Five months ago, before Harley Streten had released an album or set foot on North American soil, New York Times music writer James C. McKinley Jr. named him one of six “Hopefuls Worth Watching” leading up to his appearance(s) at last year’s CMJ Music Marathon festival. Without an album in stores, the 21-year-old Streten—who performs as Flume—had built equity stateside with a rapidly-growing number of YouTube plays (you may know “Sleepless” or “Insane”), and blogosphere cred gleaned from his opening slots for the xx at home in Australia. On that CMJ trip, he played only a handful of shows in New York and Los Angeles before returning down under, where his eponymous debut album was released and quickly went platinum.
“This is the only way I’ve known it to happen,” says Streten over the phone from Austin during the recent South by Southwest music festival. “Everyone tells me how quick it is, and I can see on paper it is technically quick…but it doesn’t seem like it’s going too fast or anything. I’m loving it.”
Overstimulated to near oblivion, the U.S. market might seem a bit tougher to crack, but Streten’s album, officially released in the states in February, has done well, and garnered largely positive reviews. His music is the kind of easy listening, widely accessible instrumental soundtrack that anyone can latch on to, and it doesn’t take too much of an imagination to see it happening on a huge scale. His command of melody—which can be heard best in his arrangement of pleasing, pitch-tweaked vocal samples—puts him in the same league as hugely successful cross-over electronic-based acts like Moby and M83, and his left-field beat wanderings have the potential to grab a large chunk of the underground hip hop faction.
Streten, who kicked off his career when he won a record store talent contest for a recording deal, has the ability to appeal to both the massive worldwide EDM crowd, and chic rap/beat set, which is obviously a plus commercially, but he isn’t necessarily a representative of either group, partially because he’s existed outside of any identifiable “scene” for the duration of his young career. “I don’t really feel like I’m tied down to either,” he says. “To me, scenes aren’t really a big thing because there wasn’t really much of a scene in Sydney.”
“I think the fact that there wasn’t a huge scene [in Sydney] when I started was beneficial in creating my own sound,” he continues. “I feel like if there was a scene…I’d try to make music that sounded like music from that scene. But I had the opposite thing: There wasn’t a scene, so I just made the music that I felt like I wanted to make.”
Flume plays the LoFi on Saturday, March 30.