DJ Spotlight: Flume Takes Over New York City

Looming underneath New York City’s Chelsea is the vast space of Red Bull Studios. Behind the velvet rope is the studio occupied with Harley Streten, better known as Flume. With both Australia’s prestigious AIR Awards and ARIA Music Awards under his belt, the 22-year-old is already an established artist who catapulted into the music scene two years ago.

“[Red Bull Studios is] kind of home base in New York, for me right now,” the Australian DJ and producer tells VIBE. “[I’ve been] getting shit done, being efficient really.” A regular person visiting the building would never assume that they are breathing the same air as the artists who just finished the second night of three sold out crowds at Terminal 5 in the Big Apple. When Streten leaves the room before his interview with VIBE his tells us that he’s gone to add to the stock of 2000 Pokémon cards they have in the back of the studio, which will be used to shoot at the audience during the finale of his performance last Friday, July 18.

Alone at last in the cavernous Red Bull Studios, Flume opens up about his self-titled debut album, his relationship with frequent collaborator, Chet Faker and the extreme transition between downloading and streaming.

How has it been playing sold out shows every night in NYC?
I feel like I haven’t had something where I’ve been like ‘holy shit’ for a while, [so] it’s still a bit surreal, and it’s just a bit hard to wrap my head around the fact that there’s that many people in New York. Like the last show we did in New York was at Webster Hall, which was half the size of Terminal 5, and now, we’re doing three at Terminal 5 so it’s six times bigger. It feels like we’re starting to crack America.

Do you think deciding to do the deluxe edition of the self-titled album helped the popularity at all?
We thought it would be really good because the record didn’t get released worldwide at the same time. It was on indie labels, and no one really knew how it was going to go. There was no marketing campaign. It was very grassroots stuff. I guess the deluxe version gave the album a second chance. A lot of people in the US and over in [the] UK and Europe see [the deluxe version] as the record. They don’t know there was even a first one. They just go, ‘Oh that’s the record.’ I think it has definitely helped. It was just a bit of fun to be honest. I just [felt], ‘Most deluxe versions and things are pretty lame in my eyes. If I want to re-release something, lets get a whole bunch of rad features on it and do something fun for another release.’

Do you think there’s still life in “Holdin’ On” possibly for US success?
To be honest, it was all about just writing beats and it still kinda is. It really is. It was all about making a living off doing this and now [that I do], I’m kinda like, ‘Cool I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and everything else is a bonus now.’ I’m not really interested in having commercial success. It’s like if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m not going to cater to doing that stuff. It’s almost difficult to not get caught up in that, especially when there’s a lot of expectations and pressure now. I’m doing my best to just do exactly what I did with the first one and do what I’ve always done, just write beats that I think would work.

Soundcloud has always been a big part of your career. What do you think of the transition from digital download to streaming?
Soundcloud is why I’m here. If I didn’t have Soundcloud, I don’t think I would be anywhere in the same position as I am right now, and for me like, I grew up downloading music illegally. Ever since I was using a computer. I had Napster, Bearshare. I used to buy CDs and stuff, but it doesn’t bug me out that people don’t buy my stuff. You get jack shit money for [streaming,] by the way. It’s peanuts and it kind of pisses me off. I mean it’s good that you’re getting paid but like… don’t even fucking pay me if it’s going to be that small. I prefer it was for free and more people would listen to it rather than getting paid [small amounts.] I’ve always seen music as promotion and advertisement for shows, to buy merch, to come hang out, records, vinyl stuff.

What is it like working with Chet Faker?
He’s good at everything I’m not good at and vice versa. Beats, drums, synths, production style stuff is where I excel. He’s really musical and super gifted. When we come together, it kind of really works. We hung out for four days in this beach house, set up a studio in the living room and wrote three tracks in four days. I don’t usually write that quick and neither does he but when we’re together, it just works.

Do you mean writing as producing or writing lyrics?
A lot of producing is about being self-aware. I’ve got a lot of procedures and things that I follow. You have to balance all these different things and it’s hard not to get caught up. [I’ve] got a real, fine writing process with Nick, with Chet. What we do is he’ll sit on the keyboard, start playing some chords, mucking around. I’ll kind of direct and we’ll come to a chord progression. We’ll put it on a loop and sit down for however long it takes, 20 minutes, put our iPhone on record and just sing. [We’ll] kind of merge our melodies together until we’ve got one thing where we’re both like ‘Yes this is it.’ Then, we’ll go from there. I’ll put my headphones on or whatever and start writing beats and coming up with ideas. He’ll go into his own space, so that’s writing lyrics and once we’ve got something, we’ll come back together and finish the track.

Do you have any other dream collabs?
That’s kind of what we’re brainstorming at the moment. I’d be interested in working with Oliver from The xx. I love his voice.

You’ve remixed lots of artists’ songs. What are the criteria for a song for you to remix?
If I can’t make it better, I’m not going to try and work with it. I want to work with songs that are great, but I can hear where I could improve on them. I don’t want to work with a song that’s perfect. If I don’t feel like if I can make it better, then I’ll make it different. For, say the Lorde remix, it’s a really strong track, and so I just made it different. Same with the Disclosure thing. [Usually,] I would listen to a track and be like ‘oh I wish it went like that.’

Where would you like to see yourself five year? What about 10?
The plan is to do a few more records. I want Flume to be a solid project. I want to be able to disappear for three or four years and come back and Flume is still relevant. In 5-10 years, I’d like to wind down the touring sort of things. I like touring but it’s not really my natural thing. I live for writing. I’m for the art, not the performance. I want to do a lot of ghostwriting stuff. I want to write for huge pop stars. I want to write for smaller, random things. I want to do film scores. I want to write for fucking TV ads, music for computer games. I want to challenge myself to do production stuff, and I want to be able to just hang out. I enjoy being on the road, but I think I’d just like to set up and write for other people basically. TV shows, all sorts of shit. Random shit. [Score a] fucking Pirates of The Caribbean movie.

Photo Credit: Andrew Rauner / AJR Photography