Flume lastly finds happiness: ‘I didn’t need to tour any extra. I hated my job’

In a trio of overgrown backyard beds, tomatoes and chillies climb in the direction of the sky. There are bite-size capsicums, each inexperienced and orange, plus bushy shrubs of parsley and rosemary. Someplace in right here, I’m instructed, is pumpkin and candy potato.

“I had a bunch of kale, too, however it died after I was at Coachella,” Harley Streten says.

We’re on the northern rivers property the place Streten – higher referred to as music producer Flume – now spends most of his time, rising veggies and taking issues gradual. Additional down the again yard he has citrus and avocado bushes, plus an enormous open discipline the place he performs catch together with his canine, Percy the groodle. Within the morning, Streten surfs. At evening, he principally stays in and tinkers together with his modular synthesiser or scrolls by on-line property gross sales, on the lookout for classic furnishings. He’s a world away from the competition mainstage he performed only a week earlier, debuting tracks from his forthcoming third album, Palaces. However that is the home dream Streten has been nursing for a few years now.

“I feel while you journey a lot, for therefore lengthy, you simply crave settling down so unhealthy,” he says.

Streten at home.
‘I felt like there was one thing lacking in life’ … Streten at house. {Photograph}: Natalie Grono/The Guardian

Earlier than he purchased this sprawling, secluded property in early 2020, Streten had been on the go for nearly a decade straight. He was simply 21 when he swept the Aria Awards together with his 2013 self-titled debut, arriving on the purple carpet in a stiff swimsuit that made him look extra like a child at his yr 12 formal than a multi-platinum musician. His second album, Pores and skin, gained him a Grammy in 2017, going to No 1 on the Australian charts and No 8 within the US. He was broadly hailed as a preternatural expertise who pioneered a lush, layered digital sound that has been usually imitated, however by no means bettered. However it didn’t make him pleased.

“I felt like there was one thing lacking in life,” the now 30-year-old tells Guardian Australia over lunch at a pub close to his home, Percy curled at his toes. “However after being right here for a yr, I began to have buddies and a neighborhood, and I realised, oh, that’s what that void was. I didn’t actually get to reside my 20s, and I by no means considered it like that earlier than. I simply didn’t know what I’d missed out on till I did have this time.”

Flume performs on the Coachella stage in April 2022.
‘I’ve by no means actually been a performer however I needed to do it’ … Streten acting at Coachella in April 2022. {Photograph}: Amy Sussman/Getty Photographs for Coachella

After a four-year stint in Los Angeles, Streten returned to Australia in the beginning of the pandemic to be nearer to his household. Burnt out on cities and eager to take away himself from the temptations of alcohol and medicines, he determined to start out once more in northern NSW as an alternative of returning to his house city of Sydney. He was newly single, after spending a lot of his grownup life in relationships. The worldwide shutdown of the music business meant that for the primary time, he had no deadlines to fulfill, no excursions to jet off on. He simply went to the seashore, frolicked together with his canine and realized to be on his personal. “It was, actually, top-of-the-line years of my life,” Streten says.

The bounties of his profession have been a double-edged sword. Streten is eager to emphasize that he’s grateful for the alternatives he’s had, however the catapult to fame at such a younger age was isolating. Streten – who’s considerate however reserved and, by his personal description, has struggled with social anxiousness since he was teenager – at all times appeared misplaced inside the bro-ish, back-slapping dance music scene. His tour schedule meant he was by no means in a single place lengthy sufficient to construct real friendships; as he grew to become increasingly well-known, he started to really feel cautious of the individuals who clamoured to get near him.

“I’ve at all times received this tremendous paranoid ‘why are you hanging out with me?’ factor in my head, making an attempt to determine if it’s standing associated,” he says. This neurosis prolonged to his working life: “I don’t have bandmates. For months on finish, all my interactions could be with people who I’m paying to be there. I’d say one thing humorous and begin to be like, ‘Oh, are you laughing since you discovered that humorous? Or since you’re actually on my payroll?’”

And whereas Streten has at all times beloved making music, he by no means loved what comes afterwards. “I’m fairly introverted. I’ve by no means actually been a performer however I needed to do it. This complete life was all about being in entrance of everybody and public talking and all these items that basically don’t come naturally to me.”

Inevitably, he soothed his anxiousness with alcohol. “Earlier than the present I’d have just a few drinks, in the course of the present, after [the show] – as a result of I used to be continuously anxious. I’d find yourself ingesting at each present, 5 days every week, on a three-month tour. I’d simply really feel horrible.”

