Blending wellness and meditation with music and dancing, the event encourages people to revel in their body—and then get in touch with it

After being anointed and cleansed with a pale, smoky mix of copal and myrrh, I was welcomed into the “Authenticity Journey”—revealed to be an astral projection ceremony—by the beach off of Papaya Playa Project, a luxury resort in Tulum with bungalows and huts existing peacefully with the surrounding jungle.

During a minor out-of-body experience, a little warm feeling passed over me, where I felt welcomed into this odd rave-hybrid thing called Sundream Festival, put on by the LA-based, Australia-born electronic-live band RÜFÜS DU SOL, in collaboration with Papaya Playa Project.

RÜFÜS DU SOL—made up of singer-guitarist Tyrone Lindqvist, multi-instrumental synth player Jon George, and drummer James Hunt—was nominated for a Grammy this year for the single “Alive,” from its stunningly uplifting album Surrender. The new album, recorded during the pandemic, was transformative for the group. During the recording process, they adopted a daily routine of only working from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., integrating other routines like workouts, meditation, and ice baths as a way to unwind. They continued these practices on tour: Sundream was the manifestation of a newfound love of wellness, something that RÜFÜS DU SOL now feels has kept them healthy, happy, and made them into even better bandmates.

That’s the idea behind Sundream, which sold out so quickly that they added a second weekend: It’s a kind of wellness-forward music experience, where at night there’s euphoric dancing right next to the roaring Gulf Coast, and in the day, there’s yoga, meditation, ceremonies, and even a gratitude tree. Wellness is a big industry these days, but put into practice with the balance of the rave, it actually starts to make a bit of sense. In fact, the whole experience won me over, and as I came back into my body, I felt like this could be a new paradigm for raving: a place to revel in your body, and then get in touch with it.

Maxwell Williams: You were saying last night on stage that you have some history here?

Tyrone Lindqvist: Yeah, it was my first trip with my now wife, four or six months into our relationship. We came back for a show that wasn’t even in Tulum; it was in Playa del Carmen.

Jon George: This concept came from two years ago at the end of a pretty tumultuous year for everybody—2020. We were grinding for a while there, writing the album, and we had this end goal of having a month off for all of us.

We had this holiday period in December, and [I decided] to come down here to Tulum with my girlfriend. The band obviously vibes with the place. It’s so grounding: The beach and the culture are so similar to Byron Bay in Sydney, Australia, where I’m from. That’s where the conversation started. And Papaya Playa—we stayed here for a week during that time. It started like a little egg, and I’m so stoked that it all came to fruition.

“I have to keep going back to appreciate appreciating. I need to be present.”

Maxwell: It started, as you were saying, with RÜFÜS DU SOL just playing here, but then it blossomed into this full-fledged Sundream Festival. How did you start to think about who the other artists were going to be?

James Hunt: This has been a pretty ongoing conversation. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been working really closely with our manager, Danny—it’s kind of his brainchild—and also our creative director Katzki [Alex George], who’s Jon’s brother and who directs all our film clips. The idea became more, How do we curate an experience that isn’t just our set? We wanted to be able to do that here, with some of our favorite DJs and also live electronic acts like WhoMadeWho, who are so analogous to the space we exist in.

Maxwell: You’ve talked in the past about the new record changing your ideas of who you are as a band, and finding new ways to reach inner peace and wellness.

Tyrone: It started in our own lives and within the studio. And then as friends, there’s always been an excitement about wellness and looking after ourselves. If we’re on tour, we always make it a priority to look after our physical aspect. We’ve been integrating the balance of the work-life schedule, where we’re essentially doing a 9-to-5, exercising, and communicating openly with each other. Varying up our exercises as well—like doing some yoga or some physical strength training. It’s just something that we really love.

Jon: When the festival concept was being built, grown, and conceptualized, there was this idea of, There are so many people who love the music, and we’d love it to be an awesome experience. Where you can wake up and have meditation, yoga classes—things that are able to fulfill you, build you up, and then you get to go during the night to the rave. And Papaya Playa are very pro at wellness. They have these excellent smoothies, and we had the strongest ginger shots ever before the gig last night. It all goes hand in hand.

