It’s been seven years between drinks, but Flight Facilities are back with their sophomore album FOREVER, and it was well worth the wait.
If you’ve seen a Telstra ad in the last four years, you’ve heard at least one Flight Facilities song. But there’s a high chance you’ve heard many more because the Sydney duo have been making waves since their debut record Down To Earth.
Since forming in 2009, Hugo Gruzman and James Lyell have racked up hundreds of thousands of streams, performed at sold out shows and festivals worldwide, and even launched their own festival, Airfields, that took place in Sydney last month.
We caught up with Hugo to chat about their new record FOREVER, Grand Theft Auto, and working with Hugo Weaving.
HAPPY: Hey Hugo! How’s Tassie?
HUGO: Yeah, good. It’s amazing! Nice day to be out here actually.
HAPPY: I can imagine. Good weather? Better than in Sydney, I’m guessing.
HUGO: Yeah. I mean, dude coming from Sydney and seeing the garbage that we’ve had for just months straight, it’s such a relief to be in some sun.
HAPPY: It sounds like it would be an absolute delight.
HUGO: Yeah, my spirit is not broken for a second [laughs].
HAPPY: So I know it’s been a couple of months since the release, but congrats on the new album!
HUGO: Thanks! Yeah, what’s it been now? Was it November? Early November.
HAPPY: Yeah, and it’s been a massive seven years since you released a debut. How did the release process for FOREVER differ from when you put out Down to Earth?
HUGO: I guess it was weirder because we were in the middle of lockdown. And so I think being in the lead up to Down to Earth, there was more of a ramp in terms of the excitement and everything building up, and us building up to this album and having done multiple singles. Whereas with FOREVER we had all this weird downtime, so it was hard to sort of gauge where you were at in terms of your popularity within music.
So it was the hardest thing. It was just weird. Because the lockdown was the way it was, it almost felt like throwing it out into the void and not knowing how it was going to react. I mean, we’ve been really lucky that it’s been great, but it was a super strange experience not having that flurry of stuff behind you where you’re ramping up and doing more shows and becoming more exciting. It was just like, all right, the whole world was kind of getting back out into seeing people again.
HAPPY: Speaking of shows, you’ve been playing a bunch recently, including your own festival, Airfields, in Sydney. What was the premise behind that festival?
HUGO: I think we just wanted to showcase a whole bunch of local talent, which was a nice thing to be able to show people. I suppose it’s for us to give back in some way that we grew up being really inspired by other Australian artists. So it’s kind of cool to showcase some that are on the same sort of trajectory as I think we were years ago. And we’ve always loved the culture behind festivals and after not having one for so long, it felt even more right because everyone needs to have one of these days to reset and feel like you’re normal again. They’re one of those things that makes you go, ‘Oh, maybe stuff is kind of getting back to some semblance of normal.’ It was pretty overwhelming, I gotta say, at first. Standing around that many people again and having that many people in front of us was like, ‘Fuck, I almost forgot what this was like.’
HAPPY: Yeah it all feels a bit surreal. The last time I saw you play was at Groovin a few years back. And we’ve basically been in lockdown since then. What does the live show look like this time around for the FOREVER tour?
HUGO: Well, we’ve definitely ramped up the production and I suppose we’ve got a whole bunch of new music. That was part of where the nerves were, we’d never performed a bunch of this music, so that was a big, big difference in itself. And then just putting more into the lighting production, and really leaning into the stuff that inspired us years ago like Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers, and taking leafs out of their books to try and make it a bigger, more impressive show that we’ve always been enamoured by when we’ve seen other acts that we love play.
HAPPY: Oh nice, that sounds incredible. And there’s a lot of collaborations on the record. How do you pick out who you’d like to work with on different tracks?
HUGO: Truth is, we’ll sort of work with anyone and we’re very comfortable working with people we’ve worked with before. I think there are certain melodies that we fall in love with and the people who produced them. Channel Tres, for example, we loved him and anything he does sounds like a song. The guy talks and you just want to record every word he says because it all sounds like you could put it in a track [laughs].
HUGO: But we still return to people we’ve worked with before, like Emma Louise and Elizabeth Rose. So there were people we went back to, that we found familiar, and I don’t know whether that’s us being comfortable with who we work with or whether we know what we like and they know how to produce it. So I think ultimately if it sounds good, we’ll go with it.
HAPPY: I read that you like to spend time with the people you collaborate with before actually recording. What does that look like?
HUGO: A lot of the time it can just be hanging out in the studio, but we don’t necessarily start working straight away. It can be like a weird thing to feel each other out when you sit in the studio together and you’re like, ‘Hey, let’s make a song.’ It’s kind of a weird personal thing and you don’t want to take too many risks. So when you get comfortable with someone, you can just fuck around and laugh and you can make jokes and you don’t necessarily have to be doing serious stuff the whole time. If you get into that zone, you’re going to produce better results because no one’s afraid of trying things. And that’s sort of the most important space to be in, because if you get too wound up and you’re a bit too tight, you kind of feel you can’t let go. And we’re sort of open to so much so I guess getting them comfortable with us means that we’re going to get the best results out of it for ourselves. And then I suppose if that’s the case, we wind up with better collaborations in future.
HAPPY: Yeah, and speaking of collabs, you got Hugo Weaving to star in the music video for Heavy. How did you get in contact with him?
