Harley Streten likes burgers for breakfast, ranch dressing and Froot Loops. He loves... surfing, Wolverine and his dog, Sam - but his other dog, Scruffy, not so much.
When Streten was thirteen-years-old, a chance encounter at his local supermarket spotting a box of Nutri-Grain cereal with a music production programme inside, kickstarted his love for sample packs, plug-ins and vintage analogue hardware... and as they say, the rest is Flume - inspired by the Bon Iver song of the same name - history.
Flume fans - Flumies? - you ought to address your thanks to a little application called 'Andrew G's Music Maker'.
Twenty-one-year-old Streten boasts a Number One album in his homeland, Australia - that was certified platinum within five weeks - and has headlined [or been announced to play] every Australasian music festival known to humankind, all in the space of two Summers.
The Manly native - i.e. a suburb in Sydney's Northern Beaches - kindly cut short a recent sleep-in, to talk to Coup De Main about Flume's upcoming return to New Zealand via his 'Infinity Prism Tour', the importance of maintaining musical integrity and his past-life as a champion Pokémon Master...
P.S. Yes, this is that interview during which a Flume/Lorde collaboration was born.
"I feel like with the first album... a lot of people who don’t listen to that kind of music starting listening to it and it converted a bunch of people and opened up what they thought about electronic music and made them try something new - I want to try and do that again. I don’t want to spoon-feed them what I know they’ll like."
CDM: Last time I saw you it was at Laneway in New Zealand! Do you have any favourite New Zealand memories from that visit?
FLUME - HARLEY STRETEN: Ah, that was actually a fun little show! That was the first ever Laneway that I’d actually played, it was cool. It was a little stage set-up, but probably my favourite memory was the fact that I had to catch a boat to get to the stage because it backed onto the water. We actually drove around and caught a boat which moored behind the stage and then you’d go play, then when I finished I jumped back on the boat and it was nighttime, and then we cruised back.
CDM: And then a crazy girl attacked you with a lolly lei. That was me.
FLUME: Aww, right!
CDM: You're returning to New Zealand this October, are you looking forward to coming back?
FLUME: Yeah I feel like New Zealand’s a bit of an unchartered territory for me in a way. I’ve done the Laneway festival and I did Rhythm and Vines, but that was quite early on in the Flume thing. Now, it’s a lot different now, we’ve got a full show and everything. I haven’t really been to New Zealand in the last little while, so I’m just quite actually surprised at the response it’s gotten from the shows and stuff.
CDM: What's it been like going on your first headlining 'Infinity Prism Tour', as opposed to playing festivals and after-parties?
FLUME: When it’s your own thing there’s a lot more pressure to make it awesome, since these people bought tickets specifically for you. Whereas at the festivals, you’re one of many acts on a bill so I find it’s less pressure. They’re both good in their own right. I like your own shows because you can have a bit more fun and extend your set, you can go a bit over if you want because it’s your show. Whereas at festivals it's very strict, like if you go like two minutes over they get ready to pull the plug kind-of-thing. They’re both good and bad.
CDM: Did you have fun playing Splendour In The Grass this year?
FLUME: Splendour was great. It was strange, because I played that tent last year but I opened the tent, and then this year I came back and played the same tent but I closed it this year. It was quite odd coming into the festival and thinking: "Man, that was only just last year that that happened." It was really my first festival show, Splendour. So coming back, it actually felt like it had been like three years ago or four years ago, because so much had happened in the meantime.
CDM: What do you want people to take away from and/or feel while attending your live shows?
FLUME: What’s funny for me is that I made a lot of the music I make with intentions of it being a song you listen to, to chill out. There’s the kids that go nuts over stuff like 'Sleepless' and it’s funny seeing people getting really into it - I’ve seen kids doing death circle things and all sorts of shit to super chilled-out tracks. I’m just really happy that it can translate on both levels. You can just drive around and relax listening to the music, but then also it's weird because it seems to translate and people go hard to it and you can dance to it. Just have a good time!
CDM: You've had a lot of chart and touring success, but what to you is the ultimate measure of success?