The collaboration with Danny, our manager, and the guys at Papaya Playa [was about], How do we make this ebb and flow in the right way, where it’s not just rave, rave, rave? How do we make this feel like a wholesome event?

Maxwell: It is a new paradigm for a party, though, right? Music festivals, of course—they’re known for being physical by nature. You’re dancing, and all these types of things. But they’re also places of excess.

Sundream has this feeling of balance, where on the last day, there’s not even a music lineup. It’s really just, Here’s a moment to reflect and do the inner work.

James: Yeah. I guess an important part of it is that, in the last five to ten years, there has been an awareness of mental health and things that are good for your wellness. Activities like yoga and meditation are gaining more traction and more awareness in the public space, so it makes sense to integrate that into a festival experience. We did a really sick ceremony yesterday, an intention setting ceremony. There’s a gratitude tree here. These are things that are so related to our personal lives. I’ve been, for the last month, doing daily meditation. It’s been life-changing already.

Tyrone: Also, when we go out on stage and do a show, we get such a rush that we’ve implemented ice baths. It’s a nice regulator to get back into your body, and to come back down to the ground. Going to festivals, seeing live shows—there’s such a big cortisol hit, and you’re just on such a high. You have all of these amazing experiences: You might meet people, you might connect with people, so it’s nice to have a decompression day. Just a moment where you can reflect and stop for a second, because we’re always Go, go, go, go, go.

Jon: That seems like an important part of what the future of music is for us. I think we all agree that self-care centers will be as common as gyms, on every corner in LA or New York. In 20 years time, I think that you will have a place where you can go to use a sauna, meditate, have an IV.

Maxwell: Both for you and for the people that come to the rave, there’s a serotonin explosion, and you need to repair those receptors. I wanted to ask each of you specifically, what is your own self-care regimen? I’ll start with you, James, because you already mentioned daily meditation.

James: Over the last two years, exercise has become so important to my life. I do at least three workouts a week with Ben, our trainer. He actually comes on tour with us. The base level is an exercise regime of three resistance workouts a week. There’s camaraderie and accountability in doing it with a group.

On top of that, there’s therapy. I do weekly therapy—or fortnightly, depending on my schedule. I’ve gotten really into neurohacking with vitamins and nootropics, trying to optimize the way my brain works. And then ice baths, which is something that Jon introduced me to. He’s a beast at it. That was when we started writing Surrender in Joshua Tree. I had no no tolerance; I couldn’t handle 30 seconds in cold water. I was crying like a baby. But gradually, the tolerance has increased. I’d only dabbled in meditation, but over the last month I’ve tried to do it at least daily.

Tyrone: Honestly, [my routine] is evolving day-to-day, because I have a kid. But when I do meditate, that is probably the most effective. Exercise, I’ve been trying to do three, four times a week. I do therapy. That’s been a really big part of the last four years for me.

My relationship with myself—I’ve been working on that a lot. And it’s been hard work, and slow work. Most of my self-care has been in therapy, learning about my family dynamics and the way I relate with the world. I’m glad I found therapy. But I’m also like, ‘Fuck, why?’ Because it means I have to deal with my shit. Four or five years ago, there was a little part of me that was pretending everything was okay. I was lying to myself. It wasn’t very sustainable. So it’s been somewhat hard, but I do feel like I’m in a place now where my son’s a bit older. He’s a little more self-sufficient. He can deal with me doing exercise for an hour, and he’ll play. And getting outside—sunshine is really important.

Maxwell: Gotta get that vitamin D. And Jon, you’re the ice bath guru.

Jon: My house is an ice bath—I go back to my igloo. [Laughs]

No, it’s very similar for me to the other guys: Routine is key. One of the biggest things that I’ve enjoyed over the last two years has been holding a routine. We used to work around the clock. We’d do 6 a.m. [studio hours], abusing ourselves constantly. So I’ve enjoyed putting the work in and treating my body. I’ll get up at whatever time it takes to make sure I fit in the gym, sauna, ice bath. Then I get to the studio. Putting my body through rigorous changes, I see the results, and I feel fantastic from that. I love how we’ve all adopted a routine, as well.

