We recently had the opportunity to speak briefly with James Lyell, member of the Aussie electronic duo Flight Facilities. Check out the full interview about the group's influences, their debut album Down To Earth, and what's next for 2015.
First, some background. Flight Facilities was formed by James Lyell and Hugo Gruzman in 2009, when Lyell, a DJ in Sydney, crossed paths with Gruzman, a self-proclaimed “pizza boy” and amateur producer. Gruzman eventually approached Lyell with a sample, and the resulting track “Rio” marked the genesis of the duo. The name they chose for their musical endeavors came from the Merimbula-based airline that Gruzman's grandfather Laurie had spent his life running, Flight Facilities.
How did you guys get your start in electronic music, and who were the original influences for your sound?
Both of us got into electronic music from a really early age. Together our joint influences would be Fatboy Slim and Daft Punk, early on we both discovered those records. Homework and You’ve Come A Long Way Baby, those albums to be exact. From then on our love for electronic music has just grown and grown. I guess our show is inspired by The Chemical Brothers, and stuff by them has been an inspiration as well.
So, you released your debut album Down To Earth in November of last year. From what I understand it was somewhat unplanned; a spur of the moment decision to combine all this individual material you had into a full length album. Can you talk more about that?
Yea, totally. We were actually involved in another project, we were going to do a sort of hip hop style mixtape, and we ended up just realizing that we had enough material to release an album. And the thing was, we didn’t not want to write an album because we were being stubborn or something, we just didn’t think it was the platform for us. We wanted to start releasing singles and we felt the impact of a single was more relevant to the need of the music industry at that time. But then we had so much content that we realized that we could write an album, and we had lots of fans commenting on Facebook, and who are we to say no to our fans? You’ve got to give them what they want.
Despite it being partially made up of singles that were not originally made for an album format, Down To Earth is incredibly cohesive. Did you guys face any challenges getting it to this point?
Well, I guess it still had that mixtape mentality. But we had just come from this format of writing just singles, you know, the biggest singles that we could write at the time, and then to do an album of cohesive material, you’ve gotta write songs that don’t necessarily stick their head out as much as a normal single would. So it was a bit of a challenge to try and dull it down, and songs like “Merimbula” and “Waking Bliss” were songs where we really tried to write some in-between album tracks. They ended up honestly being some of my favorites on the album. The vocal tracks are great to write, good fun, they play better on radio, people tend to love them, the popularity for them is a little bit more, but tracks like “Waking Bliss” and “Merimbula” are definitely our quiet favorites on the album.
The album features quite a few songs with guest singers (Reggie Watts, Giselle, Emma Louise), how do these collaborations come about?
Every time we make a song we kind of have a wish list for different artists, and we’ve been extremely lucky in that a lot of artists right at the top of our wish list have said yes to working with us, like Reggie Watts for instance, or Bishop Nehru. We’ve just been so lucky, and we hope that we can continue to work with such amazing people. But yea, we just make a song, see who it fits, write a wish list, and then just start asking. You can’t get it if you don’t ask, right?
What’s the dynamic like between the two of you while you’re in the studio writing? Does one of you usually lead the process?
We’re both good at different things, and we both let the other lead where the other is strongest, you know. One of us might be a better arranger, and the other might be better at creating the idea from scratch, and then the next one might continue to mold it. It’s a pretty complementary relationship between Hugo and I, so what one of us doesn’t have the other makes up for.
Particularly when planning an album release, online promotion is crucial, but very time consuming. How do you keep up with the demands of social media?
[Laughs] I don’t think we do, at the moment, I mean we try and be ourselves on social media, which I think is like the only thing you can do nowadays. There’s so many people just tooting their own horn. I mean you have to do that to a degree on social media, which kind of makes us feel uneasy, but it’s like writing a resume, you kind of have to talk about how your good at this or good at that or show some shows with people with their hands up because that gets people excited. But it’s still kind of strange sometimes because it feels like you’re just big-noting yourself. But we like to share funny things that we come across on social media, or a song that we’re listening to. But we try to be pretty real about it, we still operate our social media all the time. Between us and our manager Sam it’s always us answering things, you know.
How do you deal with leaks? Do you try and control it or just accept it?
We try and control it, but we also haven’t had any major leaks as of yet. I guess our first single “Crave You” leaked before it was supposed to come out, that’s really the only one that we’ve had thats affected us. But I think as much as like people downloading music for free we accept it, but it’s just the new age of music and you can’t really put a stop that. I mean the Internet is a pretty powerful tool, and no one can harness it you’ve just gotta learn how to go with it. So yea, if we did the next record and it leaked, or if the last album had leaked I think we would have just devised a plan to go with it, because you want to keep on the side of the internet, and the people. The bottom line is, if people are leaking your music they like it, and that’s not a bad thing.
The Australian electronic scene has been steadily gaining speed, which artists are you listening to that we should look out for?
There’s a guy named Falqo, and he’s a friend of ours, he’s worked at the studio with us for the last three years. He’s an absolute genius, someone to watch for sure. I think he’s only released one song so far, but there’s more coming. Then there’s Flume and Chet Faker, they’re just blowing up, they’re on our label [Future Classic]. Someone to watch also is Hayden James. I think the biggest up and comer right now is Client Liaison, they’re our friends from Melbourne and they are poised to be huge. Everything they do is just amazing. Also, the girl that tours with us, Owl Eyes, she’s gunna make some amazing stuff pretty soon, we’re helping her in the studio and I think she’s writing with a bunch of other people too.
What does 2015 look like for Flight Facilities?
Really busy. We’ve got lots of tours, finishing up our tour in America now, we’ve got a tour in Europe, and then some Australian festivals. We’ve got another big project at the end of the year, a live project that we’re working hard towards this year which I’m really excited about, but I can’t talk about yet! But yea just a bunch of shows, you know after you release an album you just tour, but I think we’re just trying to get to as many places as we can while trying to keep up the workload as well. We just want to keep making music while we’re doing it.
You can get Flight Facilities' debut album Down To Earth on iTunes, and view their full tour schedule below.
Flight Facilities 2015 Tour Dates
4/25 - Adelaide, AUS @ Groovin The Moo
4/26 - Bunbury, AUS @ Groovin The Moo
5/2 - Bendigo, AUS @ Groovin The Moo
5/3 - Canberra, AUS @ Groovin The Moo
5/9 - Maitland, AUS @ Groovin The Moo
5/10 - Townsville, AUS @ Groovin The Moo
5/23 - Darwin, AUS @ Bass In The Grass
6/19 - Reykjavi, ISL @ Secret Solstice
6/20 - Dublin, IRL @ Body & Soul Festival
9/12 - Isle of Wight, UK @ Isle of Wight Festival