Oct 02, 2012

Flight Facilities

Spacy electro-dream duo Flight Facilities has just signed their next release to Glassnote Records US/UK, joining the same label as Phoenix, Mumford & Sons, and Givers. The Aussie indie darlings took some time out from producing sparkling snippets of dance Bohemia to be AIR’s featured artist.
Interview by Angela Allan.

What are your favourite Australian indie releases from the past year?
We're not sure if they still fall under the bracket of indie, but the two opening singles from the new Van She album, Idea of Happiness and Jamaica, are both great pop songs. It took us a few listens but they're just so catchy, we find ourselves singing them in the studio. Also When I See You Again by Canyons is the most under-appreciated song to be released this year. We think Flume has been doing some really cool things too. We're sure he'll be a force to be reckoned with.

What does being “independent” mean to you?
For the most part, it means control. Sometimes it's comforting to know that you're the only one to blame for the mistakes, and the only one to praise for the success. Although, the latter is almost never just a solo effort. The music industry is a system of help and favours. It simply depends on the degree to which you reach for the helping hand or lend one yourself. The same system of control can also apply to the musical crowd you associate with, how you are pitched, presented and, of course, more specific things, such as artwork and music videos. The prospect of controlling your own destiny is becoming a lot more attractive to musical acts. The individuality shines through. That's why we're starting to see a lot of artists looking for distribution deals.

Any tips on great up-and-coming Australian artists?
A guy who works just down the hall from our studio. He's called Alex. We're not sure what his musical alias will be, but he's making some unreal house and pop music. And when we say house, we mean it in the original sense of the word: old samples from the ‘70s and ‘80s and very French-sounding. We're sure he'll be a huge success when he decides to get everything moving. We'll be supporting him every step of the way.

Best avenue to discover new Aussie music?
Triple J and FBi are a good start but it really depends what kind of music you're looking for. If you like your bands, live music or, ahem, dubstep, then Triple J would be the one to listen to. FBi tends to have a softer spot for the electronic music acts, which is obviously more our scene. Electronic music has become pretty fierce and aggressive. The more palatable style resides on FBi mostly due to the amount of DJ shows they have.
We often switch between the two. It's nice to hear that, between them, they're covering the bases, but we can't help but wish for a little more open-mindedness from both the stations and the general public.
Following certain Australian labels is the fastest way to tap into new music, such as Modular, Future Classic, Motoric. But most listeners don't have time for that and would prefer to be spoon-fed by a radio station, which is fair enough, but that gives stations a responsibility, not a power.

What tips would you give new indie artists?
Don't be afraid to ask. We've been rejected for whatever reason more times than we can count when asking for remixes or vocalists. Like anything in life, you just don't know if you don't ask.
Secondly, make music you like. Don't try to make music for radio or for a crowd. Inevitably you consider your audience, but if you tailor it to them, you lose the integrity in the sound. It's not hard to hear in the generic and, to be blunt, terrible pop music on the mainstream station, that the producers are making it for large, uneducated and weak-minded audience. It's drivel that fills out the 30-minute care ride to work and fills the dance floor with people you probably could survive without knowing.
Lastly, don't get too big for your boots. You never know when the tables can turn and you might be the one asking for a helping hand. If or when that time comes, it's nice to know that the minnows of yesteryear are big enough to help you out. Be nice, humble, helpful and considerate.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?
Well, as of this week, we have finished two singles. We're playing the waiting game to release them with a full package of remixes, a music video and artwork. We're excited to see how our next single will be received. We should have it out in early October. It's called Clair De Lune and features a vocalist from New York named Christine. It's a big step away from the three-minute pop songs we've released before. We've made that song just for us. More artists need to do this to keep themselves sane. At eight minutes long, it won't be so radio friendly, but we feel as though this one is more of a listening experience. The single after that is I Didn't Believe and features Elizabeth Rose. We'll probably release that one in summer.

What’s your favourite Australian record and why?
That's such a hard question to answer. For lack of wanting to make a tough, definite decision, we'll say our most recent favourite Australian record is The End of The Earth by Client Liaison, mainly because we want everyone to see the music video. It doesn't get much more Australian than that. Probably one of the best musical brandings we've ever seen. We're yet to watch it without laughing or at least cracking a smile. That said, it's also catchy as hell.

