When you type Harley Streten's name into Google, the first page of results tells you he's a pioneering electronic music producer, he speaks with a deep Australian bass, he's worth A$10 million dollars and his dad's name is Glen. Fame can be a peculiar thing, particularly when you're a 27-year-old, Sydney-born international music star who prizes his privacy but seems equally at ease on social media. "I don't have a problem with it," Streten says. "I lost all privacy the second I started and I don't mind, really. I'm in the sweet spot right now where I have that fame kind of thing but it's not that big ... If I go out somewhere with Lorde, for example, even with sunglasses on she's got this crazy hair and people know her," he says. "I put sunglasses on, no one f--king bothers me. No one bothers me anyway, really."
Streten's first album – self-titled with his stage name, Flume – reached number one on the iTunes chart and handed Streten the un-buyable publicity of the headline: "Who the f--k is Flume and how did he beat One Direction on the charts?" His latest work, the mixtape Hi This Is Flume, is his most artistically complex work to date, drawing near universal praise from critics and fans for both its musical ambition and sense of untethered honesty. In some ways it is a metaphor for Streten himself. He's ambitious, he says, but admits the goal posts have recently shifted for him and for the first time, he is putting his happiness before his success. "I knew what I wanted to do from a young age and was fortunate enough to be in the position where a family could support that," he says. "The last six years I have been kind of touring non-stop and this last 12, 18 months I have taken time to find a work, life balance."
Hi This Is Flume was never intended to deliver big numbers, he says. "It was just a collection of ideas. I thought I was going to have a bit of a negative backlash because this is kind of the other end of the spectrum and I felt like people would be upset by that." It also reflects a maturation in his work, with a sound which is both authentic and contemplative. Does this mean Flume is growing up? The suggestion elicits laughter. "I feel like the older you get, the more weird you get," Streten says, sitting barefoot and cross-legged in his studio basement in the Hollywood hills. "You kind of embrace those quirks. You also just get bored of the same shit. So you need to find weirder stuff to get that kick, I guess. This mixtape thing is probably the most left field thing I've done to date."
In person, Streten is easy going but focused. Sometimes, though, catching his eye across the room, he has the wry, dry smirk of a teenager. In a 3900 square foot house with its own recording studio, swimming pool and loft space, it's not hard to look like a kid in toy store. The phases of his life, Streten says, have been reflected in his album cycles. "Because my entire life gets uprooted every time I put a body of work out," he says. "I live kind of like a normal person would and then once the music comes out you start touring."
The present is about living in America, and finding new experiences, he says. "This kind of job, or career or whatever, forces you to grow up really quickly," he says. "It puts you in a lot of situations. I think it's hard to keep your sanity sometimes ... This current phase of life is really, really goddamn awesome," he adds, smiling. "I'm really happy right now. And I'm really doing this album cycle the way I want to do it and not ... getting swept up in it all. And I'm picking out how I want to do things."
Honestly, I've noticed I've started dressing like my dog a lot lately
The move to Los Angeles almost never happened for Streten. He first came to America's sprawling, jagged west coast metropolis in 2012 but did not stay long. When asked later about the experience he described it as a letdown. "I expected it to be super-busy with glamorous shops and shit happening, but it's actually a big, quiet place with not so much going on," Streten told an interviewer in 2013. "It was way less glamorous than I had the perception of from the media and the movies."
The second time around, he has reconciled himself with LA's particular brand of ugly beauty. "Sydney is so beautiful, so [LA] is not as picturesque in lots of ways but I think I moved over here for work, really," he says. "It's about finding your tribe," he says, noting that the real gift of Los Angeles is in being a professional crossroads for almost everyone working in music. "If they don't already live here they're passing through here," he says.
He even road tested a couple of different neighbourhoods – the sketchy but chic Venice Beach, the hipster coffee haven Silver Lake and the ultra-trendy West Hollywood – before settling in Beachwood Canyon, just below the iconic Hollywood sign. "I liked how quiet it was, it's just a little bit out of the madness but if you want to get into the madness it's right down there," he says. "I might get up, make a smoothie, try and do some kind of exercise," he says of his LA life. "I'll take [my dog] Percy for a walk or a run to the park. I got an electric scooter and he runs alongside. I'm really blessed and fortunate. It's nuts."
The house, and its studio, where he works every day, offers him a fortress. "I think I enjoy creating my own world and what I'll do is I'll invite people into it and I can kind of curate that experience," he says. "I just don't get the kick out of attention. I don't want that. I've just never been one to be in the spotlight."
Streten's personal style, he says, is "classic but with a twist". His wardrobe is filled with printed T-shirts and spans a fairly broad spectrum of colour. That was until the arrival of Percy, a Goldendoodle puppy with a feisty personality, who has brought with him a subtle shift in the palette. "Honestly, I've noticed I've started dressing like my dog a lot lately," Streten says, laughing. "I've just been buying brownish, reddish colours," he says. "I'll walk out the front and go, f-ck, I've got the blue for his collar, I've got the reddish, brown shirt on. I'm like, God, I look exactly like my dog."
Indeed Percy's personality is hard to suppress. As we shift out of the recording studio and upstairs for the cover shoot, Percy elevates himself from member of the entourage to fully-fledged co-star, strutting into the frame and working his puppy charm hard to stay there. Percy's canine manners? Impeccable, and he sits on cue. But he's chatty. "He's got a little barking issue that we've got to figure out," Streten says.
His master is another story. Streten is an easy subject, but sometimes a little guarded. Illustrating his sometimes contradictory relationship with success, he is a natural performer but concedes he has not always enjoyed the stage. "I'm not that big of a fan of it, it's something I've kind of learnt to enjoy," he says. "This is where I feel like I really belong, in the studio."
Streten also does not put himself into his music, in the literal sense. The recent single Friends, for example, which explores the bitter end of a relationship, was not taken from his life but from the life of his collaborator on that track, Reo Cragun. "I actually don't feel comfortable putting my real life into the [music]," Streten says. "I'm quite private. I don't particularly like Instagram-storying my life. I don't want people to know everything. The way I show my real self is through the music. It's not so narrative based for me."
With over a million followers on Instagram, his social media life is intimate, if carefully framed. Streten admits he's trying to get more at ease with the idea of being unguarded on social media. "I used to be really good at Instagram but then it was just taking over my life, I'd just think about it so much and then thinking about captions and I felt this pressure to do it every day and it ended up turning me off that," he says. "I am trying to put more me [into it], which is kind of goofy," Streten adds. "I guess I'm trying to like be a little less veiled. A little less like smiley-DJ-guy. And I feel comfortable doing that now. I've never been a performer to want to be in the spotlight really, so it's taken me a second to say, all right, cool, now I can."
In Streten's case, creating electronic music in an environment where the tools are frequently technological, the most substantial shifts stem from commercial success. From success comes money, and with money comes ever more sophisticated studio tools to make music. "I never had money to get cool gear," he says. "So I learnt to do everything just on the computer. I just downloaded stuff, cheap this and that, and really that's all you need."
The basement studio in which he works is a mixture of the very high-tech and some characteristically low tech additions: a saxophone, several keyboards and a piano. "Now I kind of start most of my ideas on the hardware and then bring it into the box," he says. "I find that when collaborating it's really positive to get away from the computer screen. "
Coming soon is an album – "I'm just writing, I don't even know if it's a record ... I don't know what it is," Streten says – and then the American summer festival season, including appearances at the Lollapalooza and OutsideLands festivals, and then an Australian tour, which is still in the planning stages. "I love touring, back at home especially because everyone has been so supportive since day one. They know all the songs. Yeah, I'm excited."