A hyped Coachella set, upcoming world tour and a second album – it’s an exciting year for music producer Flume. He talks technology and on-stage style.
This article was originally published on MATCHESFASHION.COM.
Spend more time at your computer. Self-confessed screen worshipper Flume does, and it’s worked for him. The 24-year-old electronic music producer, known to his friends as Harley Edward Streten, is chatting to me from LA ahead of his world tour, second album release and Coachella set. I begin by congratulating him on his recent Australian number one with Never Be Like You, a shuddering R&B-infused track featuring Canadian singer Kai, which has amassed nearly 54 million plays on Spotify and experienced reincarnation in the form of a hallowed Disclosure remix. ‘Thanks,’ he replies, his Sydney lilt sounding as melodic as his synth-dominated music.
‘It’s nice to be in one country for while,’ he continues. He’s about to spend the next fortnight in LA, gearing up for Coachella. ‘I just really want to nail it and do an awesome show,’ he enthuses. Does he miss home? ‘All the time. I miss being able to wake up and go surfing in the morning. It’s just the best way to start your day.’ Streten lives by the beach near Manly, Australia, close to where he grew up. It was here where his love affair with music started: ‘It was something I was always really passionate about as a child,’ he muses. ‘I hadn’t heard a lot of music so when I was hearing these sounds, it was completely new. It was crazy exciting.’
Two decades later, Streten is still preoccupied with fresh and unusual sounds. Newness is Flume’s sonic USP, manifesting itself in tracks that manipulate synth and electronica in unique ways. His tone becomes more animated as he talks about the ‘little experiments on a computer’ that each songwriting session begins with. ‘Recently, I’ve been recording static from the radio and making chords out of it,’ he explains, ‘and I’ve been getting sounds and stretching them on the computer.’ Despite playing saxophone for years, Streten’s favourite instrument is the computer: ‘All these crazy programmes and weird software [enable you] to make sounds that you literally have never even heard before.’
This is a man who loves technology, so it’s unsurprising that Streten considers social media a powerful tool. Days before our interview, he released a streamable EP of remixes via his much-subscribed social-media channels. ‘I feel like I got quite lucky,’ he says, musing on the change from real-time to algorithmic Facebook feeds and a pre-Spotify era, ‘I came up in the golden age of social media.’
It’s all about balancing online with offline, Streten opines – a method he uses regularly, and most recently with collaborator Kai. ‘Usually we’ll either chat online a bit, send some ideas back and forth, get something cool going, and then meet up,’ he says. ‘I met Kai in New York and just hung out and got dinner, and that’s when the song started to come about.’ The final refinements happen ‘in the box’, with Streten tinkering with sounds, ‘spend[ing] hours doing weird stuff and coming up with something’ alone at his desk. That’s where the magic happens.
These days, Streten is as much on stage as he is in front of a screen, thanks to an ever-growing fanbase, which includes electronic music icon deadmau5. ‘I guess I was just making music for headphones, for listening at home,’ he says of his debut self-titled album, Flume. ‘[Now] I definitely lean towards making heavier stuff because it’s more fun to play live.’ His world tour promises to be quite the spectacle. ‘For the new record we’ve got a new show, new lights, new visuals,’ he reveals, continuing, ‘I want to make it like an art piece, and I want beautiful visuals and strange visuals and I want it to feel like a show.’
A showman needs his threads to be on point, and Streten’s wardrobe is reaping the benefits. ‘I put more time and thought into clothing than I used to,’ he admits. ‘Now I’m in the limelight, I think it’s important to not be wearing the same thing every time.’ Currently on rotation is a new Kenzo bomber jacket, which he’s wearing for our Skype interview. ‘Jackets are definitely my thing,’ he says, though Streten’s a surfer boy at heart: ‘If I’m at home, I’ve just got tons of cool board shorts,’ he concedes. ‘Like, colourful board shorts. Plain T-shirts but crazy board shorts.’
After 30 minutes of chatting with Streten, his Flume moniker makes perfect sense. Flume plays arena tours and has a Kenzo-filled wardrobe; Harley spends his mornings surfing and geeks out over intricate music software by night. ‘Once this record comes out, it’s crazy Flume tour life,’ he explains. ‘I turn from being Harley into being Flume again and everyone treats me nice. It’s quite funny – it’s like a shift, being at home with your friends from school giving you s***, and then you get on the road and you’re everyone’s boss and everyone treats you lovely.’
This time, Streten’s playing the roles of both friend and boss, thanks to an entourage of mates joining the tour. ‘I’ve got some good friends who are gonna be coming on the road,’ he tells me. ‘We have a pretty baller rider. We’ve got a lot of champagne, like a lot of champagne.’
This summer is looking good for Flume (and Harley). His forthcoming record Skin is due for release on May 27th, and judging by the reception of Never Be Like You, it’s going to be anything but a tricky second album.