Flume Reflects On 10 Years Of Music, Success And ‘Eating Ass’
It’s been 10 years since Flume released his debut self-titled album that sent tremors through the Australian music scene and altered the trajectory of electronic dance music in this country.
For Flume, real name Harley Streten, revisiting the anniversary of his first record has included cranking open his old laptop. This became a portal back into his 19-year-old brain.
“It was kind of wild opening up my old computer, because the computer is an extension of my brain at the time. The desktop was just filled with so many icons I couldn’t even see the background,” laughed Streten.
A lot has changed since his first record was released 2012, but for Streten, now 31, that 19-year-old exuberance still bubbles to the surface as he reflects on the outpouring of love still flowing for the cult album.
When the album was first released he never expected people to dance to it. In fact Streten never even planned for it to be considered dance music.
He tells me that he used hip-hop drum samples and slower speeds throughout the record, not music he thought would make it into clubs or onto festival stages. It’s “introspective music” with sounds he describes as “quite chill.”
Despite his chill intentions, it’s a record that continues to be added to party playlists to this day. It went double platinum in Australia and was nominated for eight ARIA awards, winning four of them.
As we chat over Zoom on a warm spring afternoon, one thing that strikes me about Streten is how grounded and generous he remains despite his success. A multi-ARIA award winner, with a Grammy and Triple J Hottest 100 win to his name, Flume’s thankful for how things have played out.
“It’s really cool to still actually have a career because I was always worried I’d kind of do one thing and then that’ll be it. So it’s nice to be able to come back and do these big shows in Australia. It’ll be fun to play some of the old tracks as well. I feel like I’ve kind of neglected them a little bit over the last few years but I’m excited to go back there.”
Streten has spent a good stint of the past decade over in LA and returned to Australia during the pandemic to spend more time with his family and forge a more normal life for himself. He purchased a property in the Byron Bay area, a short distance away from longtime collaborator and friend Jonathan Zawada. It’s here where Streten captured the sounds of home for his new album.
“I wake up to birds and there’s a lot of wild sounding birds on the property. Have you heard what a whipbird sounds like? Like what the fuck?”.
“I think when you grow up here you don’t really appreciate how insane that is. But because I’d spent so much time overseas when I came back I was just like, ‘oh my god, nothing else sounds like this anywhere.’”
It’s the sounds of home that bind the new Flume album, Palaces, which he’s spent the majority of this year touring.
In a traditional Flume set, audiences have become accustomed to hearing a track or two from the first album, but over the past few years they’ve become less frequent and at Coachella this year they were nowhere to be heard.
When Streten spoke with Junkee in May, he mentioned that he felt like he’d moved on creatively from the first album and wanted to spend more time playing new songs from Palaces in his live shows.
For five months from May through to September; audiences in the UK, Europe and North America were treated to the glittery, whip-birdy sounds explored on the record. But now that the tour has reached its Australian leg, which almost perfectly aligns with the 10 year anniversary of the first album, Aussie audiences might be treated to some tracks from the first record.
Towards the end of the US stint of the tour after playing Palaces for months, Streten started peppering in some of his older songs – and to his surprise, kept receiving joyous receptions.
“I think I kind of got over [Palaces] and I started playing old stuff and then I started seeing the reactions and I’m like, ah alright I’m just going to go full into it. I’ve got 10 years worth of music, basically four records, so I’ve just been diving deep into all of them and it’s been really fun.”
And so began the arduous process of resurrecting his old laptop and digging into the sounds. It’s here on a struggling hard drive that he discovered a treasure trove archive, and a rare chance to peer inside the early mind of one of Australia’s most celebrated music producers.
The laptop fan whirring soundtracked the discovery of ‘Slugger 1.4 [2014 Export.WAV]‘, a track that has just been released to celebrate the first album’s 10th birthday milestone.
Despite the single only being available for a first listen this week, ‘Slugger 1.4’ feels distinctly familiar and nostalgic — a song that you could have most certainly danced to at Groovin the Moo in 2014.
It’s one that Streten always loved, but somehow slipped through the cracks. Since its release, fans have expressed their love for it online, describing it as feeling like a kid discovering Flume again for the first time.
For Streten, this mammoth interest in the hard drive is somewhat bewildering.
“People seem to be psyched about the old stuff but to me, I think that it’s so old so why do you even care? But it seems to be getting a good response.”
When asked if there are any more hidden gems to come, Streten revealed another song from the archive may be on the horizon.
“There was one that kind of leaked but we plugged the leak and I always loved the song. There’s a pretty much finished version of it that I want to put out, plus just some other stuff. I should have more of a dig around.”
Flume’s excavations could result in another song or even ideas for a whole new album. For Flume fans, it presents infinite possibilities of new music from an artist that has given us unadulterated joy.
This joy has come in many forms, from his weird and handsome Instagram posts to painting himself blue for his remix, “Blue (Da Ba Dee)”. And of course who could forget the viral moment where he stuck his face in his girlfriend’s ass at Burning Man.
A moment that when chatting with Streten would be remiss not to mention. When cheekily asked what would need to happen for this moment to be recreated a big laugh erupts over the call.
“Come down to the show. We’ll make it happen. I love my fans and that’s my thing,” he laughs.
He tells me how when he looked at the Google search history for Flume the first and second record had big peaks in the graph but when the ass eating incident occurred it spiked to an unprecedented height.
“That’s my real number one hit, fuck the music, that’s my number one,” he jests.
As for what actually would be Flume’s biggest hit, it feels impossible to pick just the one.
Over the past 10 years Streten has been a euphoric force. Proving himself time and time again, Flume’s music has been effortlessly woven into the sonic tapestries that soundtracked the decade past.
Flume’s national tour kicks off 11 November. Tickets and more information here.