Flight Facilities don’t care if you talk and sing during their live set. They don’t even really mind if you come onstage with them or want to touch their equipment. But, as Hugo Gruzman—AKA one-half of the Australian producer duo—explains, just don’t mess with the songs. “We really like it when the audience comes onstage with us and dances around, and we’ve actually had people come up and sort of hang out while we play,” he says. “But one guy tried to, like, play it all himself, and that’s when we had to draw the line.”
They make it look easy, but nobody can hopscotch the lines between funky disco, electronic, dance, and glitchy pop quite like Hugo and his bandmate Jimmy Lyell. The ear-wormy pair have been mainstays on the festival circuit and music blogs ever since 2010, when they dropped their debut single “Crave You,” featuring Giselle Rosselli. The twitchy slice of electro-pop is still just as irresistible four years later, but now there’s plenty more where that came from in Flight Facilities’ debut album, out this month on Glassnote Records.
Featuring vocalists like Emma Louise, Reggie Watts, and more, Down To Earth is all over the place in the best way possible, wrapping their genre-twisting sound around slow jams and dance numbers alike. Just before Hugo and Jimmy performed at the Sonos House in New York City last month (where luckily, no audience members attempted to take over), they filled us in on the record, dream festival lineups, and their sandwich obsession.
You guys have been working on your debut album for a while now. Are you ready to finally let everyone hear it?
Hugo Gruzman: I think as soon as you sign off on it, you want everyone to hear it immediately. It’s a matter of having that moment where you’re like, “I can’t touch it anymore.” There are always a million things you want to do, but after a certain point you gotta let it go.
Down To Earth features a variety of guests, from Emma Louise to Bishop Nehru. How did you decide which artists to pick?
Hugo: We started writing a demo, and then pretty soon we have an idea of who would be a great fit for the song. Sometimes we have a short list of the type of voice or the type of vibe that we want, and we’ve been really lucky. For this record we got pretty much everyone we wanted.
Jimmy Lyell: We have heard very few no’s. I feel like it’s just a music community thing, and I suppose the people we reach out to are people who probably fall in line with the music we make and we music we love. So it comes quite naturally for them to be like, “OK, we’ll try this.”
So you have someone in mind early on?
Hugo: The song is generally written with someone in mind, which is a cool way to work because for the person who it’s going to feature; it’s a very personal thing. It’s a gamble as well, because if they don’t pull through or they’re busy or they don’t want to do it, it’s like, “Oh, shit.” Then you have to start over.
Jimmy: Usually in the first day we’ll talk about whether or not we see a guy or a girl on this. And we’ve never really disagreed on it, either.
Wow, that’s rare. You never fight?
Jimmy: We’ll clash in tiny bits of production and in melodies and that sort of stuff, but I don’t ever remember clashing on the singer. We both know it in ourselves.
Hugo: Jimmy and I are both on such opposite ends of the spectrum sound-wise, but we come to a common ground on a lot of things. That’s good, because otherwise it wouldn’t work.
Jimmy: It’s nothing personal or anything like that, it’s just important for us to find that middle ground within all of that. Sometimes it takes a while to get there, though [laughs].
How do you guys stay inspired as a duo? What happens if one of you is feeling it, but the other isn’t?
Jimmy: The best is when we find the groove together, but even if not, one of us usually will.
Hugo: I can sit back and watch Jimmy take the track in a different I had no idea he was going—and then I can take it from there and pitch in. Or vice versa. I can think of all these projects where we’ve gone stale on one side or another, but the other person can help carry it over the line. Sort of like a relay race.
What's the one thing you always have with you in the studio?
Jimmy: There are two sandwich shops we always go to when we’re recording, and they are incredible. One is called King’s Lane Sandwiches and South Dally sandwiches—they’re in Sydney and literally right next to each other. We don’t know if the other knows about the other one, so we constantly feel like we’re cheating.
Hugo: We support them equally, though. At each place we order different sandwiches, and they know our orders by heart. We’re friends with both people who work there, and sometimes one of them will tweet at us—they’ve both made us feel quite personal.
What can we expect from the tour?
Hugo: This year we’re only doing New York and LA dates in the U.S., just for a quick run after we release the album. We just want to whet the appetite for the fans who have been there for a long time. And then in 2015, we’ll do the world tour.
Jimmy: Yeah, the idea behind it is just to pay service to the people who have been with us on the journey so far, and let them see us on a live scale.
Do you guys feel pressure to live up to the expectations of fans who have been with you since “Crave You?"
Hugo: Oh, definitely. It’s really nerve-wracking because the album is totally a part of us. Just like releasing art or something, putting out music is such a personal thing. You’re putting it out there and basically setting yourself up for criticism. You’ve got to be prepared to take it.
Jimmy: I don’t feel like what we are releasing is that different than what we’ve done in the past, though, so with any luck, we will have like-minded fans on board. We always say how lucky we are with our fans, because they’re all so cool and funny, and the comments we get on Facebook and Twitter so great. It’s like verbal diarrhea, basically!
If you could put together your dream music festival, which bands would be there?
Hugo: I’ve thought about this a lot before, actually. If I could have my festival I would want firstly a stage at the end of the hill and a huge grassy area splayed out, so everyone can sit and watch. Then you can dance down in the bottom, a big nice open place. For performers, I’d want Sebastien Tellier, The Beach Boys, and The Whitest Boy Alive. I just want it to be a really chill vibe…then you can go out and rage right after.
Describe Down To Earth in a couple of sentences:
Lyell: The album is filled with a little bit of everything. It features where we started with “Crave You,” and further beyond, and we want people to hang it out to dry and let us know what they think of it.
Where’s the best place to listen to the album?
Jimmy I think at home, maybe while cooking. You know how you just put a record on and then you find hidden gems every now and then? It’s like that.
Hugo: I’d always liked listening to an album on a flight. I’d love for people to have this experience, listening to it all the way from takeoff to landing. The flight from Melbourne to Sydney is about an hour, and some of my favorite albums I’ve discovered on that flight, just sort of tuning out. Even though I know how cliché it is to say to listen to Flight Facilities on a plane, I’m just going to say it—because it’s true.
Buy Down To Earth starting October 27.
Liza Darwin is a writer living in New York. She's on Twitter - @lizadarwin.