We’re guessing when you clicked the link to this review you were thinking, “Who the fuck are Sweet Valley? And more importantly, why should I give a shit?” Well settle down tiger. Take a chill pill. We don’t expect you to know every single fucking band we write about on this website, which is why we’re bringing you up to speed on your new favourite weed-bleached instrumental hip-hop duo, Sweet Valley.
For those not in the know, Sweet Valley is a new project featuring Wavves’ Nathan Williams alongside his brother Kynan. After dropping two fairly dope mixtapes – debut EP Stay Calm in August last year and the Zelda-inspired Eternal Champ following closely in September – the duo gave fans an extra special present late last year by releasing number three, Jenova, as a free download Christmas day (download it here).
So what exactly does Jenova sound like? Well, for a start, it certainly ain’t Wavves. While there are hints of the summery vibes and bong-ripping good times of Nathan Williams’ primary surf punk outfit here, Sweet Valley is a much more laidback affair. This is the kind of stuff suited to lazy Sundays spent unwinding on the couch or drinking with friends by the pool. With a reliance on found sounds, the Williams brothers weave together samples into thick tapestries of beat-driven, chilled soundscapes.
With most tracks between 1:30 – 2 minutes, beats and textures ooze and meld into one another in rapid succession. ‘Savage Clean’ is like Fantômas tweaking the soundtrack to some fucked up Quentin Tarantino film noir movie, with its jagged bursts of spiralling guitar, machine gun samples and huffing brass section. From night to day, it transitions into the slinky café chic of ‘From The Greatest Origins’, complete with the sensual crooning of some unknown diva, through to upbeat psychedelic vibes of ‘Sector Seven’. It may sound a little messy in text, which is why you really need to give this one a spin yourself.
Those with a keen ear will also enjoy picking out the samples the Williams brothers have pinched and spliced together in a Frankenstein-esque mashup of ideas. Listen closely to the start of ‘Psychic’ and you’ll hear a snippet of Gang Gang Dance’s ‘Bebey’, while later on ‘Seer Stone’ features a little of HEALTH’s track ‘Die Slow’ tucked in there. And while hip-hop beats form the core of what’s going on here, there isn’t actually all that much rapping (with the exception of the title track). Oh, and then there’s also the various ‘80s video game noises peppered throughout.
Conclusion: Jenova’s smorgasbordof foundsounds, samples and textures are best ingested in one solid hit. There’s quite a bit to unpick here, and while it’s not all gold star worthy, it’s still a cool mixtape suited for balmy summer nights. Oh, and it’s free - and everyone loves free shit, right?
It’s impossible to deny – the success of The Amity Affliction and Parkway Drive has well and truly opened the floodgates for a new wave of local hardcore and metal bands. The leaders of the pack have helped popularise the genres within the mainstream (The Amity Affliction hit number 1 on the ARIA charts this year, remember?) and now plenty of young up-and-comers are hoping to follow in their footsteps. The latest to step up to the mark are Sydney lads Capture The Crown, who are making their presence felt with debut album ‘Til Death.
Let’s get this straight: Capture The Crown are good at what they do. They write the kind of straightforward metalcore that makes you want to shake your fists, bang your head and shout along to. These guys know where they stand in the local metalcore hierarchy and they’re not trying to shake things up too much with a sound that’s heavy on the breakdowns and light on anything groundbreaking. You just know that album cuts like ‘Ladies & Gentlemen… I Give You Hell’ and ‘Help Me To Help You’ will stir up a decent pit live with their big sing-along choruses and chugging breakdowns. There’s no need to overanalyse Capture The Crown’s music too much, which is just what you need sometimes.
The problem with an album like ‘Til Death is - as previously mentioned - it follows a formula that’s been thrashed to death in a scene riddled with cookie cutter bands. There’s a real blueprint to this sound: breakdown-growls-clean sung chorus-breakdown-growls-end. Like a lot of other bands in the metalcore genre, it all becomes very similar, very quick. Capture The Crown may mix it up a little - ‘Storm In A Teacup’ is a dubstep-inspired number that would make Skrillex himself proud, while ‘The Departed 2.0’ is the token acoustic track tucked around the end – but a lot of ‘Til Death still blurs from one generic metalcore jam into the next. It’s not necessarily all that bad; it’s more a case of it bordering on the tedious at times.
