Sitting down to talk with Harley Streten, known by many as Flume, was an absolute honor. Harley’s one of the most humble and down-to-earth producers I’ve ever met—compound that with his killer releases and live performances in the last year and you’ve got yourself an Australian powerhouse. In this discussion we talked about Harley’s roots, his take on genres, and the atmospheres he performs in, culminating in some heartfelt advice for aspiring producers. Without further ado, Flume.
If you could go back in time and give advice to thirteen-year-old Harley, regarding production, music, and touring, what would you tell him?
I’d say something about not getting too caught up in genres, just writing all kinds of music. I think it’s important to experiment and write all kinds of genres. If you learn how to make a genre of music that you like, and that’s all that you focus on, you can fall into a trap of not learning how to make anything else. Once you learn how to make other genres you learn how other music sounds better, just in general, so I’d tell thirteen-year-old Harley to write all sorts of interesting stuff and experiment.
Also, that there was an Ableton Live school in Sydney. I’d tell him that. I didn’t know about that until much further down the track, but I was always looking for somewhere to figure out how to do new stuff. Somewhere I could get knowledge from.
What was the inception of your career in music? Did that DJ software you got from a cereal box ignite the passion for you?
Yeah, I actually got that from the cereal box, then went down to the computer game store and got a program called eJay. I came back the next day and was like, “this is really great, do you have anything else like it?” And you know what? The dude who was working at the store actually made music himself, and he goes, “I’ll help you out.” He told me to come back next week, and he burned me a CD of all these cracked programs: Cubase, FL Studios, Ableton… all these cracked logins. And just gave it to me. So then I got into how it all worked. And now I use Ableton.
What’s your favorite kind of venue to perform in?
I like a balance. Festivals and clubs both have their pros and cons. If I was doing a huge tour, I would prefer festivals, because they’re way more chill. You’ve got catering during the day. If you’re doing one-off gigs, you’re part of the party when you’re in a small club. You’re sweaty, everyone else is sweaty. Whereas at a festival, you’re up here on this big stage looking down upon the crowd, and there’s this big barrier between you and all the people.
Who’s your favorite Australian producer?
Right now there’s heaps of good stuff coming out. Hayden James is doing some good stuff. Wave Racer. Touch Sensitive. There’s a lot of young talent coming through. LDRU. These are all definitely names to keep an eye on.
Where do you expect the creative direction of electronic music to go in the next year?
I feel like the whole Disclosure thing is doing really well; I feel like people are getting into different kinds of music. The Flume stuff, especially in Australia, has broken into the mainstream. Electronic music used to be so underground, and now it’s so in the mainstream that when people hear electronic sounds they can get more into it. It’s exciting to see what comes through. All the Majestic Casual stuff is really good, so I’ve been going through Bondax and the like.
What’s your involvement in social media been like?
I used to really, really keep an eye on it, as well as the charts. I still do. I try to do social media posts every day. I like Instagram, but I do owe a lot of my success to SoundCloud and Facebook, just because that’s how I really got out there and got overseas. The reason why I can do gigs around the world is because those things were in the hundreds of thousands of likes and follows; it’s like having a million people at your fingertips. I can just put out a new song and the response is nuts.
Tell us about your production process for your remix of “You & Me.”
I actually didn’t have much time—I had just come back from a tour—and my mate was like, “you really should do this Disclosure one.” And then I kinda got into it. That one wasn’t really straight away, but I pushed it, and it came together at the last minute, which is really cool. I didn’t want to try to add to it; if I didn’t know how to make a song better, then I’d make it different. So then I just decided to write my own track, work the vocal in, and that’s how that came about.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who was getting into producing right now?
I reckon if you’re going to start making tracks, just write as much music as possible. Don’t spend a month trying to finish a song. Write a song a day; if you don’t finish it, then whatever, move on. The more you write, the more you learn. If you just focus on perfecting one song, you’re going to get frustrated and you’re not going to learn from mistakes because you’re not trying out new songs. So I’d say write as much material as possible and wait until you feel that it’s really good, then put it up on SoundCloud. Then start shipping around to labels, but wait until you’re actually really happy with what you’ve got. Otherwise, you can blow your shot with a label. If you’ve been sending them tracks for three years, they’re going to stop listening to them after a while. Just send one or two of your best, and that’s it.