Coachella 2016: Flume Talks Rising Hit “Never Be Like You” & New LP ‘Skin’
Since the arrival of his self-titled debut LP in 2012, Flume has earned a reputation for being a fearless explorer of weird and wonderful electro-soundscapes. And while pop has occasionally found him, by way of remix requests (Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down,” for example), the Australian DJ has shown no interest in chasing a crossover hit. Which makes the massive success of Kai-assisted anthem “Never Be Like You” all the more surprising.
The ruthlessly-catchy banger has already topped the charts at home and is shaping to wreak similar chart havoc stateside. As expected, “Never Be Like You” was a highlight of Flume’s epic Coachella set on Sunday night (April 17). It played an integral part of the 24-year-old’s new live show, which veered effortlessly from dark and demented electro to easily accessible anthems — complete with lights, screens and impressive on-stage structures.
You see, Flume has decided to embrace all that modern technology has to offer. That was one of our topics of conversation when I caught up with Flume on Saturday afternoon. He also spoke of his love for clever, innovative pop and opened up about the direction of sophomore LP Skin. Find out more in our Q&A below.
You’ve played so many festivals. How does Coachella rank?
I think Coachella is incredibly important for an artist, especially if you’re doing something, you know, like starting a new album cycle. I think it’s a moment where the world watches. And it’s important to fucking nail it. So this year, I’ve got a new record coming out on May 27 called Skin.
I guess Coachella this year, for me, is about just showing off a whole new live show, tons of new music, new visuals. It’s all stuff that we labored over so hard and spent so much time to get right. I’m going to be debuting it here.
Is it risky to unveil a new show on such a big stage?
It’s a little nerve wracking. I hope everything works. You know? Because if it doesn’t, it’s kind of that festival. There’s a lot on the line. But I’m more excited because we have rehearsed more so than I ever have for any other show. So I’m feeling pretty confident.
Have you had a chance to enjoy the festival yet?
I’m just not going to get wasted until I’m done. I had a walk around last night. Went over to see LCD Sound System. Checked out the Sahara tent, which is fucking crazy. I couldn’t believe how much technology was in the thing. I think it’s awesome. I kind of feel like a lot of acts shy away from having crazy production because they’re afraid of looking too EDM or too tacky or something, but I feel like… after seeing the Sahara tent last night, I was like, “Damn, maybe we should embrace this thing?” I want to embrace this.
I want as many fucking screens as possible, but do it tastefully. I feel like a lot of big shows, they don’t have a lot of darkness and shade. It’s very ten out of ten the whole time, but I feel like if you could get that energy in there with the technology that is here, which has never been here in the history of mankind, and do it in a tasteful, awesome way, then it could be spectacular. And that’s kind of what we’re trying to do in this show. We’ve got some big structures and we’ll see how it goes.
Does the venue being outdoors affect your set?
I think there’s a lot of variety in my set. There’s something for the people sitting down. It’s not all ten out of ten all the time. I’m not trying to play the heaviest shit constantly, so hopefully that will make it feel more like theater. I don’t want it to just be as many bangers as possible. I want to have an arch. I want it to be full on. You know, that’s the goal.
“Never Be Like You” is shaping up to be a huge song. How did you get that crossover success without “selling out”?
I guess it’s subjective. One person might think I sold out, another doesn’t. I don’t know, I really don’t. I guess I just do what I do, and I really don’t think too much about it. I try not to think about what other people will think. I think it helps that it’s come from this really organic place, and I haven’t had mainstream success ever, not up until this point.
That builds a solid foundation of fans that know and respect the art, and are willing to… there’s some level of trust in the fan base that I have. If it is more poppy, then it’s going to be quality. It will be more poppy. I think that’s something that I’m just really lucky to have had because if I had just came out the gate with “Never Be Like You” it may not have necessarily been that organic and been received that way.
That’s the whole thing about this project. What I want to do is have “Never Be Like You” on one end of the spectrum, because I love pop music. You know? Like I really do. And I also love some really weird shit. And I want to be able to do it all. I can make it all and I want to show that. But I also want to keep doing the stranger stuff. I don’t know, man. I love all kinds of music, so I would hate to do just one thing.
That puts a song like “Wall Fuck” into perspective.
That’s it. Some of the album is super poppy, radio-friendly stuff, and some is super dark, weird, abrasive, uncomfortable to listen to. I want people to hate some songs that I got. If they were all like, “Oh it’s nice” that would be more annoying. I would prefer them to be like, “Oh I love that song, but I fucking hate that one.” That’s good, it’s like challenging people. It’s cool.
Did you have an inkling “Never Be Like You” was going to be huge?
Kind of, yeah. I wasn’t thinking, “Oh man this is going to massive.” I was just thinking, “Damn this is really good, we just nailed this.” We actually started that one online going back and forth. We never met each other, we were just sending each other ideas. We went to a studio in New York and that’s where it came about. Because we hadn’t met each other, it felt a bit strange to try and create something. There was no vibe, so we were like, “Let’s just not be in the studio. Let’s go out and get some dinner, hang out.” Ended up getting our tarot cards read. I’m going to have three kids.
Thank you! Then, when we got to know each other a little bit, we came back to the studio and that’s when the song came about.
How did you connect with Kai in the first place?
I was in LA and I was looking for topline writers that were ready to write melodies and bounce ideas around. Basically, I’ve never done it before. It was always just me and my head space. But I was in LA for three months and I wanted to try to connect with as many writers and vocalists as possible. And my manager put me onto her and we got in contact.
He knows his stuff.
It’s really cool. She’s doing really. She’s doesn’t even have any of her own stuff out but she’s got a Jack U collaboration. We’re also working together.
Who else is on the album?
I can’t talk about what hasn’t come out yet, but currently I’ve got the Kai thing. There’s a thing with Vince Staples and Kučka. Kučka’s actually from Australia as well. What else is out there? That’s pretty much it.
I’m secretly hoping for another Chet Faker collaboration.
He is dope. Sorry, it’s not happening.
Maybe in the future, I’m totally up for it! He’s killing it in the states.
You said you’re a pop fan. Who do you think is making innovative, clever pop in 2016?
What I want to do is I want to combine experimental weird tones with a pop vocal. And the person that I feel like is absolutely nailing it right now is this guy called Sophie. He’s from the UK. And his latest track “Vroom, Vroom” with Charli XCX, it’s like pop vocal with very forward thinking, crazy production. So for me, that’s an awesome balance.
I feel that there’s a lot of boring ass pop out there, like really fucking bland, and I just want to shake it up a little bit. Add some new textures and tones. “Never Be Like You” is working and that’s a sign that people are open to maybe trying something different. And to me that doesn’t seem that weird. To a lot of people I think it is kind of different and I’m just excited to hopefully build on that.