If Capture The Crown’s take on metalcore doesn’t reinvent the wheel, at least their personalities shine via the album’s tongue-in-cheek Aussie humour and references. If you listen closely to opener ‘The Arrival’ you’ll hear distant crowds chanting ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi’. It’s a cool way to kick things off and shows they’re proud to be Australian. On top of vocalist Jeffrey Wellfare’s use of ‘mate’, one larrikin in the band cries, ‘Oi, are we done?’ around the end of ‘Ladies & Gentlemen… I Give You Hell’. It actually sounds quite funny when it pops up out of the blue, and reassures us that Capture The Crown aren’t another metalcore band taking themselves too seriously. These guys are just regular dudes playing music they enjoy. Thank god.
Conclusion: Capture The Crown’s debut album, ‘Til Death, is further evidence that Australian bands are capable of standing their ground and measuring up against some of the biggest international names in metalcore. This album may have its faults, but it’s still a solid start from a band relatively new on the scene.
When the sugar-coated sheen of commercial electronica gets too much, it’s refreshing hearing an outfit like Crystal Castles, who, up until now, have maintained a dark and experimental aesthetic, too bleak and challenging for most teenyboppers. They’ve put out two solid records – 2008’s self-titled debut and 2010’s II – but in 2012, III shows signs of the duo’s creative pool starting to dry up and fade away.
III is a creative leap backwards for Crystal Castles in a lot of respects. While the Canadian duo’s first two albums lived up to the title of ‘experimental’, this time around they’ve settled on a formula that goes a bit like this: take moody electronica suited to raves and clubs everywhere, mix with Alice Glass’ incongruous-yet-frequently-melodic vocals and pad out with lots of flashy embellishments and neat running times. It’s as though Crystal Castles have diluted the abrasive elements of their music to make it more attractive to the mainstream (see the blatant pleas for commercial FM acceptance on ‘Wrath of God’ and ‘Plague’). The problem with this approach is it alienates a large cross-section of fans who were drawn to the duo’s off-the-wall crazy moments to begin with, like the scuzzy punk rock of ‘Doe Deer’ from II or Gameboy-on-acid freakout of ‘Xxzxcuzx Me’ from their 2008 debut.
If Crystal Castles were unpredictable and challenging before, they’ve certainly toned it down this time. Too much of III sounds the same and bleeds from one forgettable electro banger into the next. ‘Affection’ rides a skittering hip-hop beat around aimlessly over Glass’ ghostly vocals, before transitioning into the glitchy ‘Pale Flesh’ and painfully mediocre ‘Transgender’ later on (admittedly, ‘Sad Eyes’ does pick up the pace a little, injecting some much needed bang into proceedings). But, unfortunately, for the most part III is simply underwhelming; interesting hooks and stylistic shifts are fleeting, overrun by plenty of similar, mid-tempo dancefloor fodder.
Ethan Kath and Alice Glass have never placed a great deal of importance on vocals. If you’ve seen them live then you’ll know Alice could pretty much be screaming anything into the microphone and people would still dance – and the same thing applies on their records. On III, her vocals are chopped, changed, manipulated, and stretched beyond recognition, frequently buried deep within each track. The issue with this approach is that rather than drawing listeners in, her delicate crooning (she doesn’t scream all that much anymore) is more decorative filler than arresting songwriting ingredient. To be totally blunt, Alice just doesn’t have a strong enough voice to saviour a lot of what’s going on here.
But tired dynamics and irritating chipmunk vocals aside, there are moments that save III from being a total train wreck. ‘Insulin’ is a grating industrial stomper with attitude. It’s short, sharp and straight to the point. Meanwhile, ‘Violent Youth’ could be a B-side from their debut (a good thing, of course), while ‘Mercenary’ is dark and menacing enough to scare off any Top-40 teenybopper.
Conclusion: III sounds rigid and calculated in comparison to past efforts, giving it a generally tired and predictable aftertaste. It’s hard to tag Crystal Castles as ‘experimental’ anymore when they’re content with churning out run-of-the-mill dancefloor ditties like everyone else. A disappointing effort.
A lot has happened since we last heard from grunge pioneers Soundgarden. After the Seattle outfit broke up in 1997, frontman Chris Cornell formed Audioslave with members of Rage Against the Machine, drummer Matt Cameron took up a spot behind the kit in Pearl Jam, and guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd both pursued multiple creative outlets. While these offshoots were met with varying degrees of praise, none surpassed the highs achieved by their previous band. It looked like Soundgarden were finished – until two years ago when they emerged from a lengthy hibernation, bringing with them their first studio album in 16 years, King Animal.
