Interview | Flume

It’s been a crazy year for Sydney beatmaker, Harley Streten AKA Flume. He signed with Future Classic only last year, and now it’s difficult to escape this ‘It’ boy’s tunes (like you’d want to). Having performed at sold out, headline shows around the country and support gigs for The XX under his belt, Harley describes his rise to popularity a complete “mind fuck.” His amazing self-titled sophomore has just been released to a legion of what I can only describe as frothing fans, and Harley promises bigger, more interactive live shows to follow its release. I had a chat to the prodigy about the new album, touring and coming to terms with his own success.

MM: How did you first get into producing?
F: It first came about when I was shopping with my Dad one time and there was this promotion on for a music making program in a cereal box, Nutri-Grain actually, it was Andrew G’s music-maker. I thought it was a really cool idea, brought it home, thought it was coolest thing ever. Ever since then I’ve just been getting better and better programs. That must have been about nine years ago, I’ve been doing it off and on as a hobby and probably in the last two or three years it’s gotten serious and I’ve been working every day.

MM: “Sleepless” has been re-released and is also on Vinyl, and then the new album’s almost out, that must all be so exciting!
F: Yeah it is, we’re kind of doing it properly, because it was kind of a small time thing before and we didn’t really have any expectations for it. Now that it’s proven itself as something that people are into, we’re going to do it properly, with all the stuff and that’s just before the album. The album comes out really soon.

MM: So that’s all done and dusted?
F: All done and dusted, yeah. It’s being printed now.

MM: How do you go about writing and producing your music?
F: First of all I have to be in the right headspace. I have a bunch of techniques, I have to be happy and have had exercise and feeling good. Basically, brain working at one-hundred percent. I like to start working on a beat first, or I work with the chord progression. Then [I] go from there, and slowly build parts on top of each other. I usually then go to make an A or a B section, or verse and a chorus section, then once I’ve got the main parts of a song, I’ll map it out into the structure I want and turn it into a proper song.

MM: Did you have any other musical training outside of that? It sounds like you’ve learned some nice little formulas.
F: Yeah, I’ve made procedures like that because otherwise you get caught up on things that don’t matter. Back in the day, it used to be like, one person conducting, one person playing the clarinet, one person tuning a piano and things like that. As a producer you have to do everything yourself so you can easily get caught up on stuff, so my way out of that is creating a bunch of little formulas to get things done. But yeah, I also played saxophone for nine years.

MM: What sort of stuff inspired you when you were writing for the new album?
F: On most of the album, probably about 70% was written overseas. I went overseas for the first time with a friend to Europe and travelled around with my laptop. I took it along not expecting much because I wasn’t near a studio but I ended up coming out with a huge amount of material. Most of my tunes were written in cafes, I’d sit down somewhere, have the day to myself, go ride my bike somewhere and buy some coffees and some food and and sit next to a powerpoint for three or four hours and make music. So I wrote a huge amount of the album there. I think, if I write another album, I’m going to go adventure and do it that way again.

MM: Yeah it sounds like a good way to do it. Who are some people that influence you or that you listen to?
F: I’ve narrowed it down to early nineties trance music, the French electro scene, the whole Justice, Sebastian kind of sound. As well as  Moby, M83, and Flying Lotus.

MM: How was touring with the Triple J House Party?
F: Yeah, that was great, there was a lot of drinking and partying. Every single one of them was huge, they were all massive. It was crazy but it was great fun. I think the best part was touring with everyone, because as Flume I tour by myself but with the house party we were all together so it made it a lot of fun.

MM: You’ve supported with people like The XX as well, how was that experience?
F: That was pretty nuts.

MM: Did you get to hang out with them much?
F: Yeah, after some of the shows we’d go and grab beers and hang out. They were all really chilled and really cool people to hang out with. They’re one of my all time favourite bands, so it was pretty surreal.

MM: What’s been your favourite gig that you’ve done so far?
F:  Ooh, that’s tricky. I think one of the most badass was probably Splendour. That was by far the most insane. It was mainly the sheer size of it. It was pretty overwhelming, I had no expectations for it, I didn’t think it was going to be that full on. I thought a few people might come down but didn’t expect anywhere near that amount of people so it was just completely overwhelming, there was probably about seven or eight times bigger than any crowd I’ve ever been to so it was just like… yeah.

MM:  You’re heading off to the US soon, has all of this sunk in yet? It seems to have all happened really quickly.
F: Slowly. It was all a real shock to the system, probably about four months ago when I started having actual fans I think that was the biggest mind fuck. Having fans around the country. I’m slowly getting to terms with it but I think about it every day, how messed up and hectic it is. It’s all happening so fast.

MM: You’re 20 right now, right?
F: Yeah

MM: Same, you make me feel so unaccomplished.
F: (laughs) Nah, I was working at a newsagency… Okay, I came out of school, bummed around for about six months, just fucked around playing video games. Then I worked at a newsagency for a year, got out of that. Worked at Hard Rock Cafe for four months, left that and then just did the music. Then it was getting a bit full on so I had to do the album. It really just happened like that.

MM: So what else are you working on at the moment, are you just focusing on getting everything out and touring?
FF:  Now that the album’s finished I’m putting most of my time into another project, What So Not. We want to have our EP finished this month. As soon as that’s out I’m going to put all of my attention back onto Flume. I’m concentrating all on the live show, and getting a big range of elements. I’ve got a whole bunch of equipment I’m starting to buy to make it a bit more interactive. Also, we want to work on a really cool light show. So that, and also a few remixes which I’m excited about.

Flume’s self-titled album is available for purchase now. You can also listen here.