After a triumphant appearance at Lovebox this year and the release of their debut album, Down To Earth, Australian dance duo Flight Facilities look set to take on the world. That album featured an almost record-setting number of collaborations with a vast array of artists from Bishop Nehru to Kylie Minogue to comedian and multi-instrumentalist Reggie Watts—testament to Hugo and Jimmy's versatility as artists. So too is their upcoming project with the Melbourne City Orchestra. The latter will no doubt end up being phenomenally successful and hugely impressive, though not without a catastrophic amount of stress and fear attached to it. "I'll tell you the day before we do it," says Hugo when asked if they regret taking on the project. "Now it feels OK," he adds, "but the closer it gets I'm sure the more I'll be holding my pants."
A lot of artists are experimenting with orchestras these days. It's hardly a new phenomenon—1Xtra's recent Grime Symphony was a huge success—and one that can be traced as far back as the very beginnings of pop music. But still, the idea seems more popular than ever this year. Don't think this is something Flight Facilities have just hopped on to be a part of the zeitgeist though. "Long before making 'Clair de Lune', we've both shared a love for classical music," the pair said of the upcoming performance. On that subject, and others, we speak to one half of Flight Facilities, Hugo Gruzman.
Interview by James Keith
Going back to your early days, how did you get into producing? How did Flight Facilities start?
I just wanted to play more of the stuff I was inspired by and the best way to do that is to make it yourself. In terms of starting it, Flight Facilities was originally my grandfather's brand who were an airline company. It was a chartered flight and it just operated on the east coast of Australia. I took the logo and all that and went to Jimmy and said, "Do you want to be a part of this group?" And he was like, "Meh, alright." He was already making music and doing awesome things. All I was there for was my ideas and to put a name on it, I guess. And then it blossomed.
The album, Down To Earth, had some pretty crazy collaborations: Reggie Watts, Bishop Nehru, Kylie Minogue. How did that come about? What was the selection process?
The Reggie Watts one... I've been a massive fan of his comedy for years. I know that his music ability is second-to-none when it comes to being on the spot. I saw that Shit Robot had done a collaboration with him and he'd also performed at the last LCD Soundsystem thing. Those two acts were close enough in our realm that it was a possibility. It was more than that, he’s become such a friend to us. He's so cool and was really supportive of how the song was going and tracking. So that was probably my favourite collaboration. It's crossing two worlds where you’ve got his stand up and music.
You had Sam Rockwell in the video for the title track, as well. Did that come about in a similar way?
We're huge fans of his movies and we knew he could dance. He's had so many movies where he's worked it in; it's really obviously a part of his character. And I knew he was quite good friends with Christopher Walken too, so we put the idea out there to our director and that director had a producer who had a contact. They played Sam the song and he loved it! We couldn't believe it, honestly. We still think he's the coolest guy in the world. It was VERY much inspired by "Weapon Of Choice".
You're working with the Melbourne City Orchestra—how did that connection happen?
We're going to be with something like a 60-piece orchestra. It's a constant thing in the back of our heads that we're having to remember, even between all these tours we're working towards that. Each day, we're working with the guys there who're helping us through this whole process of converting our music into an actual orchestral piece. If anyone has the same thing, I thoroughly recommend getting started on it at least six monthS before you do it. It's going to be a whole new show as well with new lighting, new sound, a new set piece. The whole thing is going to be so foreign to us, which is the scariest part, but it's also exciting because it'll be the start of a new type of show for us.
I've spoken to a few people who are doing this sort of thing with their live shows, trying to make them bigger and more visual. Do you think big live shows with A/V set-ups are the future for dance and electronic music?
I think the pressure on it is to create a show. You could be the guy who stands there and presses play on a laptop, but if nothing else is happening, people are going to be pretty disenchanted with what you're doing. You want to be able to go out there and show them something unique. FlyLo's got that incredible show where he could be standing there peeling an orange and it would still be amazing because the whole thing is such a visual spectacle.
So, besides the orchestra, what other kind of projects have you got in the pipeline?
That one's the biggest one. Any spare moments have been placed on creating these new versions for the orchestra so that they can play it. So much of what's going into that is also touring and writing. We've been speaking to these guys in France about creating a lightshow for it. We're also designing a whole new set piece which we can perform inside like a piece of equipment that will give our show a unique look to it. We're going to unveil all this stuff at the same time and that's the most exciting part. If it was piece-by-piece, it might not have been so daunting; we're just going to throw it all at the wall at once.
Which artists are you listening to right now? What's got you excited?
We've always loved Client Liaison. They're so clever about how they brand themselves. Above it all, they just write such great pop music. You can't really fault it at any point. If you go on YouTube and watch one of their music videos, you're gonna watch them all because you just need to do it. It's pretty funny. It's unavoidable. I've watched one and then before you know it you're like nine deep. They make all their own music videos and they just know exactly what they're doing. Then I'd say Tame Impala. I'm really excited to see them perform their new stuff because that new stuff that he's written, it's just set a whole new bar for me.
You've never thought of linking up with those guys?
Oh, I'd love to. They're incredible. I would kill to have Kevin [Parker, Tame Impala frontman] sing or play guitar on a track. I'm always tempted to ask but it would be heart-breaking for him to say no! You almost want that approval from them to be like, "Yeah, I like what you're doing."
Have you had any tough rejections?
There's a guy, Gwilym Gold from The Golden Silvers. It wasn't the biggest thing in the world, but I think he's very purist about what he does. It's hard to get anything with him but I really love his voice and his songwriting ability. Nothing to get too upset about, though, because there's always someone else you can work with that you admire.