing song in there, and we just needed more time to find its identity. By leaning into that Nine Inch Nails influence—particularly 'Hurt'—we were able to flesh it out and bring in some of the darkness and twisted elements to the track, and strip away the poppier elements of its former structure. It really brings out the power in the song and the beauty in the vocals without it ever giving you a release.”
“Surrender” JH: “The whole concept was for this to be a healing song. The initial idea started with the mantra part. That was something we were jamming on back in 2020, and it had a completely different identity—that mantra was sitting over different chords and a totally different beat. And then we were jamming on a completely different song in 2021, which was more driving and had these pretty arpeggiated things, as well as this sort of house vocal that Ty was jamming, which is the part that's now in the middle of the song. So we kind of Frankensteined the two together.”
“Devotion” JH: “We were in Joshua Tree for about two and a half months at the start of the pandemic. And then we came back to LA and kept writing, and we did a lot of cool little day trips out to Malibu to write lyrics. Those were really cool, informative explorations for us—to just go out and hang out on the cliffs of Malibu and just take in the sun. And at that point, we were starting to explore lighter feelings instrumentally, and I guess lyrically we went in that direction as well. We had a lot of fun with this one—in the breakdown, we were trying to imagine it as an aquatic breakdown, and making the synths sound like they were made of water.”
“Always” TL: “This felt like a good summary of our experience making the record, of trusting the process, because there was a lot of change that happened for us creatively, and individually in our personal lives, and then as friends. There were a lot of unknowns in terms of whether we would find songs while working within something closer to a nine-to-five structure. There was a fear that we wouldn't necessarily find the gems. And to me, this song feels like that faith and trust.”

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