Interviews

COLLAR and Flume talk about life, 2000s trance music and bad trends

In a conversation that is as colourful as their music, COLLAR and Flume dive into topics about 2000’s trance music, gloriously bad trends and using dog hair as recycled fashion.

Grungy, alternate artist COLLAR (Spencer) and dance, electronic artist Flume (Harley) asked each other some seriously quizzical q’s. From life during the pandemic and getting inspired, to Birkenstocks, food and dog hair scarfs, both parties pretty much covered all bases.

With the release of COLLAR’s latest EP HARD TIME TO TAKE IT, Spencer expressed the difficulties surrounding promotional shows during ongoing restrictions. Nevertheless, the artists talked about fuelling their creativity through cooking, sourcing inspiration from YouTube, and talking absolute, glorious nonsense with one another! COLLAR’s next gig has been rescheduled to October 1 at The Princess Theatre, Brisbane.

SPENCER: Hey dude! Is that recording?

HARLEY: What’s up! Yes, I think it’s recording, it seems all very above board, the little icon is flashing, no secret recording going on in zoom.

SPENCER: Well this is my first time doing this, so bear with me. Ok, so I’m gonna start this off with an extremely broad question for you…. What’s been going on?

HARLEY: Ahhh not a lot my man, not a lot, lots of gazing, looking at the ceiling. Currently on the couch. Sitting on the couch a bunch. Heaps of 11am news.

SPENCER: The updates!

HARLEY: Yes, found out that we’ll be out of lockdown next week… Just hanging out at home, surfing a lot, nice wholesome activities and working on some music.

SPENCER: So music, I’ve seen you’ve released a remix of Danny L Harle’s On the Mountain, sounds great! What else have you been working on?

HARLEY: I’ve been working on a bunch of new things that are going to start coming out early next year… but I don’t wanna give too much away yet.

You’ve got a couple new things coming out don’t you?

SPENCER: Yes, we just released our second EP – Hard Time To Take It –  We’re trying desperately to play shows to support it, but they obviously keep getting postponed… Which I guess is just a normality now.

HARLEY: Yeah, I feel you, how many times have they been postponed now?

SPENCER: Mmm going on 3 times now… And we haven’t even thought about reaching the other states this year, that seems very unlikely. Looks like our tour will have a giant space in-between Brisbane & Sydney/Melbourne etc. If there was a tour poster it would read “October 1st Brisbane – Syd-Melb-Adelaide-Perth… TBC.” Anyway, I can’t complain, up here we’re definitely in a better situation than a lot of people. I just miss playing and seeing my friends.

Have you noticed your songwriting has been affected in any way, due to the situation we’re in? Is it bringing you down or making things more positive having all this time to yourself? Does that make sense?

HARLEY: I get what you mean. I think overall it’s been positive. Life slowing down. It feels like I’ve been on this train that kept going really fast and then COVID happened, and it all stopped. It’s been good for me mentally, I don’t know about creatively, generally, probably a little less inspired. Just coz every day is the same now, being in lockdown. Usually, I find when you have good inputs, you’ll have good outputs. Good inputs like going to shows, travelling, all these things that can feed ideas. For me at least it’s helpful when writing stuff. Life has been a little more chilled and routine. Overall, I think it’s been a really good thing for me personally. Creatively I have my good and bad days. It’s good to switch it up.

Definitely been a bit of a test as well, living in lockdown. I mean I’ve got it pretty good comparatively, I live on some acreage in a really nice part of Australia, so it’s chilled but different.

HARLEY: How are you doing? How are you holding up?

SPENCER: I think I’m becoming a bit of a softy; I mean that in somewhat of a positive way.

I’ve been listening to a lot of romantic, old classic music, soppy stuff that makes you feel things, also on the ambient music train and also heaps of country music to coincide with all the sopp’. There’s always been this thing in my head, where I’ve really wanted to write a piece of music that has the power to make people cry, in a weird sadistic sense. You know, if you can listen to a song and it’s that powerful, then you’ve really done something. So I guess that’s where I’m at the moment… Carrying out day-to-day life and writing sad romance. I’m sure it could change tomorrow, then I’ll wanna write angry music.

HARLEY: So mostly negative emotions, right?

SPENCER: Haha yeah, just to pull myself out of a rut.

HARLEY: That’s how you do it!

SPENCER: Think negative.

HARLEY: That’s right, there’s too much toxic positivity out there…

SPENCER: So, I have no idea when it started for you, but when did you begin experimenting with music? How early?

HARLEY: Ages ago man, maybe like 10 years old? I remember messing around on Music Mixer 2000 on Xbox, my friend’s older brother had it and I always loved building loops and stuff on it. So I guess it’s just something that I’ve always done or had an interest in.