It should come as little surprise that King Animal picks up where 1996’s Down On The Upside left off: this is Soundgarden reminding us that they were there, playing alongside Kurt Cobain and co. when grunge was in its infancy and yet to be flogged to death by MTV and major labels. Like Metallica on Death Magnetic, Soundgarden channel the spirit of their heyday on album number six (in this case, the alternative rock movement of the mid to late nineties). All those muddy drop D riffs are back in force, coupled with Cornell’s raspy howl, Thayil’s blistering lead and the study rhythm section of Shepherd and Cameron. While they’d hate to be referred to as a nostalgia act, it’s hard to shake the allusions to times gone by that King Animal elicits.
Although first single ‘Been Away Too Long’ will prove uncomfortably poppy for older fans with its radio-friendly chorus tucked into a neat three-and-a-half minute package, the opener is not indicative of what’s to follow. ‘By Crooked Steps’ is a classic downtrodden Soundgarden romp, riding an off kilter groove and Cornell’s signature croon. An early highlight, it’s followed by the equally impressive ‘A Thousand Days Before’ and ‘Bones Of Birds’, the latter slipping into slow-burning, hazy psychedelia, complete with Ben Shepherd’s earth-shaking bass. Breaking up the distorted fuzz is ‘Black Saturday’: a quirky acoustic jam that could be mistaken for a Gomez B-side with its flourishes of trumpet and swaying rhythms. While these are some of the highlights, other songs miss the same sonic snarl that made albums like Badmotorfinger and Superunknown classics. It’s still Soundgarden – but this time they’re a little safer and softer around the edges.
Despite some of the dust still being blown off, it’s comforting just hearing Soundgarden again. Sure, they sound diluted in comparison to years ago, but they’re staying true to their roots by not just latching onto the latest trends or including a whole bunch of meaningless guest musicians. King Animal has its weaker moments (‘Taree’ plods along somewhat aimlessly, while ‘Halfway There’ borders on throwaway acoustic pomp) but for the majority the album shines with the same tight-knit dynamic that made the band so memorable in the first place.
Conclusion: Like the relics of the past that adorn the album artwork, it’s as though Soundgarden have emerged from some snowy cave after years in hibernation. King Animal is the sound of a band reinvigorated. It may not reach the same peaks as previous albums, but it’s a solid start to a new chapter in Soundgarden’s career.
Central Coast rockers After The Fall have flown under the radar for the past few years. While their brand of homegrown guitar rock was in vogue around 2005, aided by popular singles ‘Concrete Boots‘and ‘Mirror Mirror’, they haven’t done a whole lot since that’s really garnered the same level of hype. But to be fair, it probably wasn’t their fault. As we all know, what’s popular is cyclical and trends come and go. Guitar rock may have been placed on the back burner by electro around the turn of the decade, but it’s starting to make a comeback thanks to more Australian bands choosing distortion pedals over keyboards. Some would say there’s a mini revival in rock and grunge going on – a claim After The Fall’s fourth album, Bittersweet, lends weight to.
The title of opener ‘Same Old Thing’ is ironic given the direction the band maintain on Bittersweet, namely it’s exactly what it says it is: the same old After The Fall. You know the idiom, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, it’s very fitting in this case. Let’s just say that if you liked them before you’re probably going to like this album. Fans will come swooning to the familiar guitar-driven and hook-laden pop that made them so popular in the first place, something that’s not a bad thing at all. There are more than a few Australian bands out there who could learn a thing or two from After The Fall’s knack for cramming infectious vocal hooks into 3 – 4 minute radio-friendly jams (just have a listen to ‘Nothing But Black‘or ‘Raise Your Voice’). Sure, they don’t reinvent the alternative rock wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re catchy enough to throw on and tap your foot to, which is exactly what you need some days, right?
What After The Fall lack in stylistic progression they make up for in straight-up rocking songs. ‘The Fire Is Gone‘ features the kind of anthemic chorus that will entice plenty of sing-alongs in a live setting. It’s packed tightly with uplifting vibes and soaring guitars. Meanwhile,’Lies‘and the title-track pack a little more venom, with a slightly darker aesthetic and frontman Ben Windsor’s cries of `you make me sick, but you’re so fit’ on the latter. And what Australian rock record would be complete without a mid-tempo ballad? Here it’s’Lost It Again’, which fills the quota.