FLUME: That’s a good question. I think the ultimate measure of success is... there’s a lot of pressure because it’s got to this point where it’s like 'make another 'HyperParadise'' or ‘make another 'Holdin’ On'' and there is that pressure now of delivering, now that I’ve got an audience and it's broken into the mainstream, to feed the audience with... I feel it because I know I could write an album, so [that] the next album would essentially spoon-feed them and it would do well and it would be similar to what I did last time and the kids would really enjoy it. But what I WANT to do is, I want to write something that’s different! I feel like with the first album... a lot of people who don’t listen to that kind of music starting listening to it and it converted a bunch of people and opened up what they thought about electronic music and made them try something new - I want to try and do that again. I don’t want to spoon-feed them what I know they’ll like. So, I think maintaining your integrity like that is definitely more important than charting and stuff like that.
CDM: But of course, it must have been a nice bonus when you beat One Direction on the ARIA album chart!
FLUME: Yes, that was rad for us! I knew that they were coming out on the same day and it wasn’t even an option in my head that it could possibly beat them, so when it happened, it was pretty nice. It was definitely refreshing to see that it is a possibility - like the fact that it is actually possible - it didn’t even cross my mind, so to see that that is possible is just super cool and it’s a really good thing and a good sign for Australian music. I think guys like Triple J and FBi and 3RRR... there’s a bunch of radio stations and stuff over this way that are just doing the right thing, and it’s cool to see that it's actually getting up there in the charts.
CDM: How exactly does the Flume songwriting process work?
FLUME: It varies, but usually I’ll start it with a drumbeat. I usually source really odd sounds. I’ll trawl through thousands of samples and sample-packs and all sorts of things to find really cool kick drums and really cool snare drums - really whack sounds, essentially. Then I’ll try to work them into a piece of music.
CDM: When you're working on beats, how do you know THAT'S a beat you'll use for a song? Do you get some kind of special feeling?
FLUME: Yeah, I just get excited. I’ve been doing this for a while and you always get excited, you always think your own music is the best music. Once you make something you think it’s awesome, but it's only after you listen to it for a few weeks then you actually get a proper perspective on it. I’ve learnt now. I always do something and I’d be like: "Oh my god, that is so great!" But then there’s not many that actually do come through. Sometimes you can just tell there’s something unique about it, but you can never really truly tell until you show it to a third party - you show it to you friends, or you show it to people you know that know about music like my label or those kinda people. When people are getting excited about it that’s when you know it’s a goer, because you can’t really tell when it’s you, because you made the thing.
CDM: Obviously, instrumental breakdowns are quite a recognised hallmark of your music - do you think they can be just as powerful and emotive as music that does have lyrics?
FLUME: Absolutely! Most of the music I’ve listened to or grew up listening to - a lot of it at least - is instrumental stuff. I’m a massive fan of J Dilla, instrumental hip-hop, Flying Lotus... I probably listen to more instrumental music than music with lyrics, but at the same time I do love both. It’s more that with the album for me because I don’t sing, it’s more my own thing if I do instrumentals, but I also do really love collaborating with vocalists, so it’s a good balance.
CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
FLUME: Music really does just boil down to basically, essentially songwriting chords and melodies. It’s one thing having a great song, but I think for me if you take it to the next level... say you had a guitar and a vocal, and the song was amazing but the vocalist wasn’t that great and it just was a guitar and vocal acoustic track, switching that to something like an amazing voice singing the exact same song with the instrumentation being really nice and lush or unique in some way and interesting and diverse... I think it’s all about the instrumentation and textures in the sound. I’m all for in my production, creating really unique textures and sounds - for me that’s what I love about music.
CDM: I have a message from Lorde for you: "When are you gonna send me something to work on? I wanna make somethin vibey!"
FLUME: Oh really? No ways! Yeah absolutely! I saw her at Splendour actually when she came over and Frank Ocean pulled out - Lorde came and she freakin’ killed it. I’m a fan of her stuff. Alright, I’m sure we can make something happen. Rad, maybe I’ll send her a tweet now then.