HARLEY: I’m thinking about starting a house music project, just because I’ve got all these house tracks that just don’t really fit into my main thing. I thought it could be fun to just go and DJ small rooms and play house music haha. So maybe release at least a couple EP’s with all of it. I’ve been sampling a bunch, I haven’t sampled for a while I kinda go through fazes. Lately I’ve just been sampling obscure stuff I find on YouTube, old weird Chinese records etc. It’s been quite fun to mix it up.

SPENCER: Is it Toro who goes under Le Sins?

HARLEY: Yeah that’s Toro. It’s totally a thing. I feel like it’s a thing for producers who don’t make house music. I just saw Porter Robinson is doing some house or dance music thing/side project. It happens, I’m just having my moment… and then you release an ambient record and that’s it. You covered all the cliches.

SPENCER: Sounds like a lot of fun.

HARLEY: It is. I mean there’s so much that goes into live shows, all the gear, loading in etc. I just want to rock up to a club with two USB sticks and that’s it. Just play some music. It just seems fun haha.

SPENCER: Well hopefully that’s not too far off man.

SPENCER: Anyway… Moving on. So did your need for creating music or getting into it have any influence from your folks or were they instrumental in some part to where you are now?

HARLEY: Kind of, they have always been supportive, which was cool. I used to just go home after school, play video games and make music. I had a series of shitty jobs after school and I was like this sucks, I’ve gotta make this music thing work. So I put a lot of time and energy into it. Future Classic had this competition where you send in a track and if you won, you’d get a deal. I think I came second and here I am now.

SPENCER: Do you show your parents demos or things that you’ve been working on? Or just wait till it’s done and show them?

HARLEY: I usually just wait till it’s done. What about you?

SPENCER: I’ve always had this relationship with my parents where they wanna hear stuff. They’re super supportive, almost like, keeping tally’s on me.

HARLEY: What, to check in to see what you’re doing?

SPENCER: Yeah kind of, it’s more the proud parent kind of thing… They love seeing me be creative, I guess that was always the thing growing up, from an early age they were all for backing me to pursue a life in the arts whichever direction I chose to go in. I always had this thing, not so much now that I’ve been out of home for nearly 10 years, I’d show mum or dad a new demo and if they scrunched their noses or raised a lip, I kind of knew the song didn’t have much substance… Or they could’ve been completely wrong and I’ve thrown away a bunch of really good songs…

HARLEY: Yeah, maybe they’re just silly and you’re great. They just have to learn that.

SPENCER: You could be right…haha.

HARLEY: They’ve just gotta learn that!

SPENCER: What else have I got for you mate… Do you ever get nostalgic?

HARLEY: Yes, a lot recently…

SPENCER: Tell me.

HARLEY: I’ve been listening to a heap of early 2000s trance music. Y’know like Robert Mile. Children… The classic trance songs. They somehow sprung back into my life and I’m really happy about it. That generational kind of stuff. That’s what I grew up listening to as a kid and I’m loving it as an adult. I’m thinking about getting 20 of my favourite trance anthems and sampling and granulating them, to just see what happens really.

SPENCER: What was the super popular one? Skitz mix?

HARLEY: Oh man I used to love Skitz mix! I have like 20 of them. He’s still kicking! I googled it the other day to see if he was doing anything and he’s up to Nick Skitz 60 or something… He’s unstoppable.

SPENCER: Wow. I love that.

SPENCER: I’ve been watching things on YouTube like “Crate diggers and My Favourite B-sides”. Some of the top O.G DJs and producers who mostly play vinyl. They take you through their collection and songs they use to get the party started if the mood is dull.

I’ve been finding so much. I’d love to be able to get into collecting, but it seems kinda gruelling and time consuming finding all of that stuff… Especially on vinyl. So expensive. You’d have to be so dedicated. Some of our friends have some pretty serious, impressive collections that’s for sure.

HARLEY: Man it’s all about the USB sticks, get those 320s, just slurp it up.

SPENCER: Rip it off YouTube?

HARLEY: Rip it off YouTube, do whatever you need to do. Just record it on your iPhone, on your voice notes. That’s all I do.

SPENCER: What do you like to cook?

HARLEY: Pesto pasta.

SPENCER: Ooh yeah ok.

HARLEY: Just bought a bunch of basil, I’m gonna do it tonight, I think.

SPENCER: From scratch too?

HARLEY: I mean I’m passionate about basil and pesto pasta. Well basil, pine nuts, olive oil. It just does something to me. I’ll cook it for you some time.

