"It was a crazy journey," says Flume -- aka 25-year old Australian producer Harley Streten -- of his 2012 self-titled debut's international success. "I was just some quiet kid in high-school and all of a sudden I got dropped into the deep end. Physically and mentally. It was a huge shock to the system."
"Shock" plays a significant role on Flume's often-outrageous second album, 'Skin.' Released in May 2016, the musician's wildly eclectic follow-up is a meticulously crafted, vivid universe of big emotions woven into a densely cinematic whole. With good reason -- its creation mirrors the complex rush of sensations that came with sudden success.
"It used to be just writing for myself but now there is an audience," says Streten. A sizeable one. Beyond millions of listeners and his own sold-out shows, Flume's live show has become a major draw at international festivals, including Coachella, Reading, Leeds, Pukkelpop, Bonnaroo, and drawing 40,000 to his slot at Rock en Seine in Paris. "I wanted to keep the next album at a certain high energy," says Streten of the writing process behind 'Skin.' "That definitely influenced the new stuff a lot."
Recorded in hotel rooms, aeroplanes, trains, taxis, and tour vans, and in locations as far-flung as LAX airport, a shack on the west coast of Mexico, a log cabin in rural Tasmania, a bus rattling towards Vegas, as well as studios in LA, New York, and his hometown of Sydney, 'Skin' is "a grand expedition in trying to capture the biggest, most epic, powerful moments," says the producer. "It's the hi-fi version of my sound. I needed to do something bold."
After slowly beginning work on 'Skin' as far back as late 2013, Streten's breakthrough came in mid-2015 when he shifted to LA for three months of solid work. Then, stuck on what would become the clattering standout,
"Numb and Getting Colder," he crushed together three completely different songs. It was a lightbulb moment. "I thought, cool this sounds like it's from the future'" says Streten. "I hadn't heard anything quite like that. I thought, this is how the album's going to sound. I want it to sound like the future."
That inclination to push himself has been handsomely rewarded. Announcing announcing headline shows to celebrate the release of 'Skin' in May, Flume sold out all 300,000 tickets of his world headline tour, including more than 80,000 headline tickets in Australia alone. His stretch through the US included closing the outdoor stage at Coachella 2016; drawing 70,000 to his Lollapalooza slot; multiple sold out nights at The Shrine in LA, the Bill Graham Civic in San Francisco, and iconic sell-outs at Red Rocks CO and Forest Hills NYC.
Lead track "Never Be Like You," featuring Canadian singer Kai, was a Top 10 Radio Single in the US where it also went Platinum. The track has been certified four times platinum in Australia, and to date has clocked a staggering 257 million plays on Spotify. Third single, "Say It," featuring Tove Lo, is close behind, having reached 146 million plays on Spotify, and gone three times Platinum in Australia.
Europe has shown similar love for Flume and 'Skin.' Post-release highlights include playing BBC Radio 1 Big Weekender and a BBC Live Session with Annie Mac; selling out Alexandra Palace in London; and "Never Be Like You" going Gold in Italy.
His homeland has long held special a place for the Sydney native. In Australia 'Skin' debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts and has been certified Gold; in July Flume headlined Streten's spiritual home, the Splendour in the Grass festival, and at the artisan awards for the 2016 ARIAs, Streten was awarded Producer Of The Year, Engineer Of The Year (alongside Eric J Dubowsky) and the album's artwork by friend and collaborator, Jonathan Zawada, won Best Cover Art.
Despite 'Skin' featuring an incredible array of guest vocalists -- including Beck, Tove Lo, Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano, MNDR, AlunaGeorge, Australian newcomer Ku?ka, Canadian MC Allan Kingdom, US rappers Vince Staples, Vic Mensa, and Raekwon of Wu-Tang fame, and Kai -- Stretan's meticulous sonic creation proves a hard-won and profoundly personal victory.
"The point of being an artist is to be yourself," says Streten. "Not to please people but to make stuff that doesn't exist. Following my instincts is what got me to this point. I want to make things that sound like nothing else out there."