Conclusion - After The Fall know what they’re good at and play to their strengths on album number four. Bittersweet serves up an instantly familiar sound that fans will embrace with open arms. It’s not revolutionary stuff, but it’s catchy and playful enough to justify repeated spins. Not bad.
Neurosis have been making ear-splitting noise in various incarnations for over 25 years now, slowly morphing from a hardcore punk outfit to the complex brooding metal beast they’ve become. Never compromising their craft for passing trends has allowed them to sit on the murky outskirts of the heavy music spectrum while continuously pushing forward along a unique sonic trajectory. This approach has landed Neurosis in a position where the title `genre-defining’ is most apt. But resting on past laurels is not something the Californian outfit are content with. One listen to the band’s latest effort, HonorFound In Decay, and it’s clear Neurosis are keeping one eye focused on where they’ve come from and the other on the abyss they’re heading in.
Over the past two decades Neurosis have become masters of atmosphere, and like a fine wine, they’ve only got better with age. Clocking in at just over an hour, Honor Found In Decay’s seven sprawling tracks coalesce to form a mesmerizing sonic journey that navigates between passages of suffocating, pitch black droning and luscious open soundscapes. As many have come to expect from the band, this is thought-provoking metal that demands a level of emotional engagement over simple cathartic release. A track like `At The Well’ may be riddled with mammoth riffs that crash like breaking waves over the course of its ten minutes, but sheer grandiose dynamics aside, it’s equally memorable for its stark sense of ominous doom aided by the increasingly desperate shouts of vocalist Steve Von Till. But for all the darkness, there is an equal amount of light; each member carefully controlling the shutters to allow more vulnerable moments - like the gentle piano interlude in `My Heart For Deliverance’ - show a softer side to their otherwise impenetrable exterior.
Honor follows a similar incline to Neurosis’ past few albums with no one track reaching anything faster than a mid-paced trot. And with three songs stretching past ten minutes, it does require a degree of endurance to sit through – though it’s worth the slog. Prefaced with ghostly ambience, `We All Rage In Gold’ quickly segues into thunderous riffage before Noah Landis’ dark synths interject, wailing and otherworldly. `All Is Found…In Time’ is similarly entrancing. Venturing into bristling psychedelia and pushing nearly nine minutes, it’s one of the most abrasive of the lot, along with `Bleeding the Pigs’ – a track as vicious as its name suggests. Though frequently sprawling, cuts like these never feel overly bloated and are aided by the expert recording chops of the legendary Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Pixies, The Stooges), who ensures Neurosis maintain a raw aesthetic over a studio polished sheen.
An analysis of Neurosis’ latest effort wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their increasing fondness for flourishes of gothic folk and thick orchestration to fill out the space between crashing cymbals and scorching guitar. From the moaning organs at the beginning of `Casting Of The Ages’ to the oriental strings that round out closer `Raise The Dawn’, these extra dashes of texture and flavour give Honor an interesting character, again setting them apart from the mainstream metal pack and reinforcing the `post-metal’ tag they’re frequently adorned with.
Conclusion – Honor Found In Decay is another shining example of why Neurosis are one of contemporary metal’s most valuable assets. Equal parts challenging and mesmerizing, studio album number ten is an assured effort from the Californian outfit and one that’s bound to continue to influence modern thrashers like Mastodon, Baroness, Kylesa and countless others. Sure, plenty have followed in Neurosis’ footsteps, but there’s still no one else quite like them – a feat very few bands achieve.
Everyone loves a bit of nostalgia, especially Texas band The Sword. The quartet love turning the clock back so much that they’ve made a career out of it, splicing together the mammoth riffs of their rock n’ roll forefathers with slick modern production. While 2010’s epic sci-fi odyssey Warp Riders blasted off into the cosmos, album number four, Apocryphon, brings things back down to earth again, the focus shifting from spacey existential freakouts to solid-as-a-rock stoner jams.
