Last Friday, Australia’s hottest production duo Flight Facilities performed at Los Angeles’ hottest nightclub, LURE in Hollywood, and we had the opportunity to chat with them and then witness their show in action.
(Full Disclosure: I believe Flight Facilities are the best production duo to emerge since Daft Punk.)
Flight Facilities are on a roll. Really, they’ve been on a steady yet quiet ascent ever since releasing “Crave You” in 2010. Since then, they’ve yet to release a song that hasn’t rivaled or surpassed its lofty standard, and their stock and fan base justly rises by the minute. No longer cloaked by anonymity and mystique, their identities and hometown are secrets no more: the Syndey-based James and Hugo have emerged from the clouds to land squarely on center stage.
Still, aside from their well-received (yet rare) original releases and pantheon of remixes, not much is known about Flight Facilities—and that’s no coincidence. The duo—unlike the Deadmau5es of the world—prefer to let their music do the talking.
You understand this taciturn approach upon hearing Flight Facilities’ two most recent projects: the stunning, hypnotic “Clair De Lune,” and an ambitious mix series chronicling the evolution of music throughout the past four decades—from ’70s grassroots funk to today’s electro-infused compositions. The sheer complexity of these projects conveys the duo’s deep understanding music as both art and history—these are more serious, poignant, and time-consuming endeavors than most artists embark upon in a life time. The intensity of “Clair De Lune” becomes even more notable—and a bit surprising—when you get a first-hand glimpse into the whimsical, free-flowing world of Flight Facilities, both on and off the stage.
After scratching and clawing my way through the anxious crowd, I reach James and Jess (of Foreign Language fame) in their green room. As James calmly changes into aviator character (Hugo has yet to emerge), we discuss their recent, unexpected hit single. While it’s obvious “Clair De Lune” was a time-consuming labor of passion, the ambient sensation—now with over a million YouTube views—becomes even more mind-blowing when James casually tells me it took them “about a year to produce.”
They’ve acknowledged in the past that the song’s title is a direct reference to the Claude Debussy track of the same name. But they finished the track very far away—musically, geographically, and temporally—from where they began it.
“We definitely set out to do something different,” James acknowledges. “It came about while we were listening to Claud De Bussy in the Bali Airport Denpasar [in Indonesia]. We wanted to reference the track and its vibe and ended up using just a very slight chord progression from it. We had the vocalist (Christine Hoberg) do a bunch of takes [in New York City], and the original take just ended up being phenomenal and was the one we used. We also reference Prins Thomas' edit of ‘This Sweet Love,’ which is a track that definitely helped it come about.”
The mind-blowing, Luv Deluxe-like music video for “Clair De Lune” is not a reflection of a dysfunctional love triangle or a violent ex-girlfriend but the vision of director and friend Dave Ma. The intense and violent video is a shift from previous love-centric visual interpretations of their material. It mirrors the ambient and haunting nature of the song and their conscientious effort to shift away from disco (for a moment at least); it also displays their versatility and appreciation of ethereal, down-tempo music. It’s no surprise that they’re currently listening to a lot of Miles Davis, James Blake, and Glenn Miller while on tour.
As for the now-infamous Triple J decade mixes, which have combined for over a quarter million listens on SoundCloud and been lauded by countless blogs, Stoney Roads among them—that was a long and winding road. James and Hugo recount the entire—nightmarish—process on their personal blog, but James confesses that while a joint effort, “Hugo is the mix genius.”
When Hugo arrives, I ask him how many estimated hours the project took, he chuckles, ruffles his lips, and admits: “hundreds.” You get the feeling the endeavor might’ve consumed north of a thousand hours of his life. And it might not be over. He tells me that reception from fans and prodding from friends to produce a 1962-1972 mix will likely expand the project’s breadth—something we can all look forward to.
In the span of 20 chaotic minutes, I’ve figured out that Flight Facilities is a labor of love more than they are some slick musical act. Their logo and name is not a clever marketing ploy to rock cute outfits and cause bloggers to pun; it comes from an aviation company Hugo’s grandfather owned that chartered flights. The cute outfits were just a bonus: “The logo and theme were already there, and we just went with it,” James tells me. It coincides well with the reverence they display for what came before them in their esteemed edits and reinterpretations of classic songs.
Integrity is embedded into the Flight Facilities DNA. This is probably why, as fans know, their singles are so few and far between. And they have certainly not forgotten their humble roots both on and off the Australian DJ circuit (Hugo was once a pizza boy and James a barista). Just look at whom they handed the arduous but rewarding task of editing their tracks to. There’s no Aussie star power like Bag Raiders, Miami Horror, or Plastic Plates on the bill. Instead, it’s long time DJ friends and budding, underexposed producers like Rocco Raimundo and Tim Fuchs who got the duties.
These guys did not set out to become the modern faces of Disco nor bait and hook the blogosphere. It just kind of—as these things tend to do—happened. And they sound set on never sacrificing their high standards to latch onto a fad or fleeting moment. Hugo laughs (he likes to do this) when I mention Trap, confirming they won’t be Harlem Shaking anytime soon.
As for the “Nu Disco” label, it has tired on them as it has on many producers of their ilk. James admits that while he respects the Nu Disco landscape and its popularity, they’d “prefer not to be lumped into that.” It’s a fair wish, as their releases are far more intricate and labor-intensive than the industry standard.