HUGO: So we needed a video for Heavy… [laughs] It was meant to be shot in Paris but the whole thing fell apart because of COVID. And we needed a new video within a couple of weeks, so we spoke to a friend of mine from school, and I was like, ‘Hey, you know, I’ve got an idea for a video.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, cool. That’s a fun idea’ or whatever, but I’ve got this idea’. He’s like, ‘So we get Hugo Weaving, blah, blah, blah.’ And I was like, ‘Woah, dude, if you can get Hugo Weaving, you can do whatever you want.’ [laughs] So he was like, ‘Leave it with me. I think I’ve got a contact.’ His name’s Tim Burnett, he works at Entropico, and yeah, he just had the contact to make it happen, made the calls, and within two days, he was like, ‘Yeah, Hugo Weaving’s on board for this music video.’ We were like, ‘holy shit.’ So I got to completely hand it to him. He did an amazing job, and all we had to do was be like, ‘Ah, yes.’
HAPPY: Oh wow, did you get to spend much time with him?
HUGO: I went out to the shoot on one of the days. I think they did it in two days, and I went and visited for an hour or two at the end and drove him home at the end of the clip because he lives not too far away from me. It was just awesome that, when Tim was speaking to him, Tim was like, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable. Thank you for doing this.’ And Hugo was like, ‘Well, I’ve kind of done…’ The guy’s been in The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, he was even a voice in Transformers. Like, is there really anything that’s not on the bucket list there? So he was just like, ‘Oh, I just take things I like.’ And I think he’s getting pretty familiar with the independent movie scene, and he was young in Sydney once in University plays and that sort of stuff. So I think he keeps a foot grounded there and he was obviously willing to give back in that regard.
HAPPY: Yeah, that’s amazing. On the topic of music videos, I love the way that the video for FOREVER is made up entirely of aerial shots. What was the creative process behind that one?
HUGO: Yeah man, I don’t know if you ever played GTA before GTA was the beast that it is now, but that’s how the whole game used to look. It was shot from aerial. So when we first saw that, it was actually some footage that that director had shot and he showed it to us and we needed a clip for FOREVER. So it was a process of repurposing what he had and adding it to our song because stylistically, we loved it so much and it just really seemed to fit. So we were like, ‘We’d be crazy to go try and find another video when this one fits so well.’ But from what I heard there’s somewhat a deeper plot to it that he never fully explored. But I’m just glad that we got to use it and I’d love to almost explore that one again, that whole aerial thing. I think now with the emergence of drones, there’s a real opportunity to lean into that sort of stylistically and perhaps shoot a follow up.
HAPPY: Yeah, especially given your aviation theme. It was so fitting. So it’s crazy that the video was kind of coincidental.
HUGO: Oh my God, I didn’t even think about that! That’s such a good point [laughs].
HAPPY: [laughs] Yeah, I thought that that was the whole idea behind it. So I was looking at all of your other videos to see if you’d done it before because I thought it could be a recurring aviation theme. But yeah, it worked out well.
HUGO: That’s so funny. I didn’t really think of that conceptually, but you’re fucking bang on [laughs].
HAPPY: Do you ever get sick of having the aviation theme or have you completely embraced it?
HUGO: Nah, I think sometimes within the scene there’s like, ‘oh God, let’s not go too heavy handed on it’ because you don’t want to look too much like a Halloween party. But I think it’s a nice thing that people can lean into, and you give your brand an additional hook. You know, it’d be like Daft Punk getting sick of the robots when it’s the robots that make them so iconic. So I think there’s sort of a necessity to have that extra dimension to your brand. So without it being too ridiculous and ham-fisted like, ‘hey, we’re pilots.’
But personally, I loved it as a kid. I was obsessed with planes and flying, and my grandfather was a pilot and dad had his pilot’s license. So he used to fly us around occasionally. My grandfather had a small plane, it used to be referred to as the ‘Vomit Comet’ [laughs]. I think he had one of them. And we would fly around the Cessna 310, because he ran a business out of it, he had a charter company. So I was very much sort of exposed to the whole life, and I guess this was like a really strange, creative way of getting myself involved with it and using it as an edge. But yeah, I didn’t think people would take to it as much as they have. But now it’s awesome, we go to shows and people are dressed up and yeah, it’s amazing. I love seeing it and I’m glad we’ve got it because it’s just this dimension that makes the whole thing more fun. Takes some of the seriousness out of it too sometimes. I think a lot of musicians can tend to get a bit far up their own ass occasionally [laughs] and having something like that at least lets you know it’s a bit of fun.
HAPPY: Yeah I’m a big fan of the theme. How did you pick who gets to wear each hat?
HUGO: Oh man, you know what, I stupidly gave myself the hat that I wear, which is the Biggles one. The crazy old 1940s one.
HAPPY: Oh, I was going to say you’ve got the good one. No offence to Jimmy.
HUGO: Yeah, I loved it because it was a bit of fun. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll wear this.’ And after years, it’s like, ‘God, I look like Wally’ [laughs]. But it’s sort of suited to our personalities. I think that if I wore a suit with the pilot’s hat, I would legitimately look like I was playing costume dress-up. Whereas Jimmy looks semi-legitimate. I’m sort of a bit on the on the sillier side of things. So me having that hat kind of fits.
HAPPY: Nice. Well, thanks so much for chatting. I’ll let you go and get on with things because you’re playing in Tassie tonight.
HUGO: Yeah, we’re about to go do the sound check and all that sort of stuff. But I appreciate it. Thanks for doing this.
HAPPY: No worries at all! And good luck with the show.
HUGO: Thanks man, I appreciate it. We’ll probably see you around in Sydney.
HAPPY: Yeah definitely, thanks so much.
HUGO: Legend, thanks a lot.
Flight Facilities are finishing off their tour in Perth this weekend. You can grab yourself a ticket here.
The duo’s sophomore record FOREVER is currently streaming on all major platforms, get a taste for the album below.
Interview by Lochie Schuster