To be perfectly honest, some classic rock purists may write off The Sword as another `throwback’ band, but that would be selling their talents criminally short. Sure, they sound a lot like Black Sabbath, they’re obsessed with all things vinyl and analogue, and they even look like they’ve been dragged though a wormhole linking 1970 to the present day. But The Sword never set out to masquerade as a classic rock band from another decade (unlike The Darkness…). That was never their plan. They’re about taking notes from the past, while still injecting their own hard rock and metal-influenced swagger.
With blast beats and guttural vocals dominating modern metal, Apocryphon’sretro grooves and harmonic passages provide a refreshing change of pace. Unlike many contemporary metal bands, whose sole focus is pummelling eardrums with double bass fills and facemelting tempos, The Sword delve into memorable mid-tempo jams that will rock heads without blasting them clear off. Loaded with crunchy power chord bite and soaring vocals, `Arcane Montane’ heaves and slumps from side to side before duelling lead guitar breaks interject. It’s closely followed by the moaning bluesy intro of `The Hidden Masters’, which steadily builds before descending into a downtempo stoner romp. Meanwhile, `Dying Earth’ sets the dials for an astral journey into the ether, loaded with spacey phaser effects and the album’s longest individual track time.
This time void of instrumentals, frontman John “J. D.” Cronise’s vocals are pushed to the fore on Apocryphon, his sci-fi stories of the past record ditched in favour of more introspective lyrical themes, frequently touching on the metaphysical. “Is the time right to find a new religion, under the ground, way down below?” he ponders on `Seven Sisters’ in his distinctly Ozzy Osbourne-esque howl, a trait that’s either good or bad depending on whether or not you’re a Black Sabbath fan (but honestly, who isn’t?).
Conclusion- If you didn’t like The Sword’s take on classic rock before, then Apocryphon probably isn’t going to do much to change your mind. It’s unashamedly retro – but it’s also a lot of fun. Put it on, crank it up, don’t overanalyse it and just go with the flow.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out the allusion to anarchy buried in the title of Trash Talk’s fourth studio album, 119 (hint: invert it and you’re looking at a number synonymous with the authority this band is used to giving the one finger salute to). From impromptu gigs in basements to skateboarding while rolling spliffs, Trash Talk’s anti-establishment aesthetic seeps through everything they do. They’re loud. They’re abrasive. They don’t give a fuck what you think - and they’re cranking it up another level yet again.
As the follow-up to breakthrough album, Eyes & Nines, and last year’sEP, Awake, 119 has a lot to live up to. It’s overshadowed by a level of expectation that would crush most bands. But do you think Trash Talk care about pandering to trendsetters like Pitchfork or Rolling Stone given their newfound popularity? The answer: no. The Californian outfit are staying true to their roots with another punishing lesson in hardcore mayhem, riding the momentum they’ve accumulated the same way they ride skateboards around the back alleys of their hometown of Sacramento.
Like a snarling guard dog baring its teeth, 119 goes straight for the jugular in menacing fashion. There’s no fat or filler here. We’re talking about 14 tracks delivered in less than 22 minutes. This is an adrenaline-fuelled sprint, not a leisurely walk in the park.
“Who says the best is yet to come? The future’s blanker than the black of my lungs,” barks front man Lee Spielman on opener `Eat The Cycle’, the hysteria in his voice intensified by the track’s manic tempo and bassist Spencer Pollard’s roaring backing vocals. Spielman and Pollard’s vocal tag team assault continues on `Exile on Broadway’ – a cathartic romp addressing poverty and homelessness – and `My Rules’ before `F.E.B.N’ kicks into gear. At only a fraction over a minute and a half, the latter showcases Trash Talk’s knack for splicing brute force with underlying hooks. It gets straight to the point with laser precision, while being infectious enough to justify repeated spins.
With noticeably less 30-second bursts of searing vitriol this time around, Trash Talk flesh out the contents of 119 to make it as potent as possible. They may send out a raging `fuck you’ attitude, but they also litter the album with enough memorable choruses and groove to ensure longevity (just cast your ears around the fist pumping thump of `Reasons’ or `Apathy’).
But perhaps the album’s most polarising moment comes during ‘Blossom & Burn’ and its cameos from Tyler, The Creator and Hodgy Beats of LA rap collective OFWGKTA. Considering Odd Future Records are releasing 119, these guest appearances should come as little surprise. Sure, some of the hardcore purists will turn their noses up at this collaboration, but that’s to be expected – it’s an unlikely mashup of genres. Narrow-minded prejudices aside, ‘Blossom & Burn’ is a certified highlight, one that breaks up the rhythm of the album with Tyler, The Creator and Hodgy Beats’ lyrical venom infiltrating Trash Talk’s metallic hardcore.