SPENCER: I look forward to that.

HARLEY: What about you?

SPENCER: Mmm, I’m absolutely obsessed with cooking and the obsession hasn’t really ever gone away since I can remember really. I’ve cooked in cafes and other places for a fairly long time, merely because I just enjoyed it. I don’t know what it is… It’s that and music that I can completely blank out too and time will pass quickly. I’m insanely into Italian and Thai food at the moment. The beginning of this year I started doing a Supper Club just for friends who are around and willing. I’ll write up a 6-7 course menu and pair it with some wine.

HARLEY: Fuck that man, you can cook for me!

SPENCER: We’ll make it happen.

HARLEY: It has to be at least seven courses…Minimum.

SPENCER: Ok, deal. I’ve never truly understood people who don’t like cooking or aren’t passionate about food.

HARLEY: Well I’ve never liked cooking… It’s not that I hated cooking itself, I just felt like I never had time to do so. You know? You’ve got to drive to the shop, get all the ingredients, prepare the food, cook it and clean up. I’ve always just ordered stuff and it’s only really since COVID, have I discovered the joy of cooking. Now that life has slowed down, I feel like I do have time to cook and I make time to cook. It’s really enjoyable, good for my brain and it makes me happy. The food’s way better. I’m pretty bad, but rapidly getting better. If there were 10 levels of cooking I think I’d be on level 2?

SPENCER: Mmm I think it’s a lot of trial and error. It’s all a learning curve. I don’t think it’s hard to make things taste good.

HARLEY: Yeah, well that’s what I figured out man. Last week I got really excited about spices… I went to the shop and just bought 20 different spices. Some Moroccan, African, pick a continent.

SPENCER: Are you a spice man?

HARLEY: I am an absolute spice man, I didn’t know I was a spice man until a couple weeks ago. You?

SPENCER: I love spice. I’ve always been a big advocate for Chili. A couple of years ago I was going a bit ham with the amount of Chili I was putting on everything. I felt like I may have done a bit of damage. So I reeled it back a touch and now I’m back to normal. I think I formed a nice little callus that lines the inside of my belly, making the days following not so bad.

HARLEY: Good for you man, it’s good to have you back!

SPENCER: Crocs or Birkenstocks?

HARLEY: Birkenstocks… Daily. I wear them all the time, everywhere. They’re just so comfortable. I don’t know man, I’m a huge advocate for Birkenstocks. And wtf, Crocs? When did they become cool again? I guess anything that fugly will always be cool at some point…

SPENCER: Maybe it had something to do with that Heinous looking ‘yeezy croc slipper thing’?

HARLEY: I feel that anything that gets bashed around that much will inevitably become cool. What’s another thing that could potentially become cool?

SPENCER: Mmm those lil chin beards? Flavour patches?

HARLEY: I’m holding on for eyebrow piercings to make a comeback, that was a thing. Oh here’s a thing that’s heinous that became popular… Mullets! Look here, right in front of me, you’re rocking a mullet. Give us a look, do a twirl!

That’s not really a mullet, is it? It’s just a lil more generous at the back

SPENCER: Yeah, that ship has well and truly sailed for me…

HARLEY: What’s a tip you could give someone, give me some fashion advice?

SPENCER: I have no idea what you’re talking about? You’re the fashion icon…

HARLEY: Ohh mate, I need tips, what’s the next mullet? I’m turning 30 this year, I’m incredibly insecure. I need help!

SPENCER: Plead ignorant. Stick to hand-me-downs.

HARLEY: That’s a bit vague, I was hoping for a little more.

SPENCER: Recycled fashion.

HARLEY: That’s it! I just gave my dog a haircut… Maybe I could piece together all of his hair trimmings and make a scarf or something. Might be a couple grass seeds and ticks in there.

SPENCER: That could be good! PUBG or CS?

HARLEY: PUBG for sure. Do you play either?

SPENCER: Mmm the only thing that I’ve felt remotely capable of playing was CS and even then, I’d just play against bots and shoot the pixelated chickens.

SPENCER: Negroni or Margarita?

HARLEY: Negroni. I love a negroni. I think it’s an underrated drink. The simplicity of it…wtf am I saying haha, it’s just a good drink.

SPENCER: Ok, well going off that. I think we’ve covered enough ground here. I fucking hope this has been recording.

HARLEY: I think it has been, I can see the red symbol flashing. I look forward to this 7-course meal you’re cooking me.

SPENCER: I’ll do up a menu and send it through to you. Pending approval.

HARD TIME TO TAKE IT is available on all streaming services!

Illustration by @kubism_
COLLAR photos supplied
Flume photos supplied