Why Flume is the future

Around the same time, “this Flume guy” was also starting to get noticed by triple j. “I had Possum and a few other up on triple j Unearthed and they got onto it and started playing that,” Harley recalls.

Come late 2011, he was picked by the triple j Unearthed team to play at Field Day the coming New Year’s Day. “Flume is the real deal!” former ITM Deputy Editor Dave Ruby Howe, now at the Unearthed desk, rightly extolled in a review of Sleepless on the Unearthed website in December last year. Eleven-odd months down the track, he’s still excited about it. “That song has set the benchmark for Australia’s new breed of electronic producers and belies Flume’s humble origins in a makeshift studio in a bedroom of Sydney’s Northern Beaches,” Dave told me last week. “It’s a good time to be in the Flume business!”

With the station’s still hotly debated “make or break you” status in mind, Harley’s grateful for the support. “Triple j is a monopoly. They really have the power. But I think that good music prevails, with the internet it’s not so reliant on them,” he said of the station. ”It definitely helps a lot, to be onside with triple j. It’s really cool that they’ve taken me on board because the music I’m doing isn’t classic triple j – a lot of it doesn’t have lyrics and I’m not an indie rock band.”

More recently, his relationship with triple j would also take him on Nina Las Vegas’ House Party tour (which he describes only as “wild”) with his other project, duo What So Not. “Having Harley on the national House Party tour was incredible,” Nina – a proud Flume supporter since having him as a resident on her Saturday night show in February – told me. “Coming on second after Deacon Rose at each event, it was jaw-dropping to see the consistent – slightly overwhelming – reaction from his crowd. A heaving room, dancing to 80-100 BPM beats music, made by a 20-year-old, at 8pm? That shit is rare.”

But it was a show before the House Party tour that made Flume and the team behind him realise just what they had on their hands. “All of the Flume shows leading up to Splendour had been sold out and super successful, but I guess it was his performance at Splendour in the Grass that really took things to the next level,” Future Classic’s Chad Gillard explained. “Harley was booked for a 1pm slot that is usually for DJs rather than live acts. We were quietly confident that he would pull a solid crowd even though he was playing so early in the day, but to see the Mix Up tent completely full for his set was something pretty special.” Sure enough, accounts of Splendour from those who went all come back to Flume’s set as one of the highlights of the weekend.

Harley dug it too, picking the set out as one of the highlights of the last 12 months. “Seeing the audience at Splendour – simply because of the sheer size of it – it was like a confirmation that what I’m doing, that people are actually into it. Because I’ll put out a song and it will get 70,000 plays, but to actually see that many people in front of me and getting into it is like a physical recognition that this actually is happening – seeing it is believing it. I hear all these statistics but to actually see a crowd in front of me knowing all the songs was pretty mind-blowing.”

Or if you’re looking for a sure sign he’s made it, you could ask one of those 39,000-odd Facebook fans. “Flume just has so many kids that are following him these days, it’s crazy,” Chad told ITM during Vivid Live earlier this year. “He puts a post on Facebook and 300 people reply”. It’s a bit more than 300 now – a recent Flume status got no fewer than 1,400 likes. The link to his 3-minute album teaser got almost 3,000 and the video itself over 30,000 plays in a week. Given most unsponsored Facebook posts now only reach about 10% of a page’s fanbase, those sorts of figures are hugely telling of the engagement Harley has with his fans.

That’s another exciting thing about Flume’s meteoric rise: his appeal to younger and younger listeners. A casual glance at Flume’s wall posts reveals – in amongst the many declarations of love and “you are the sickest mother fucker!” type posts – several enthused requests for him to do underage shows. It reminds me of something Ibiza Rocks chief Andy McKay told Pacha Magazine in 2008. “The next generation doesn’t want to dance to just dance music. They’re not into 30 and 40 somethings dancing to a 50 year old DJ,” he declared. “The next generation is the ‘Fuck you, Dad!’ generation.” If McKay’s right, it’s guys like Flume that will eventually overtake the current crop of aging superstar DJs and recruit a new generation of dance fans. It’s that connection to a younger audience – something Flume has naturally by virtue of his age and what Nina Las Vegas describes as his “overall charming steeze” – that will keep the scene from stagnating each year Tiesto creeps closer to 50.

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