While some of their material may be serious, it’s clear that fun always comes first for Flight Facilities
When I inquire which three albums they’d each take to a deserted island, Hugo quickly lists The Truman Show Soundtrack, Mylo’s Destroy Rock & Roll, Daft Punk’s Homework and Discovery, Sublime’s Sublime, and, because why not: The Dumbo Soundtrack (Hugo swears by it).
The Dumbo selection oddly makes sense, especially after Hugo and James tell me that if they could time travel to one era that their method of transportation would be a Delorean (not a Hot Tub Time Machine), it would take them to the 90s—because “that’s when we were growing up as kids, having the most fun, and carefree.”
We have to wrap up (Bag Raiders can only keep the crowd at bay for so long), as Hugo and James don their aviator caps and prepare to face the sold-out club. It feels like over a thousand people—fans, not just club goers—are clamoring for Flight Facilities as we make our way down the stairs.
Flight Facilities takes the stage, the first chord of (the decidedly anti-club) “Clair De Lune” strikes, and the air changes. The transition from awestruck crowd to people completely losing their shit commences.
From their mental mix/mash of “Da Funk” x “With You” to “Crave You,” the club vibrates from end to end throughout the night. If you’re not dancing, it’s only because you can’t move or you’re waiting on line for the bathroom.
By the time Jess joins them on the stage for “Foreign Language,” the crowd has turned into a pure marriage of disco and rave. Girls thrust themselves on stage and onto one another, flashing plenty of skin along the way. Dance circles ripple throughout the crowd. By the end of the show, the crowd is beyond containment, and the DJ booth is completely enveloped by fans.
Towards the end of the night—by the time the crowd is well lubricated with both substance and tunes ranging from Flight Facilities originals, “Inspector Norse,” and a spell-binding mix of Peter and The Magician’s “Twist” with Dynasty’s “I Don’t Want to Be a Freak”—the guys flick on a “Fuck it, let’s have some fun” switch. They launch into three random, classic hits that include “Stuck in the Middle With You” and The Emotion’s “Best of My Love”—a song their driver had played on their ride from airport to hotel earlier that morning that had them declare “We’re playing this tonight!”
The crowd’s shit has been completely lost.
After witnessing my first Flight Facilities show and the crowd’s overwhelmingly positive reception, I can’t help but draw parallels and notice the slight differences between Flight Facilities and one of their major influences: Daft Punk.
Maybe it’s because mystery resides at the root of both acts. Or, like their robotic idols, because Flight Facilities lets their music and fan reception speak for them. Similarly, both acts pinpoint, sample, and utilize deep cuts from past eras (Flight Facilities more subtly so and in the form of edits). They’ve also clearly learned a thing or two about how to build proper amounts of hype. And it’s become obvious that not since Daft Punk has an outfit struck a unanimous chord with non-EDM dance enthusiasts like Flight Facilities. Their classic-inspired sounds are simply a breath of fresh air in a room full of smoke and—much like Daft Punk—they’re just pretty damn hard not to like.
And their fans lust for them. LURE’s Private Label event—a showcase of Disco and Indie Dance producers that’s arguably LA’s hottest party—has played host to some of the biggest names on the scene in the past year. But at no point did the energy or enthusiasm come close to matching what happened at LURE last Friday. It was somewhere between a revelation and a revolution.
While live crowds swoon for Flight Facilities throughout this tour, a lingering—and predictable—question still looms over them. When, if ever, can we expect an album? In character, James confirms that for now, a compilation is more likely then an album, and they plan on “sticking to the formula, as it’s worked thus far.” In a day and age where record sales are scarce and singles can take off, it’s hard to disagree with this plan.
But without a full album to their name, it seems likely that Flight Facilities may hang between the top of blogosphere and headlining festivals for the foreseeable future. And that they'd be cool with this. While we wish for an album, they’ll probably just continue to tease our ears.
Their imminent release entitled “I Didn’t Believe” featuring Elizabeth Rose should be out soon and that’ll be back “back to their usual sound.” Based on the crowd’s reaction to it Friday evening, it’ll cause another stir.
It’s worth wondering: without a proper album to any group’s name, is Daft Punkian fame even possible? And would Flight Facilities even welcome this kind of notoriety? I ask James if they’ve considered wearing full-blown masks to keep their identities and mystique intact. His answer reveals perhaps their only flaw.
“Well, if Flight Facilities ever really takes off, maybe we’d consider it. But our outfits work fine. As soon as we walk off the stage, no one knows who the hell we are. We just want the music to speak for itself. And to be able to walk down the street for a carton of milk without people recognizing us.”
The only problem: Flight Facilities have already entered another stratosphere. Hugo and James are just having too much fun to realize it.
If you’re in the same hemisphere as Flight Facilities, you can catch their current tour at the following venues:
13 MAR - SXSW - KCRW Showcase at Haven
(Free event for SXSW badge holders)
14 MAR - Spotify House - Austin
23 MAR - Santo Domingo - Caffe Milano
24 MAR - Puerto Rico - Levels
28 MAR - Montreal - Velvet
Photos via LURE and Le Panda. Special thanks to Hugo, James, Sam, Matt, and Will.