Conclusion – 119 is another slab of seething hardcore destined for warehouse and basement shows everywhere. Self-produced and vicious in its delivery, it builds on the momentum Trash Talk have been riding over the past year or so. Where from here? Well, as they say, the sky’s the limit.
Californian trioDeath Grips have an attitude aligned more with punk rock than with contemporary hip-hop. They’re about sticking it to The Man. Unlike other hip-hop outfits and “artists” involved in mainstream music, who will happily suck off their record labels under the table just to get ahead, Death Grips are calling the shots with their second album, No Love Deep Web.
To bring you up to speed, Death Grips self-released No Love Deep Web as a free online download on October 1. This move obviously rubbed their record label, Epic, up the wrong way as Death Grips’ website, thirdworlds.net, was mysteriously shut down not long afterwards (it’s back online now). If giving the album away for free wasn’t enough, Death Grips added insult to injury with its totally unmarketable cover art of an erect penis with the title written across it. Unsurprisingly, this stunt sent online discussion into overdrive, which begs the question: do Death Grips really not give a fuck or is this clever marketing, dreamed up between band and label, masquerading as forward-thinking artistic integrity? Guess we’ll never know. In the meantime, we’ve got the meat and bones of No Love Deep Web to pick apart.
It’s only been a matter of months since Death Grips released their debut album, The Money Store, and already they’re pushing forward with its follow-up (though they’d always intended on releasing the two albums back-to-back, planting stickers in the CD case of TMS which read “No Love. Fall 2012”). Rumour has it that Epic wanted to push the release of No Love Deep Web to 2013, which is another reason why the trio apparently decided to leak the album prematurely. Again, this is just speculation, further fuelling the mystery surrounding this release. What we do know for sure is this: No Love Deep Web picks up where Death Gripsleft off, tunnelling deeper down the rabbit hole initiated on their debut. It’s the second piece of the puzzle, raising just as many questions as it answers.
More than ever before, the trio’s experimental hip-hop sounds like something suited to an underground rave, all smoke machines and dense lighting. It’s beat-driven but far too aggressive, bleak and hysterical to be caught rubbing shoulders with any of today’s hip-hop luminaries. Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett spits rhymes like a man possessed on opener `Come Up and Get Me’, his voice pushed to the point of breaking as Zach Hill and Andy Morin spin a tapestry of pulsating beats and smouldering synths around him. It’s unclear exactly what Ride’s vitriol is aimed at, yet it’s engrossing nevertheless. As the album progresses things become increasingly tense with his paranoia-inducing refrain of `it’s all suicide’ on `World Of Dogs’ spinning a bleak picture, only to be outdone by the unease instilled by `Lock Your Doors’, a track featuring roaring crowds, Orwellian voiceovers and Ride’s cathartic barks of `I’ve got some shit to say, just for the fuck of it’. It’s dark, brooding and feels as though the wheels could come flying off at any minute – which is also what makes it so enticing.
Unlike The Money Store, there’s no obvious single like `I’ve Seen Footage’ this time around. These songs seep into one another and are best ingested as a whole instead of sampled as individual tracks. And while some will inevitably slap it with the tag `hip-hop’, that would be drastically underselling Death Grips’ ability to apply their anarchistic aesthetic to a number of genres, from experiments in electronica/house (most notably on `Whammy’, `Black Dice’) and industrial-strength stompers (`No Love’) through to pop (on the aptly-titled `Pop’). During an age of rapid technological change, it’s tracks like these that see Death Grips harness the gadgets at their disposal to produce a futuristic pastiche of sounds and ideas.
Conclusion – Like a stolen car hurtling down the highway, No Love Deep Web swerves recklessly from one cathartic jam to the next, never compromising its adrenaline rush for a safe, conventional path. Download this album. Stream it. Borrow it from your friends. Do whatever you can to hear it. Death Grips are the sound of the future – now.
I recently had a chat to Harley Streten, better known by his stage moniker,Flume. I seriously dig the indie-electronica this dude is making at the moment (especially his remix of Ta-Ku’s `Higher’). You gotta check him out. Seriously.