Maxwell: Does this festival feel like the ultimate expression of all of this work?

Tyrone: We’ve always worked from a space of creating things that we would like to consume: In terms of writing music, what would we like to listen to? Or, what do we wish we could hear? We’ve been to a lot of festivals, and we’ve seen a lot of the world in terms of touring. It’s just another space to say something, and to share with other people—but also to selfishly experience ourselves. We all love this place.

Maxwell: And then parallel is the thing with nature and tech. You mentioned this on stage last night, Jon—this idea that nature and tech are really important to you.

Jon: Right from the very beginning of the band, we bonded over the organic and electronic. We’ve always pushed and pulled between those two worlds. Some of our biggest influences are indie rock. [Tyrone and James] were in hard rock bands growing up in school. There’s this great push and pull between organic music and the unknowingness, and the regimented parts of electronic music that we love.

James: That’s a line that we’re constantly treading, especially since we’re a live act. From day one, the project has been a live act, but some of our favorite artists are electronic. So when we write music in the studio, it’s three producers and three songwriters referencing all the music we love—songs and production tricks and feelings. Not even necessarily thinking about the fact that we have a live drummer on stage, live guitars, live synthesizers. In the same way, in the studio, we’re processing organic sounds and doing field recordings.

Jon: I’ll tell you something cool. We were doing the soundcheck [by the beach] yesterday. [In the studio], we put these wave sounds into ‘Devotion.’ [When we played it], James started pushing the wave sounds further into my mix. It’s essentially this idea of capturing nature.

“We’ve always worked from a space of creating things that we would like to consume: In terms of writing music, what would we like to listen to? Or, what do we wish we could hear?”

Tyrone: A lot of our lyrics do that—play with nature in terms of our referencing. And also our film clips [have natural elements]. It’s just an exciting place to live between. We recently had an AI film clip, utilizing real life footage of nature. It’s just a weird but beautiful thing. We work with Katzki, our artistic director. He’s a really great pioneer and visionary in terms of the band’s aesthetic.

Jon: Future tech. We’ve got to shout out Katzki, because he was instrumental in taking this idea [of Sundream] and overseeing it.

Maxwell: Okay, last question. What are your intentions for the rest of the weekend?

Tyrone: My intention is this: On that first trip to Tulum with my wife, we would go for breakfast and meals and she’d be like, ‘Oh, this is my favorite—whatever it was—I’ve ever had.’ And I was like, ‘You are slinging out ‘favorites’ real willy-nilly. Are you sure? I’ve had a lot of cake, and that’s pretty good, but it’s hard to call it a favorite.’ And she said, ‘Choosing favorites is a practice of gratitude.’

When we were doing our intention-setting yesterday, I did a mini meditation. That one sentence came in, and I was like, ‘Ah, alright, gratitude—practicing choosing favorites.’ [It’s] in the micro things: wanting to just feel the texture of all the things around that have made this beautiful festival experience, but also this little resort, and the history of people that have been here before. The waves, the sound, the ocean.

James: One of mine was just being present in the moment, and grateful for where I’m at. So it’s very much on the same tip. When we were playing the set last night, I had a really good experience.

Usually, the crowd has no idea, because we are performers, but you can have internal narratives—if something goes wrong, then it can spiral out. But I had a really good time up there last night, and part of that was the fact that, on my side of the stage, I’m right next to the water. If I was internalizing, if I missed a hit or note or beat, I just looked to the left at the waves like, ‘Everything’s good now.’ My intention is related to that: reminding myself to stay in that zone.

Jon: It’s inspiring to hear that stuff, because I have to keep going back to appreciate appreciating. I need to be present. I also have this hunger to make sure that all the other artists that are here are getting their exposure. So my will and want is to make sure that they are having the time of their life this weekend. I’m really focused on making sure that all of them feel like they are getting their worth and feel appreciated. So that’s honestly where my head’s at. I love that all three of us are pushing each other to make sure we’re present, and that everyone else is getting what they want out of this.