What’s your favourite song lyric from that record?
“Indulge your souls, born to a terracotta world” or “To bless this asbestos island with the best reward”. There has to be some sort of award for working the word ‘asbestos’ into a song.

What do you request on your rider?
The more entertaining side of things include chocolate, Scratchies and recently we've started requesting local fridge magnets. We figure our fridges should tell a story about where we've been. We've won money on the Scratchies more times than you'd believe. When we played a show in London we won £40 and bought dinner for our hosts with it the following night.

Do you think an artist needs to sign to a major for better chances of success?
It certainly raises your chances of exposure but if you're not ready for it that can be a disaster. People like to watch something grow and earn its praise. It's a great way to be a flash in the pan. The music industry is a slow and tedious process and the audience subconsciously knows this. Anyone who rises too fast in anything less than an organic fashion is doomed to face tall-poppy syndrome or flat-out hate. The most important point to make is that it doesn't improve the quality of your music. That said, people tend to enjoy some pretty awful but still very successful music which major labels are responsible for. We tend to determine success as longevity. Only the artist can truly control that.

What’s the best thing you’ve stolen from a hotel room when on tour?
We don't think we've ever stolen anything but we've walked out with more keycards than we can count. We have been banned from one hotel in Japan because one of us released a fire extinguisher in a windowless hallway on the sixth floor of a hotel. It was filled with blood and bone, which is a red dust mixture. Basically, the hallway was a cloud of red dust with a red dust carpet. It's surprisingly hard to breath with that in the air. We wouldn't recommend it.

What’s your pre-show ritual?
When we're on tour, it's usually just sleep. We don't have too much of a game plan even when we're playing. We tend to improvise every night, which keeps things interesting for us. The closest thing to a ritual would be when we're getting changed backstage: hats, jackets, shirts, ties. It's almost like getting ready for school, but with more alcohol.

What’s the secret to being a successful indie artist?
Make music you enjoy. If you like it, someone else will too. When you make your first song, don't make it for anyone else but yourself. That's the best measure of whether or not you will appreciate life as a musician. It's one of the few jobs where you make your own rules and decide on your own work. If you start it off entirely on your terms, you can continue in the same fashion. We can't help but feel there are a lot of artists whose passions lie elsewhere, with respect to genre or style. The last thing you want to do is pander to a genre or audience you despise. Don't put out music you're not entirely happy with. You'll always know deep down whether or not a song is finished or ready. Lastly, don't feel as though you have to follow genres or the “in sound”. Sometimes a musical craze can last several months and that piece of music you've made seems a little ridiculous just a few weeks later.

Is the lifestyle really sex, drugs and rock’n’roll?
It’s closer to airports, hotels and planes, and throw in the odd hangover. There's a period of several hours each night where it seems like sex, drugs and rock'n'roll but reality usually strikes when the sun rises.

What’s the best app you have to have on your phone to survive delays when on tour?
Doodle Jump
or Flight Control - I know, ironic. Unless there's internet. In which case, Facebook, What'sApp or Viber so we can call friends and family.

What’s on your on-tour playlist?
Everything: classical music, mixtapes, a lot of older music like Paul Simon. Some newer things too, like Frank Ocean's album. We also have our demos on there so we can nitpick and make adjustments.

What’s a tour must-have for your band?
In Australia, carry-on bags only – it saves a lot of time and removes any possibility of baggage loss, which has happened to us before. We couldn't play in our uniforms that night. Overseas, the biggest requirement is no flights before midday. There's nothing worse than getting up after three hours’ sleep, getting on another plane and being wiped out for your gig the next night. We like to give every show our best and we just can't do that if we'd rather sleep than play.

What’s your pick: vinyl or CD?
Or USB? We use USB sticks to DJ now. We started as vinyl DJs, moved to CDs then onto USB. It's much more convenient, a big space saver and frees up our options when playing. We love listening to vinyl at home as we have a lot of rare cuts and B-sides that typically don't see the light of day on iTunes or online. We still buy CDs. CDs are so cheap now and now you get better value for money purchasing the hard copy than buying online. It's so funny how much things have completely reversed positions. We still love to press our singles to vinyl. It's such a great feeling to know people still buy them too. While we don't get to see them stocked in a store anymore, it brings a smile to our faces to know people are still collecting.