Cover story: Flume signs on for Splendour to remember..........
TWELVE months ago, Harley Streten (pictured) was working at Sydney’s Hard Rock Cafe.
In the same calendar year, Streten went from being the waiter when boy band One Direction drank at the venue to watching their album keep his debut – as Flume – to a No.2 entry on the ARIA chart.
This year, his album hit No.1 and went platinum as he subverted commercial radio with intelligent, noncommercial dance music. Sources say he’s the biggest Australian act touring on a debut album since Jet.
He’s also making serious waves in the US and Europe.
And he still lives at home with his parents in Sydney, in the same room he made his album Flume in.
‘‘It’s definitely a mindshift,’’ Streten, 21, says, nursing a BYO orange juice at a Surry Hills cafe.
‘‘I live in the same room, with the same friends; the only difference is I travel a lot more. And now people actually want to hear my music; before, I was shopping it around to record labels or spamming it on people’s (web) pages.’’
Streten made an EP, Sleepless, for a competition run by label Future Classic. A handful of remixes followed, including his early calling card Hyperparadise by Hermitude.
‘‘At my first meeting with Future Classic, the last thing they said to me was, ‘All we want you to do is make your own genre’. That was all I had to hear,’’ Streten says.
After once trying to get attention, Streten now fears he’s being overexposed.
Unusually, mainstream radio has come to him following his Hottest 100 blitz – and he hasn’t had to compromise. ‘‘I’m on Triple J way too much,’’ Streten says. ‘‘I keep hearing my name. And people tell me I’m on Nova and (Sydney’s) 2Day FM a lot. I look at the charts and I’m wedged between Pink and Bruno Mars. It’s nice.’’
When he found out his album went to No.2, Streten celebrated with a scotch.
Post Hottest 100, Flume went to No.1, keeping Justin Bieber to a No.2 entry. It was belated vindication against manufactured pop. But Streten admits he’s taking an ostrich approach to his sales and success.
‘‘I don’t look at the status too much at all. Yeah, it’s awesome, but I wrote the first record just for myself. I wasn’t trying to make this crowd or that crowd like it. I want to do that again. I don’t want to know too much. It puts pressures in your head.
‘‘This record got kids who listen to Bieber and 1D or indie rock into something they probably weren’t used to.
‘‘That’s what I like. It’s pushing kids out of their comfort zone to try something new. I’ve got a responsibility to keep it moving forward.
‘‘I feel like I’ve got a bit of a tastemaker role in Australia.’’
Streten admits major corporations have tried to sign him up for advertising campaigns. He has the kind of credibility their money can usually buy. Not in this case.
‘‘It might be a lot of money but I’ll have to be associated with a big corporate brand,’’ he says. ‘‘We could make a quick buck right now, but we want this to be long term.
‘‘I feel like I’m already in everyone’s face too much right now. We wouldn’t do that unless we needed to, and we don’t.’’
Streten is also looking for a studio – one he doesn’t also have to sleep in after he’s worked in it all day. He’s even entertaining the idea of one with no internet connection, to keep him focused.
Flume plays The Riverstage, in Brisbane, on May 7 (sold out). Flume, Mumford & Sons, The National, Of Monsters & Men, Empire Of The Sun, Bernard Fanning, TV On The Radio, Babyshambles, James Blake, Polyphonic Spree (performing Rocky Horror Picture Show) and more play Splendour in the Grass, from July 26-28. Tickets go on sale on May 2