Down-to-earth electronic duo are hitting the heights with a show in the Domain, writes Cameron Adams
When Sydney electronic duo Flight Facilities promptly sold out their one-off outdoor show with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra last year, there was one tiny catch.
“The tickets sold out in two hours and we realised we hadn’t hired anyone to actually score the music for the orchestra,” Flight Facilities’ Jimmy Lyell admits.
Enter Italian Davide Rossi — who was in Goldfrapp and has worked with The Verve and Coldplay — to create the score for Flight Facilities’ award-winning debut album Down To Earth.
The duo usually work behind DJ decks with live vocalists; these shows featured a 60-piece orchestra plus their own live band. Vocalists who worked on the album — including US performer Reggie Watts and local heroes Owl Eyes, Katie Noonan and Emma Louise — all flew in for the event, helping reinvent the original songs.
The show was such a triumph (captured on a live vinyl and digital album), they’re ready to rework the concept with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Domain on September 10 as part of this year’s Red Bull Music Academy Weekender.
“We’d been looking to do it again; we didn’t think it’d be that soon,” Lyell says.
“There’s been a bit of interest from overseas, so this might be the last show with an orchestra we do in Australia for a little while.
“We love doing these kinds of things. It doesn’t make us that much money, and it doesn’t really help us find new fans — it caters to our existing fans. But I believe rewarding them is the best thing we can be doing. And for us, personally, who wouldn’t want to play with an orchestra? It had been a dream of ours for forever.”
The pair bonded with Rossi to the point they now Skype him “just to chat” and have started flying new material past him for his input.
“The last record was written pretty much solely with us; we’re thinking about putting more heads into this one, branching out,” Hugo Gruzman says.
“We’re going to America to do some writing with other people in June. We wanted the first record to be just us, but it’ll be interesting to see what other flavours we can get in from people we admire and would love to work with.”
That includes a wishlist of guest vocalists — they roped in Kylie Minogue on Down To Earth for a new version of their breakthrough hit Crave You.
“We’d been working on that list of vocalists for six months and our manager lost it,” Gruzman laughs.
“There’s a few we want from the past and a few from the present. It’s a matter of who says yes and who we connect with.”
Touring with a full orchestra isn’t the most business-savvy move but, even with their human-enhanced DJ set, the pair foresaw the bursting of the electronic dance machine bubble, during which superstar DJs and their laptops were selling out arenas while keeping costs low and effort often even lower.
“It was often just a dude with an LED screen pointing his finger,” Gruzman says.
“You can’t strip it back to almost nothing and expect to be paid topdollar and still get the most amount of crowd.”
“It’s like everyone woke up and realised there’s nothing happening at the shows,” Lyell adds.
“The same way people got into ’80s clothes and Vanilla Ice and then woke up and thought, ‘What were we thinking?’ I love that there’s got to be more content now. I love that people expect more. It’s a good thing for music.” Flight Facilities’s Down To Earth album gets the full orchestral treatment.