Streten at home.
‘I used to be depressed as a result of I used to be alone continuously in resort rooms’ … Streten at house. {Photograph}: Natalie Grono/The Guardian

It didn’t assist that the dance music scene he got here up in was outlined by late nights and popping bottles, a world the place the pursuit of extra was celebrated. Prior to now, Streten has in contrast himself to the Swedish producer Avicii, who took his life in 2018, aged 28, after a protracted battle with habit.

“He died as a result of he was medicating himself similar to I used to be: with alcohol, medicine, no matter. He wasn’t pleased,” Streten stated in an interview with then girlfriend Paige Elkington on the My Friend Podcast in early 2020.

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“I used to be positively pushing it [with partying] for a very long time,” he tells me. “However then you definately grow old and realise it simply makes you unhappy.”

In 2016, issues got here to a head: “I used to be depressed as a result of I used to be alone continuously in resort rooms. I didn’t need to tour any extra. I went to a psychologist and was like, I hate my job.”

She steered antidepressants. Deciding to take them was “the most effective choice I ever made”, Streten says.

“Inside three days, I immediately [felt better]. I used to be at a celebration in Venice Seashore and I used to be like, Oh my god, I don’t really feel like leaving immediately. I don’t really feel tremendous anxious. That is working.”

Artist Jonathan Zawada, one in all Streten’s longtime collaborators and an in depth buddy, says Streten is “simply a lot happier” now than after they first met in 2014. He remembers Streten because the boy who was so nervous whereas filming an Arias acceptance speech that he requested everybody to depart the studio whereas he practised what to say.

“He’s had large success at such a younger age and that meant that there have been at all times lots of people serving to him. He didn’t should make a number of selections for himself,” says Zawada, who lives quarter-hour away from Streten and sees him not less than as soon as every week. “Within the final couple of years, he’s began determining who he’s and what he really desires [from life]. He’s develop into far more self-reliant and assured … He’s actually been engaged on maturing and changing into well-rounded – as we regularly joke, a ‘three-dimensional human being’.”

Streten at home with Percy.
‘I really feel sorry for people who find themselves so well-known’ … Streten at house with Percy. {Photograph}: Natalie Grono/The Guardian

With the brand new Flume album out on Friday, Streten is about to move off on a month-long bus tour of the US, which he plans to do “mainly utterly” with out alcohol. Now off the antidepressants, he feels he’s in a really totally different place than over the last album cycle. His music, too, has barely shifted: Palaces incorporates fewer pop-leaning radio hits and extra glitchy, hard-edged manufacturing. It will not be courting the High 40 as a lot as Pores and skin or his debut, however Streten isn’t making an attempt to get any larger than he already is.

“I really feel sorry for people who find themselves so well-known. It could be horrible,” he says. “I bear in mind one time I used to be with Ella – Lorde – and we had been strolling round Sydney, and she or he had sun shades on, however everybody may recognise her due to her hair. I used to be pondering, ‘I’m so glad I simply appear to be a traditional particular person.’”

Caroline Polachek and Flume perform at Coachella in April 2022.
Caroline Polachek and Flume carry out at Coachella in April 2022. {Photograph}: Casey Flanigan/picture SPACE/REX/Shutterstock

Streten did nonetheless recruit some large collaborations for Palaces, together with Blur’s Damon Albarn and Chairlift frontwoman turned solo-artist Caroline Polachek. He and Polachek grew to become buddies in LA; now that Australian borders have reopened, Streten repeatedly travels again there for work, and to play Magic the Gathering with Polachek, and music producers corresponding to AG Prepare dinner and Bloodpop. (“I love Magic Playing cards,” he says.) Generally blow-ins drop by for an evening – just like the musician Grimes, who lately congratulated Streten on the extremely publicised video of him jokingly performing a intercourse act on his then girlfriend on stage at Burning Man competition in 2019. (“I didn’t assume a lot of your profession earlier than then,” she reportedly instructed him. “It’s such as you had been too squeaky clear.”) He has discovered real connection in that group of individuals, who perceive the distinctive perks and pressures of life within the highlight.

At house within the northern rivers, Streten has a small however strong group of buddies – principally {couples}, like Zawada and his spouse, as a result of “that’s your 30s”, he shrugs. Collectively, they do common stuff like hang around at his place, or go to the native pub the place the employees all know him and Percy. “I’ve had the chance to reside a extra regular existence and I really feel actually good about all of it,” Streten says.

For now, Flume is content material – although there’s one small factor lacking from his life: “I’m nonetheless on the lookout for my Magic Card crew in Byron.”

  • Palaces is out on 20 Could (Future Basic). Flume’s world tour begins within the US on 23 Could, and can head to the UK, Europe, then Australia in November and December

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