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Jon George and several members of the Rüfüs Du Sol team are camped out in a suite of the Hotel El Ganzo in San José del Cabo, Mexico, in a way celebrating the manifestation of two very personal projects. The first is their Sundream Festival, in which they are about to perform later on this evening. While the inaugural three-day fest launched last year in Tulúm, this is the first edition in their now semi-permanent home on the southern tip of Baja California.
The second is Mate Maker, the hard kombucha the team are sharing while we talk.
In between sips of the pastel can in his hand, George, the keyboardist and founding member of Grammy Award-winning Australian dance act, explains that the genesis of this Mate Maker project reaches back to 2018, when the lads first moved into their infamous Venice house — that heady patch of earth which gave the group’s label its name (Rose Avenue). While writing and recording their current smash, “Surrender,” they were trying to clean up their act a bit, seeking ways to become more health conscious.
This was at a time when the band — George, vocalist Tyrone Lindqvist and drummer James Hunt — found itself at a crossroads. After spending the previous decade indulging in the libertine rock star lifestyle, they moved to the deserts of Joshua Tree to record their last album, focusing on mental and physiological health. As they told me at the time, they went from “tequila shots and afterparties to ginger shots and after-show ice baths.”
“We were catching a vibe, writing, and we started ordering hard kombucha and were like, ‘This is sick!’” recalls George. “We’d never had it in Australia, we’d just relocated [to Los Angeles] so it became a thing we would always have at the house. You know different brands, trying ’em all out.”
Recognizing the category could find success in their fitness and outdoor-driven homeland, the boys played around with the idea of importing an existing brand down under. “We kind of thought, ‘Wait, this isn’t happening in Australia — why is that?’” asks George rhetorically. “So we kind of incubated that thought for a while. And then Jezzy and I were going on a snowboarding trip to Mammoth.’”
“It was perfect timing cuz like, there’s no better time to pitch it than like a five-hour car ride,” Justin ‘Jezzy’ Medcraft recalls, laughing at his sales pitch to George and Rüfüs’ longtime manager Danny Robson. “So I locked the doors and I was like, ‘Danny, this is what we want to do.’ And he was like, ‘Well man, it’s funny cuz we were wanting to do the same sort of thing!’ That was on the way up, and then on the way home we kind of like, came up with our plan. So it was funny how that trip just solidified everything really quickly.”
The ease and relative pace of the project can be attributed to one fundamental ingredient: trust. The gents have known each other since childhood, as George, Robson and Medcraft all went to high school together. When the Rüfüs guys moved to LA, Medcraft was already in New York working as a global senior brand manager for drinks giant Diageo, already years into his decade-plus career in the spirits and beverage business.
“When this idea came up, it really felt like there was an underlying set of trust and friendship there — that’s ultimately what this whole idea was about,” shares George. “It was about building a business with your mates, something that we could all give to our friends, our community. And I think that’s probably why it feels so special — there’s a lot of brands out there that get put together by random people, but there’s legitimately over 20 years of mateship and friendship in this thing. So it feels special to be able to do it together.”
Quality was prioritized by all members of the Mate Maker project, as well as authenticity and transparency. In those aspects the guys don’t really cut corners. First in their music, an impeccably produced hybrid of house, techno and live musicianship. Five Grammy nominations, a sold-out world tour now in its third year and a half-billion streams of “Surrender” are all evidence of that.
Buy Surrender (Red Vinyl) $33.49
Then there’s their new baby the Sundream Baja Festival. At one point, a team member confides in how the inefficiency of the sweat labor to financial ROI simply doesn’t add up when compared to selling out an arena show. But the emotional reward of creating something meaningful and unforgettable for their rabid fanbase — self-dubbed ‘Du Sols’ — more than justifies the weeks of planning, production and execution.
And the same can be said of their hard kombucha. The can of Mate Maker Mango/Peach Smash lists just five ingredients: organic green tea kombucha, water, lemon and real mango and peach purée, made from 100% fruit. Naturally small batch brewed with organic, real and simple ingredients, Mate Maker adds no artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors or hidden ingredients you can’t pronounce. The green tea is ethically-sourced, with no plastic used in the 100% recyclable packaging. Their partnership with One Percent for the Planet campaign means 1% of their sales revenue are donated to climate change-combating nonprofits.
“It’s a sustainably minded drinks business with the goal of bringing people together,” Medcraft explains.
Buy Mate Maker 24-Pack $63.99
On top of their Mango/Peach Smash and Blood Orange P.O.G flavors, the team debuted Pineapple Sundream at the festival. Inspired by the ancient fermented Mexican pineapple drink tepache, Rüfüs opted to first offer their new flavor to friends, family and fans in San José del Cabo.
“It’s exciting for us,” says George, knee bouncing animatedly. “Like I was just turning up to barbecues and parties in Australia with pallets of these drinks and was super, super proud to be a founder of it.”
“We haven’t jumped into any brand collabs and brand partnerships all over the place,” adds Robson, revealing his judicious managerial instincts. “Like what you say no to is as important as what you say yes to.”
“There’s an element of trust with having your best mates involved that you want to make sure you’re living up to something that we’re all gonna be proud of,” Medcraft continues. “Early on we had a couple products that might have taken that easy route that we weren’t happy with, but then at the end of the day we’re always like, ‘Is this something that we’re gonna be proud of to release?’ And you know, there’s a lot of trust between 20 years of friendship. I would never want to not be true to that, and so we all hold each other really accountable — and that’s probably why doing it with your mates is so good, because it’s easy to have those conversations, you know?”