If there’s one thing RÜFÜS DU SOL knows how to do – it’s throw a good party. After years of dominating festivals across the world – in Bali, Ibiza, and Brazil, to name a few – the Australian band has finally created their own experience. Sundream Baja is unlike any music experience you’ve likely ever been to and has built a legacy of attracting the best of the best. In addition, to live performances, the four-day event also includes art installations and wellness activities at the El Ganzo Sculpture Gardens. Vedic meditation, yoga, sound healing and more have been weaved into the festival schedule as those practices of self-care have become important rituals for the band in between their sets. And after a successful debut in Tulum last year, the festival makes its way to the other coast, in San José del Cabo. Surrounded by the Sea of Cortez’s crystal waters and backdropped by the city’s iconic palm trees, the festival was certainly a feast for the senses. Throughout the sets, the power of nature was omnipresent. As you were grounded in the beautiful Baja California landscape, booming beats and synths would wash over you from the open-air stage.
“For our live Sundream show, we brought it into a space that could be opened under the stars. It’s something we’ve learned after years of playing thousands of shows – that’s the space that seems to be an amazing experience for someone,” guitarist and vocalist Tyrone Lindqvist shares with V. “So it was just a no-brainer that we would want to have under the stars, under the trees.”
This year featured a diverse host of performances, from Dixon and Bedouin to Jimi Jules and Cassian. For the past few years, the band’s ongoing commitment to highlighting the less well-known and avant-garde movement leaders has come to the forefront – and this festival was no different. In addition to these stellar international acts, there were also performances from Ukiyo, DJ Puma, and Mystery Affair. For RÜFÜS DU SOL’s own performance last Thursday, the guys performed lyrical renditions of more recent releases (“Surrender”, “On My Knees”) as well as fan favorites (“Interbloom”, “Underwater”, and obviously “Sundream”). The trio also returned to the stage on Saturday night with an electrifying DJ set to close out the festival.
“It definitely feels more like a festival than last year, just in terms of scale,” drummer James Hunt elaborates. “But I think it’s still retained the family camaraderie – you’re getting to know people on the first day, second day, and then you’re seeing familiar faces throughout the next three days.”
The whole festival was situated in Crania and in close proximity to Hotel El Ganzo, a B Corp Certified boutique hotel in Los Cabos. The band shared that they specifically chose Hotel El Ganzo for its dedication to local art and culture. In addition to an in-house recording studio (a place the band visited during their stay), the hotel also features a one-of-a-kind artist-in-residence program that invites artists worldwide to create masterpieces and use El Ganzo as their canvas. The immersive, transcendental ethos that has come to be associated with RÜFÜS DU SOL and its global community is reflected in this festival and its grounds. And as you can imagine, an initiative such as this would be a tough hill to climb, yet the whole experience was highly curated by the band themselves – even down to the hard kombucha that was served. Mate Maker, the band’s own brand, debuted a new flavor at the festival, which featured a harmonious blend of pineapple, cinnamon, and green tea.
It’s been quite the year for the band as the festival comes hot on the heels of RÜFÜS’s one Grammy win and two nominations last year. And it looks like they’re just getting started as the band is set to embark on another US leg of their Surrender tour this summer. During their two-week-long stint, they’ll visit Boston, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and more (you can learn more about their tour here).
Ahead of their inaugural performance, RÜFÜS DU SOL took a break from Closing Weekend to talk fashion, Mexico, and how Sundream Baja came to be the festival it is today.
V MAGAZINE: Thanks so much for chatting with us. How have you guys been preparing for Sundream Baja and these two weekends in San José del Cabo?
JAMES HUNT: We have a pretty amazing creative team who are very much the visionaries behind this festival. Our management and the band spent a lot of time thinking about the lineups we wanted to curate. But in addition to that, we had the first Sundream last year, and that was in Tulum. So we were able to use the infrastructure that was built into that. Whereas this year, it was building from the ground up on this space that they’ve only done a couple of live shows in. So our team had a lot more work cut out for them to create this boutique bespoke thing and create the stage piece. A lot of design and thought went into creating an experience as you walk into the festival with pieces of art and sound installations, and then the stage itself is a piece of art. The way it developed, it turned into this really bespoke thing and it felt like it all crystallized last weekend. We played on stage and it was really cool, but it’s hard to feel what it looks like from the crowd. So after the set we saw all the videos, and it looked crazy. So it was really cool.
V: So cool! And how would you describe the energy of last weekend? What was the crowd like?
