Wednesday 24 January 2018

Flumes of glory

The act to finally topple One Direction is not another product from the Simon Cowell machine, but self-effacing Aussie Flume

Self-effacing Aussie Flume has made it big in Australia
Self-effacing Aussie Flume has made it big in Australia
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Thought Australian music was all about Nick Cave, Kylie and INXS? Then meet Flume, the 21-year-old wonder boy from Sydney who beat One Direction to top the Australian album charts. Harley Streten, aka Flume, is completely gobsmacked by his sudden success in his native Australia.

"I seem to have gained a huge following – 14 and 15-year-old girls," Streten begins in his shocked Aussie accent.

"It's certainly not what I had envisaged, but I'm absolutely delighted that it is crossing over. They're listening to me rather than Justin Bieber, or whatever else. It has got really insane."

The troubled Mr Bieber mightn't be looking over his shoulder just yet, but a popular beat combo called One Direction certainly are, as Flume beat off a challenge from the phenomenally English/Irish boyband to top the Australian iTunes albums charts with his self-titled debut album.

Whatever way you look at it, it's an astonishing achievement, especially considering that geriatric Glastonbury headliners The Rolling Stones trailed in behind at number three with their 50th anniversary compilation.

"They're a different beast from me entirely," Streten says. "The amount of money we can put behind a record is completely dwarfed by the likes of One Direction.

"I wrote my record for myself. I didn't have any commercial ambitions in mind whatsoever, so it's extraordinary to watch it take off."

Marlay Park-bound Harley has been absolutely ripping it up on the festival circuit Down Under. He's very much looking forward to having a crack at conquering the European merry-go-round this summer.

Last weekend, busy boy Flume played at no less than three European music festivals, including the world famous Roskilde in Denmark.

Longitude certainly marks a significant step up from his inaugural Irish appearance at the Button Factory on a midweek night in January.

"People have been going wild for it," he enthuses. "I've been getting dudes moshing and doing death circles for tunes like Sleepless, which I thought of as kind of a chilled tune. They seem to get right into it.

"I remember the Dublin show being a really good gig, but it was absolutely freezing. I hope it's just a little warmer this time.

"Doing festivals is a lot of fun and they've been instrumental in getting more people to hear me.

"In Australia, they've had this amazing knock-on effect, as the record seems to be playing constantly in pubs, clubs and cafes all over the country.

"It seems to work as both a chill out thing and

a dancing thing all at the same time, which was the intention, but I never, ever thought it would get this big."

Even though Harley is a self-confessed dance music nut, he's a little wary of the emergence of the ubiquitous EDM movement (Electronic Dance Music). Harley is a massive fan of the groundbreaking talents of Flying Lotus and his Brainfeeder label, but not so keen on the cheesier, more formulaic likes of David Guetta and his ilk.

"I love dance music and it's what I've grown up with," he says. "As soon as it became twisted into this EDM thing, I felt it had lost its soul.

"When I say EDM, I mean the likes of Swedish House Mafia. So much of it is essentially extremely over-produced dance music with some added RnB beats and a few pop melodies thrown over top."

Streten's work as Flume comes from a radically different place, somewhere along the lines of a pop version of his hero Flying Lotus.

Bizarrely, Streten's musical epiphany didn't come from a DJ or producer, but from a box of Nutri-Grain cereal.

The well-known Kellogg's brand ran a promotion in Australia that included a free CD in selected cereal boxes, which featured simple start-up programs instructing the user how to make their own electronic music. The 11-year-old Harley became instantly hooked.

"Oh no, here we go again!" Streten laughs. "I've told that story so many times now that they should really start paying me.

"It would be cool if they wanted to pay for a new home studio, although they'd still probably want me to do something in return, such as plastering my face on the side of their cereal boxes."

Flume has temporarily put a career as a poster boy for Nutri-Grain on hold to concentrate on replicating his Australian success worldwide.

Seeing as the in-demand Aussie has just inked a massive deal with Sony Music, which ironically also houses his chart rivals One Direction and Simon Cowell's Syco label, he appears to be well on his way.

Like so many Australians, Flume adores surfing. However, he probably won't have time to pause for breath, let alone head off to the west coast of Ireland to check out our own ever-burgeoning surf scene.

"Oh man, time off does not exist in my world," he laughs. "But I'm not complaining. I feel like while it's all happening I better just go on as hard as I can.

"Maybe after the second or third record, I can chill out a bit, but I'm only 21, so I can handle a hectic lifestyle for the moment."

Flume intends getting stuck into album number two sooner rather than later. "I'm going to give it my all," he maintains.

"I started mucking around doing this from about the age of 11. Music has been a hobby all my life since.

"In the last three years, I've really wanted to make this happen. In the last year or two, it has.

"I'm just going to enjoy it and really go for it."

Flume plays Longitude on Sunday, July 21

Irish Independent

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