CDM: We're now going to play a game of 'True or False?'. I'll read out a statement and you tell me if it's true or false... Forget Flume, you are actually Harley Streten, Champion Pokémon Master.
FLUME: False. Well, I was a champion Pokémon master back in the day, but I've let go of my Pokémon cards now. I let my game down!
CDM: What So Not makes cool music and everyone should check them out.
CDM: Your dog Sam is your best friend in the whole wide world.
FLUME: Yeah, we get on pretty well - I’m gonna go true.
CDM: You've signed on with the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union on a two year contract.
CDM: For the record, that 'fact' was posted on your Wikipedia page. So bizarrely random!
FLUME: Wait, can you read that again? <laughs> Absolutely not! That’s pretty odd.
CDM: True or false... you need a bigger shelf for the alcohol collection in your bedroom.
FLUME: True! Yeah, it’s expanding by the day. I just actually moved out of home literally two days ago, so I’m on the hunt for a shelf.
CDM: Wow, congrats! You’re almost a real person now.
FLUME: <laughs> A functioning member of society! Paying tax, got my own place...
CDM: A friendship-crush is someone that you have no romantic interest in whatsoever, but just really wish that you were best friends with them. Who would be your top five friendship-crushes, living or dead?
FLUME: Jamie xx, Flying Lotus, Wolverine - yeah Hugh Jackman - that’d be cool having Wolverine as your mate and going out to the city with Wolverine... I don’t know, who would you want to be your best friend?
CDM: I think Jennifer Lawrence would be pretty fun.
FLUME: Yeah. Actually you need a comedian, so Will Ferrell, I’ll get him involved and maybe Zach Galifianakis, that could be fun. That’d be a cool posse - Wolverine, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis.
CDM: That’s a literal wolfpack.
FLUME: It is, literally! <laughs>
CDM: What do you consider to be the greatest love song of all time?
FLUME: I actually love that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song, ‘Home'.
CDM: What are your five favourite things in the whole wide world?
FLUME: I love my studio, I do, I do - that’s what I miss. Let’s see, what do I miss when I go overseas mostly? I miss my studio, I miss going surfing at the beach, I miss Sam, not so much Scruffy - Scruffy’s my other dog but he’s a bit of a pain... nah, he’s alright - I miss this Australian weather, Australian weather’s amazing! You notice that when you go overseas. And family and friends, I’ll chuck that in there.
CDM: What's left on your bucket-list that you'd really like to achieve?
FLUME: I want to write a score for a film. It can be a proper film, maybe for a film kind of like... I saw that movie 'Drive', or a bit of a 'Blade Runner' vibe. A little bit sci-fi, but I don’t know. I’ve just always wanted to write a score for a film.
CDM: That was actually going to be my next question - I was going to ask if you could see yourself being a musical director for other projects.
FLUME: Yeah absolutely! The Flume thing, I kind of want to do it right now and push it. Maybe do a few records, maybe two or three records and then I want to branch out and do all sorts of stuff - writing for films and games, TV, and I want to write for other artists. It could be fun to even try and write like a Katy Perry track! This or that, different challenges, as well as doing the Flume thing. Just challenging myself in all sorts of ways.
CDM: Rad. And more saxophone, please.
FLUME: The saxophone’s going to start making more of an appearance for sure.
CDM: And what’s next for Flume?
FLUME: Hopefully some new music - my touring schedule is pretty relentless at the moment, but we’re nearly there. What’s next for Flume? A track with Lorde - that’s what’s happening!
Flume's debut self-titled album is out now - featuring 'Holdin On', 'On Top', 'Sleepless' and 'Insane'. Click HERE to purchase via iTunes.
FLUME - OCTOBER 2013 NEW ZEALAND TOUR
Tuesday 8 October – Logan Campbell Centre – Auckland.
Wednesday 9 October – Logan Campbell Centre – Auckland.
Friday 11 October – Edgar Centre – Dunedin.
Saturday 12 October – Wellington Racing Club in Trentham Racecourse – Wellington.
Click HERE to read CDM Issue #9.
Watch the 'Insane' music video below...