JH: It was really friendly. It feels like a really nice family out there. We had a lot of friends and family that were here for the event in general so I don’t know if that was affecting our perception of what it was like out there. But from everyone we met and the show that we played, everyone was so loving, and they just looked happy to be here. I mean, I imagine it’s hard not to be happy when you’re in a beautiful location like here. Something happens when the sun goes down, the festival really comes to life. It really brings out a lot of joy in people’s faces, and you see some fun outfits. It definitely feels more like a festival than, say, last year, just in terms of scale. But I think it’s still retained the family camaraderie – you’re getting to know people on the first day, second day, and then you’re seeing familiar faces throughout the next three days.
V: Yeah, the core community ethos. Perhaps some people attended last year and returned this year with their new friends. And you brought up outfits of festival goers, I’m curious about how guys go about curating outfits for your set. Do you collaborate and think through it together?
JH: It’s very connected now. We basically made the decision five years ago that we wanted to adopt more of a classic black look on stage. So we have uniforms, and at the time, we did these press shots for Surrender in all black, whereas previously, we had bits and pieces of color. It felt like a cool statement, and that’s allowed us a creative restriction to play within. So now it’s really fun to figure out what textures are in black – what kind of materials reflect differently and how to emphasize pieces of jewelry against the black. So we usually go in saying, ‘I’m gonna wear this tonight,’ and see how that bounces off what everyone else is wearing. So there’s definitely a dialogue about it.
V: Do you guys have any favorite designers that you like to pull from for your sets?
JH: I have a Saint Laurent nylon shirt. It reflects light very weirdly. It always looks really cool in videos, it looks like a piece of liquid. There’s also another brand called RTA that is an LA-based brand, and they gifted us a bunch of pieces over the years – some really cool velour sets.
TYRONE LINDQVIST: Also jewelry wise, I really love this brand called Clocks and Colours from Toronto, and then an Australian brand called Black DeVille. Basically, anything that looks a bit organic or like it’s growing from the earth. I really like things like that.
V: Yeah, I totally get that. And as you guys talked about the festival’s debut in Tulum last year. This year, it’s in San José del Cabo, which is such a beautiful place. Why did you guys choose to have it here? Do you guys have any personal connections to this place?
JH: Yeah, in the broader scheme of things, having one on the opposite coast of Mexico is so exciting. In general, we love being here in Mexico – the people, the culture and the culture of music. Having it on a different Coast felt like fresh energy. But then, on top of that, there have been some reconnaissance missions, checking out different spots, and this spot popped up. It felt really cool because it has a bit more of a deserty feel. It’s in the less popular part of Cabo, and it’s less attached to a tourist destination, but it’s still very accessible for people who want to come to the festival and this venue itself. The hotel has an amazing studio and aesthetic. There’s a certain groundedness to it, and it just had a really cool vibe. They’ve only done a couple of shows in that space of the field where the main stage is, so that felt exciting to put on what would be the biggest production for that space to date. A lot of the team came and checked it out, and we felt really excited about what it had to offer.
V: When talking about El Ganzo Hotel as an accommodation and space to relax after the festival, how did that come to be? What really drew you to this specific property besides having the space to hold a venue like this?
JH: I think it’s just that the hotel has such a strong tie to art and music. It also has this amazing studio in it that we spent some time in a week ago – just hanging out in the space, and we used that actual studio as our rehearsal space before we got on stage. They were showing us the hardware and the synths in there, and we’re synth nerds, so it was really cool checking that out. So as the hotel had that ingrained in it, it resonated with us a little stronger instead of just being some accommodation. There was a sense of space, all the little cactuses, weird bars and the infinity pool on the top. It is a really cool and well-curated hotel. And I feel like it matched the ethos of the festival and what we want people to experience when they’re coming to our festival.
V: And you guys talked about how you played a lot of shows in Mexico – you did Monterrey and Mexico City last week. Can you talk about your fans, specifically in Mexico City, and the energy that they bring? What do you love about playing in this country?
TL: Those shows were really, really epic. It’s been really a big, pleasant and wonderful surprise getting to do those shows that are much bigger than what we thought they would be. We had to get bigger venues for a few of the shows, and the crowds felt very local, which is just really beautiful. That show in Mexico City felt so epic because it was like an indoor arena, so it was really encompassing. While it was quite large, it still felt rather intimate, you could see the people in the back. It just had this really wild energy where it just felt like something special was happening. Also anytime we met any of the fans while being in the cities themselves, they were just so sweet and really respectful. It’s just a very exciting new market for us because we’ve only come down here a few times.