I used the best bits from our chat to put together a feature on Flume for Everguide, which you can check out here. There are bits and pieces I had to leave out in order to stick to a word limit, which is why I thought it would be cool to post the full transcript of our chat on here.
Jack Pilven: What are you up to today?
Harley Streten (Flume): I just picked up some new studio monitors. I’m just on my way home. I just pulled over to do these phoners.
JP: How long have you been writing music as Flume for?
F: Probably only like 2 – 3 years. Maybe 3 years. I’ve only officially been doing it as Flume for… my first official Flume release was only a year ago but I’ve probably been doing the Flume-y sounding stuff for 3 years.
JP: How old are you?
JP: How did you get into it to start with?
F: I’ve been writing music for around 9 – 10 years on my computer. I discovered this little music-making program in a cereal box when I was around 10 or 11-years-old. I installed it on my computer and mucked around on it, and ever since then, I’ve been getting better programs. I started making music as a hobby, but within the last two years, it’s become my job.
JP: And at what point did you think, `Hey, I could really make a living from doing this’?
F: I’ve always known I was pretty good at it. I didn’t think I was amazing, but I knew I could definitely make a career out of it - I just wasn’t sure how long it would take. It’s happened a lot faster than I expected, that’s for sure. You can’t really fathom making a career of it until you start to see the money coming through. You can never judge how good a song is… what’s the word? I guess about 2 years ago.
JP: Are you self-taught when it comes to the music you make?
F: Yeah, pretty much. It’s a case of trial and error and watching YouTube videos and stuff. The thing is, I don’t claim to know heaps. There are so many people who know way more about programs and how things work. But I’ve learnt what I need to know. I guess for me, the main part of music making is… a lot of producers get off on twisting knobs and pushing buttons and all that kind of thing, but that’s not really for me. The only reason I know all the technical stuff is so that I can create sounds to make music.
JP: This might be a stupid question, but I’ve always had an interest in electronic music and I’ve wanted to ask it: all those sounds that go into your music, do you create them yourself or use existing bits and pieces from programs and people?
F: All the drum samples, most of them will be from sample packs and things. I’ll make drum beats using all those little snare hits and high hat sounds. I really try to avoid sampling sounds because copyright issues are a pain and it’s a lot less flexible when you have a massive sample, which you can’t change the melody of because it’s a WAV file or MP3 or whatever. So yeah, I make everything from scratch, including all the synth sounds.
JP: Everyone knows your track `Sleepless’, so who’s Jezzabell Doran?
F: So basically, there was like three of us, and we used to make music together asAntony For Cleopatra.Anyways, that broke up, so then what happened was we replaced the name Antony for Cleopatra with Jezzabell Doran because it was her vocal.
JP: So you were in a band/group with those people?
F: Yeah, it was a group called Antony For Cleopatra. We wrote demos and stuff and `Sleepless’ was one of our rough demos. It got left around for a year or so, and then the band broke up. I thought that track had a lot of potential so I revisited it, re-recorded all the parts, and completely overhauled the whole track by myself. I took the vocal, chopped it up, and changed it a lot. I put it out and then it started getting a lot of attention.
JP: So you knew you were onto a good thing when you went back to that track?
F: I could tell there was something in there that was special. It was so rookie, it sounded really raw and crap. It was a really rough demo and it was really novice sounding, so yeah, I kinda overhauled the whole thing.
JP: Can we expect an album any time soon?
F: Yeah, the album is done. I’ve actually got hard copies in my room. It’s coming out on the ninth of November.
JP: What can you let us know about this one?
F: It’s going to be fifteen tracks and there’s a huge range of stuff on there. I get bored sticking to the one sound or genre. I like to change it up a lot, so there are a lot of different sounds on there. There are some hip-hoppy ones, some dance music-orientated ones and even one that’s kinda dub step-y. Some of them are wacked-out beatsy stuff, so yeah, I’m really keen to see how it goes down.
JP: Any additional guest vocalists?
F: Yes, I’ve got Chet Faker on a track. That one’s called `Left Alone’. I’ve got Jess Higgs. She did that Flight Facilities track `Foreign Language’. I’ve got a dude from LA, a rapper, and a few other vocalists from around the place. So yeah, there’re quite a few vocal collaborations on there, actually.
JP: I was going through your Facebook page yesterday and you’ve got people from all over the world sending you these crazy messages. Have you had any weird stalker moments?
