MAN TO BEAT: ARIA FRONTRUNNER FLUME
Flume has avoided traditional avenues to create hit album, writes Kathy McCabe
HARLEY Stretten’s award account has already enjoyed some hefty bonuses. The artist known as Flume opened it with the prestigious artisan award for ARIA Producer of the Year and seven more nominations which will be announced at Sunday’s event.
It was wholly deserving – and appropriate – that last week he added the J Award for Album of the Year for his self-titled debut record.
Take out the nominated artists who have been offering musical wares for a decade or so and industry observers have nicknamed the 2013 awards the Triple J and X Factor ARIAs.
Despite its ratings, The Voice did not have any impact on the ARIA voters.
Flume, alongside Tame Impala, Matt Corby, The Rubens, Vance Joy, Seth Sentry, Abbe May, Emma Louise, San Cisco and Boy and Bear will compete for gongs against television-lead artists Guy Sebastian, Samantha Jade, Justice Crew and Timomatic.
Somewhere in the middle of the Triple J and commercial pop divide are the artists who maintain their loyal fanbases regardless of whether or not their latest wares make it on to radio playlists.
Nick Cave, Keith Urban, Missy Higgins, Sarah Blasko, Birds Of Tokyo, Bob Evans, Josh Pyke and Bliss N Eso are among those who will figure in the ARIA nominations most years by virtue of consistently strong albums.
Flume credits Triple J’s support for taking his selftitled debut album to a wider audience but insists the social media strategy of his independent label Future Classic started the fan ball rolling.
‘‘There really is no other radio station in Australia that backs Australian music,’’ Harley says.
‘‘What else is there besides X Factor contestants and I don’t mean to diss them, I’m just talking about people pushing music from Australia.’’
Flume’s success is even more remarkable considering its fierce independence, recognised at this year’s AIR Awards. His album is predominantly instrumentals with a handful of tracks featuring unknown vocalists including Chet Faker, Jezzabell Doran, Moon Holiday and George Maple.
‘‘We spent hardly any money with the album but we were smart about how we spent it,’’ he says.
‘‘It’s cool to point out to other labels that this music was created in my bedroom and cafes around the world with a laptop and a set of headphones and marketed by a smart social media strategy – it didn’t cost much.
‘‘It’s an album of instrumental tracks so the idea of winning ARIAs was not a thing – to get the producer one was pretty special. I am down for winning as many as I can get.’’
Relentless touring has a huge impact on Flume’s album sales. The record enjoys chart spikes after festival appearances and his own shows.
Triple J also kept the homefires burning for another ARIA multiple nominee, Tame Impala, and their world-conquering album Lonerism. It finished top of almost every critics’ list in 2012 (it was released in October) and won last year’s J Award.
Frontman Kevin Parker seems equal parts bemused and excited about the ARIAs nominations.
‘‘No one makes a record to win awards, otherwise it would make you analyse it even more than you already would,’’ Parker says. ‘‘But things like the WAM is and the ARIAs have been things that bands I really looked up to won.
Both Flume and Tame Impala have been flying the flag for Australian music internationally alongside a host of other breaking bands including The Rubens and Sheppard.
Parker says musicians all over the world are jealous of our Triple J.
‘‘It has been completely vital for us. They are the main artery for distrusting alternative music throughout Australia. Who knows what would have happened to us but I am pretty sure nothing would have got started without airplay,’’ he says.
Promoter Michael Chugg, back into the local band business with Chugg Music and representing Sheppard, Deep Sea Arcade, Lime Cordiale, The Griswolds and Hey Geronimo, bemoans the lack of airplay Australian music gets on commercial radio.
He believes the ARIAs would have more relevance to the wider public if more artists played on the mainstream airwaves of the 2Day and Nova networks.
‘‘Australian music is getting attention overseas but we can’t solve the puzzle of why they aren’t played at home,’’ Chugg says.
‘‘It’s pretty sad and ridiculous really and you could go on and on about it. The bands that are doing well overseas are doing well with their songs and yet those same songs won’t be played here.’’
The 2013 ARIA Awards: Sunday, 7.30pm, Go!; Flume: The Infinity Prism Tour: Sunday, 10.30pm, Go!
Flume’s Harley Stretten