If this was a fairytale, it would be the ‘rags-to-riches’ kind when it comes to one of Australia’s most internationally in-demand artists – 21-year-old beatsmith, Flume. In just 12 short months, the Sydneysider has managed to secure an unbelievable four spots in Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown, sign record deals around the globe, blow away the Yankee industry types at this year’s South By Southwest showcase and lock in his own first-ever headline tour across Australia.
And if you don’t think that’s pretty incredible, then get this: his self-titled debut album beat out One Direction for the number one position on the iTunes chart... Yep, it seems there is some hope for humanity after all.
So, once upon a time there was a boy with a Nutri-Grain cereal box containing a music-making program...
“I’ve always had a fascination with creating music but I didn’t know how to do it and then this cereal box came along with a program in it,” Harley Streten reveals. “It was pretty surreal because by the time I figured it out I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe this, this is great, you can actually make music like this’. It was the start, as simple as it is. From then on, I just got better and better programs and became more aware of how everything really worked. Basically, there was a cereal box and there was a CD inside of it. It was the type of program that would let you make music in whichever style you wanted – pop, rock, dance, whatever.”
It may have been just a simple little “crappy program” but it sure did lay some long-lasting foundations for the then-11-year-old Streten who pretty much instantly realised music was what he was born to do. Less than 18 months since releasing his game-changing single Sleepless, Flume is a bona fide superstar in his native Australia – and well on his way to converting the rest of the world too.
“The response from overseas so far has been amazing,” Streten says. “I just got back from America and that was pretty cool – I just wanted to see how it would go over there for me. I wasn’t too sure about it at first because it’s been the weakest so far with how people have received my music, which is not really bad. I’ve been doing the much bigger venues and much bigger crowds in Europe and the UK rather than America, I haven’t had much trouble selling out shows in Europe. Doing South By Southwest was a pretty good experience, though, even though looking back on it, the whole thing was just totally hectic and a massive blur the whole time. I had to do nine shows in 12 days, so I’d get up, do two shows a day, do a bunch of press and talk to the media, which was actually a lot of fun. I ended up meeting a lot of people and I made quite a few contacts, though I doubt that it’s going to be anything that will make a massive change.”
Besides, Streten’s not too fussed whether it does or doesn’t anyway – it’s Australia that he’s still squarely focused on and it’s making records rather than conquering foreign lands that is the ultimate goal for the young producer. It’s been less than six months since Flume’s debut album reached our ears in full, but Streten is already well on his way to following it up with a bunch of brand new tunes – this time with good pal, Chet Faker, no less.
“We do write well together, really well,” he claims. “We bounce off each other, it’s really easy for us. It’s strange because we’ve only spent a short amount of time together but we’ve managed somehow to get a huge amount of really strong material going. We’ll see what happens, it’s too early to say much more than that, but I can say that we’ve already got some music happening. I also play the sax on one of the tracks we’ve made. I’ve been playing the sax from Year 3 to Year 12... It’s nice to be able to do something different before I get into making the next album because the last thing I want to do is have the second album sound the same or similar to the first one. I don’t want it to get contaminated by pressure from other people – or myself – either. What I’m proud of the most about this album, though, is that it seems to have reached kids that would never have listened to other artists who make music like me. I’ve been really surprised to see kids who listen to One Direction get into my music as well, it’s like it’s really crossed over, which is good.”
But most importantly, Streten is satisfied with the album. In fact, considering what a “perfectionist” he claims to be, it’s amazing the record didn’t take much longer to hit the shelves and iTunes, according to the beatmaker.
“It could have taken longer because I wanted to make sure I was completely happy with it,” he says. “I’m definitely a perfectionist – that’s something that I’ve learned about myself. What’s kind of difficult about releasing your own music is that it’s basically your own soul, you’re putting that out there into the world, you’re letting other people kind of judge it and you know that not everybody is going to like it, obviously. Some people do. I remember when I first started getting a few little blog write-ups last year, which I was stoked about – then FBi and Triple J came along and got behind me. I wouldn’t have thought that such a slow-burner like Sleepless would do what it’s done. I thought, ‘Okay, well maybe it’ll be big for a little while then it’ll have its day after it’s been smashed on Triple J’... I guess it wasn’t just a phase. It’s lasted.
‘So what’s so special about this Flume, anyway?’, you say? Well, before you write him off as just another flash in the pan, consider this:
Flume’s self-titled debut album – released last November – not only earned itself some serious critical acclaim around the world but, in addition to reaching number one on the Australian iTunes charts (and booting Harry Styles and co from pole position), the record also debuted at number two on the ARIA Album Chart. Four of Flume’s tracks (one of which was a remix) also made it into the Triple J Hottest 100 for 2012 (Holdin On reached number four, making it the highest Australian song charted), the success of the tracks eventually leading to Flume’s album being boosted higher on the ARIA Album Chart – at number one, to be precise. In 2012, it was the first electronic album to do so ever since Sneaky Sound System’s 2 back in 2008.
WHAT: Flume (Future Classic)
WHERE: Thebarton Theatre
WHEN: Wed May 8