F: I occasionally get funny messages. Sometimes people will go onto my Facebook and `like’ every single photo and `like’ everything they can possibly `like’ on the page. I’ll log on and there will be like 20 notifications all from the one person, which can be kinda weird.
JP: And you’ve got Parklife coming up pretty soon. Is this your first big festival?
F: Yeah, I did Splendour but this is my first proper festival tour.
JP: Cool. Are you looking forward to hanging out with anyone in particular or do you have anything special planned?
F: I’m definitely going to lurk around Justice for a bit. They are like one of my old school, all-time favourite duos. But I think I’ll probably hang out with Hermitude a fair bit. We’ll wait and see what happens.
JP: It would be cool bumping into the guys from Justice backstage. Do you think you’d get a bit fanboy on them or would you be able to play it cool?
F: I’d try to keep my cool but I’ll probably get a bit fanboy (laughs).
JP: What’s it like being up on stage alone and having to perform to thousands of people? Do you ever get really intimidated and freak out?
F: The thing is, if something goes wrong then it’s all on you. Say with my other project, What So Not – where I perform with another dude, as part of a duo – it’s awesome because if something messes up, you don’t feel like it’s all on you. But it is very rewarding. I’ve had a lot of great experiences performing and I’m constantly working on my live show at the moment.
JP: Have you had any hairy moments where the sound has cut out or something like that?
F: I had one real big one in Melbourne. It was actually my first proper show in Melbourne and the sound cut out a bunch of times. The sound guy was freaking out because some dude – I think it was the manager of the guy who was playing after me - he was plugging in shit and unplugging shit and it cut out my sound a bunch of times, which sucked. But we didn’t know what it was at the time, so it was a bit unnerving. It cut out halfway through `Sleepless’ for like a minute-and-a-half, so I was like, `Noooo!’ (laughs) But other than that, it’s been all good. Like I haven’t had any dramas.
I absolutely hate relying on electronic equipment. It can be frustrating. I wish I played an acoustic guitar because there’s so much less that can go wrong. I’ve got my laptop, which can crash or freeze up at any time. I’ve got my sound card, which can bug-out, and I’ve got my APC40, which can also freak out. If one thing screws up then it’s a massive headache.
JP: Do you have any plans to travel?
F: You can’t really compare Australia to somewhere like Europe. We’ll definitely be heading over there next year and we’ll be doing the US next year too, so lots of travelling. My manager and I. I’ll be doing CMJ, which is a music conference in New York, and that’s this October. We’ll be going over there for a few weeks as well.
JP: So you’ve gone from making music in your bedroom to playing in New York. Do you ever sit back and go, `Woah, this is amazing’?
F: The funny thing is I’m still doing it in my bedroom (laughs). But yeah, I do, like every day pretty much. I’m always like, `Holy shit, I can’t believe this is happening’. The more popular your music gets, the less time you get to work on it because there are always emails and interviews and stuff to do, you know?
JP: Do you make any money from the remixes you do?
F: No. I get offered a lot of remix work, and there is a fair bit of cash involved, but I only remix tracks that I really feel. Generally, the ones that I feel I can do a really good remix of are those that don’t pay, because I’ll just ask the artist if I can do a remix instead. You know, I have to hear where a track’s going and where I can take it. And I have to really like the song in the first place. I have to hear a song and think I can make it better and want to make it better. A lot of the songs that people ask me to do, I just might not be into that much. Generally those that come with the most money are those that I’m feeling the least. I don’t make much money from remixes because I generally do them for free, the ones that I really love, because they always end up with the best results. Gigs are where the money is.
JP: Is it exhausting playing late night, club shows?
F: I had a fake ID back in the day. It is actually quite exhausting. I could make it less exhausting for myself, but I figure I’m only twenty, so I’m going to go hard while I can.
JP: Just to finish up, what’s something about Flume that no one else knows?
F: I have this obsession with toothpicks. I don’t know why but I always have toothpicks in the studio and I’m constantly picking my teeth with them. I just have to have toothpicks nearby. It’s fucking strange. It’s my thing (laughs).
JP: What’s planned for the rest of the year?
F: After the Parklife tour things cool down for a little bit. Oh, there’s Foreshore and a few other things. Basically just chilling out. I’m going to write more music because I haven’t had the chance to write music with everything being so hectic. I’m going to do a week away with Chet Faker in December, where we’re going to write tunes for a week and see what comes out of it.