V: I know you guys have played in many beautiful places – Bali, Brazil, and Ibiza. How did you implement those energies and various locations into this set at Sundream?
JH: Our live show seems to be perfectly satisfied when in an open setting. Having shows in arenas is incredible and there’s a different kind of energy that bounces off those venues, but some of the most momentous and epic sets we’ve played have been in nature and in places like Red Rocks and the Gorge in the US. But yeah, playing in amazing outdoor theaters in Brazil. Our live show in Sundream and bringing it into the space to be opened under the stars is something we’ve learned after years of playing thousands of shows – that’s the space that seems to be an amazing experience for someone. So it was just a no-brainer we would want to have under the stars and the trees. Our lighting designer and creative director are geniuses – accentuating certain moments and allowing negative space. So people can see the night sky, and it was a full moon last week. So it’s kind of all playing off each other, and like, there’s an awareness of the fact that there’s this extra element to the live show, which is just nature.
V: Yeah, it’s a very immersive experience. And there’s also wellness programming woven in the festival. Why was that an important choice for you guys?
JH: Wellness is a huge part of our lives, and it’s something we’ve found that has helped us, especially over the last five years, to evolve as a band. We started to embrace aspects of wellness and things like self-care to help the way we tour. Things like ice baths are something that we regularly do now. We do saunas, and we work out almost every day when we’re on tour. And these are things that are just integrated into our lives just to help us feel better. And it just feels like a no-brainer for us to push that as well. There’s also a meditation course that is here, taught by one of our good friends in Australia. I actually started it two days ago. So I’m on day three of it, it’s really cool. It’s opening my mind up to tools that I have access to that are really simple that can help me to feel better and more present. Especially in a space where music is played, it feels like a more forward thinking approach to have these aspects integrated with the entire festival. There can be hedonism, but there can be wellness and health and introspection, and it can all coexist.
V: Yeah, it’s all a balance. I wanted to also ask about the lineup, Sundream features an amazing lineup. How did you guys curate this final list of artists?
JH: We’re pretty fortunate to be able to write a list of our favorite acts, and then we can reach out to those acts and see if they’re available to play. WEVAL is definitely an act that we reference a lot in terms of us making music in the studio.
TL: And MONOLINK.
JH: 100%. We’re really focused on having a balanced lineup in terms of male and female acts. And essentially, it’s all coming up acts that we’re most excited to see blossom. There’s also a couple of artists in the lineup that are on our label, Rose Avenue. So it’s an opportunity to push that sound. There’s Modern Tales, which is a new act. One of the guys in it is a legendary DJ called Jonas Rathsman. He’s also doing a solo set during the weekend, which is cool. And Cassian as well, Cassian is a really good friend of mine. He makes his own music, he’s an amazing producer and DJ as well. He’s having a moment, which is really cool. So it’s nice to have him here. We just put out this remix he did of “Great Southern Land,” which is a legendary Australian track that he did a re-record when it came out two days ago on our label. So it feels like a cool moment to celebrate that, having just come out.
V: It’s always nice to have friends who you’re also really big supporters of as well. Finally, if there was one specific aim or goal that you guys hope to do with this, what would that be?
TL: I feel like my favorite experiences with festivals – where I’ve really had a transcendent moment where I’m like, ‘What? This is the most unique magical experience I’ve ever had’ have come from shows that have been embedded in nature and a unique experience that I haven’t had before. So whether that’s a new location, or there’s this festival called Pitch Arts Music Festival in Australia – it’s pretty small, but it’s this immersive experience that I feel like we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from for Sundream. There’s great art installations and it’s just a really balanced festival, and the demographic of people that go there just really loves music and being out in nature. I feel like that is definitely one of the most important things to offer – just having this music that we love in a natural environment, surrounded by art, and trusting that the people that kind of resonate with that.
JH: Yeah, I think Tyrone said it very well. I feel like we’ve successfully pulled off creating a very specific space that pushes a specific sound that we love. It’s a safe space. And it’s something that yet feels very creatively engaged. From walking in the front door, there’s just like a little journey we’ve curated of art, sound, and music. And all the reports from last weekend, everyone was coming up saying that such an amazing time. We’re really stoked and really grateful. It also brings together a lot of people. I think there seems to be a really strong sense of community that’s building, which feels really cool. We definitely saw a lot of faces from last year’s event again last weekend.