Q&A: Syndey’s Flume Brings Infinity Prism to Mezzanine

Harley Streten, better known as Flume, carries a welcome tendency to pair savvy original beats with complementary vocal artists. The 21-year-old Australian producer’s beats range anywhere from deep chill-out house to instrumental hip hop, all of which will be on full display when he returns to San Francisco at Mezzanine on August 24.

Flume’s recent collaborations include tracks with with lo-fi artist Moon Holiday, Melbourne-based downtempo talent Chet Faker and fellow Sydney resident and female model Jezzabell Doran on his noteworthy track “Sleepless.” We had the chance to talk with Flume in an interview from Ireland to ask him a few questions about how he got into producing, details of his global tour and run-ins with Skrillex and Diplo during his last visit to San Francisco.

You began creating your own music at age 11 or 12 after finding a music production disc packaged inside a box of cereal. What type of cereal was it and how did this find jump start your career?

It was Nutri-Grain and a thing called Andrew J’s music maker, a simple loop mix program. I plugged it into the computer and had to muck around. The whole concept of how you can separate drums from synths and the bass was really interesting to me. By themselves, they don’t sound amazing but when you drum them together it sounds like a whole piece of music.

What did your family think when you decided to pursue music professionally?

I’ve been writing music as a hobby since I was 11 years old. It was always the plan for me. I had all this time wondering around the blocks for ages delivering [newspapers] and I’d always daydream of one day performing, traveling around the world and stuff. I knew what I wanted to do from quite a young age.

Eventually I left school and had a gap year. I didn’t go straight to university or anything. I Just hung around being a bit lazy, played a lot of compute games, smoked the bong—just being a teenager. After six months I said to myself I’ve got to make this happen, so I quit playing computer games, quit smoking weed, just knuckled down and started writing a whole bunch of stuff. Literally a few months after I really started working, Future Classic came along.

How did you end up joining your label Future Classic?

I knew the label a bit. I thought it was a bit more of dance music than my music, but I thought it would be worth being on a cool label. They had a remix competition and I sent in the “Sleepless” CD, which I had sitting on my hard drive for quite a few years. The best thing about it is they are an indie label.

Soon after that came about, all the big labels started taking notice—Universal, Sony and all this shit. If they had called me up initially and offered me that right away, I would have said yes to a shitty contract and I would probably be doing music that I hate. At the first meeting with Future Classic, the last thing they said to me before I left was: “Essentially, what we want you to do is make your own genre.” It was a bit of joke, but that’s the type of mentality that they have.

What genre do you consider your music?

I’m trying to do my own thing. I feel like I have my own sound and I want to pursue that. I respect good songwriting, guitar, vocals and chords. The biggest thing I get off on is innovation. I always look to dudes like Rustie, Hudson Mowhake and Flying Lotus. All of that left-field experimental stuff, I really like.

Favorite record of 2013 so far?

I’m still searching for it, I think. Right now I’m enjoying Holy Fire by Souls and Thundercat’s Apocalypse. Also, I just got AlunaGeorge’s album. They sent it over last night and I’ll take a listen to that on the plane.

Why do you think Australia is such a hot-bed for electronic music right now?

I think it’s a bit of a coincidence. Guys like myself, Taku, Jeff Baker, we’re all just doing our things. What helps is that Australia has their own station, Triple J, which is like [BBC] Radio One. They push a lot of Australian music, that’s their purpose. It’s a great platform for Australian artists to get on the airwaves and acts as a strong driving force.

Did you sample Super Mario or Nintendo effects on your track “Sleepless”? Where did that sample come from?

It’s a synth I made. I really, really try to avoid sampling. I really like doing it, but it’s fucked up trying to clear some stuff. I had one sample on the record and it took nine months to clear—it kind of scared me.

Do you have dream vocalist you’d like to collaborate with on a song?

Right now, I’m doing a lot of stuff with this guy Chet Faker and it’s working out well. We have a bit of ying and yang going on because he’s good at where I’m not good at and vice versa. Maybe someone like Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon.

For your current Infinity Prism tour, can you the describe the stage lighting and live performance elements?

We’re doing huge, huge venues. We had like a lot of lights and made it really special. Infinity Prism is this thing that we built—essentially an optical illusion that we take around. Its like an infinity mirror with LEDS that interact with the music. I’ll be taking this to the U.S.

Best memory from your last trip to San Francisco?

We really got in late at night and played the show. What I do remember is that I met Skrillex and all those EDM dudes in Miami and he was in San Francisco that night. I went out to dinner with him and after my show he took me to this gigantic party where they spent $1 million dollars on production. Have you heard of the game Minecraft? The creator had Diplo and Skrillex playing with huge CO2 cannons front and center. It was nuts.

Flume performs at Mezzanine on August 24th. More info.

Written by Carlos Olin Montalvo

Follow me @carlosolin