Through rain, hail, vomit or Valium, Flight Facilities will be there.
Photos by Lincoln Jubb
Nestled somewhere between nerves and pure adrenalin, I sat down and chatted with Hugo and Jimmy of Flight Facilities before they went on stage in front of 15,000 people with an orchestra of 50 people, as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Weekender. No biggie. We talked John Farnham, Big Boi, vomit and lollies. All the important things.
Congratulations on everything … how are your excitement levels before this massive show?
Jimmy Lyell: I was super excited now, but at home I was really nervous. I’ve just had a back operation only four weeks ago, my back sometimes gets a bit weird. I took a Valium and had a beer and now I’m fully smashed. Excitement levels are high.
Are you numb?
JL: No, I’m back to normal now, I’m normal me. But yeah, before I couldn’t talk to people, couldn’t have a proper conversation because I was so nervous. I haven’t been that nervous in so long.
Hugo Gruzman: Yeah it’s so good. I want to get back into it, get out there and look around and feel the vibe of the festival.
You tour a lot, what are three things you must take on tour?
HG: I would say clean underwear, a passport and a toothbrush. And everything else you can figure out on the way.
JL: That’s true. I’ve got these divided Muji bags – they’re so good for packing, I’m not OCD I swear. It just makes life so easy because you know what’s clean and what’s dirty. It’s like compartmentalising.
HG: I do that, I usually buy lollies at the beginning of the trip and use the plastic bags they were in to put all my dirty stuff in.
Seriously? How big are your lolly bags?
HG: Well I usually buy enough for everyone I fly with on the plane, we travel with a big team so lots of chips and chocolates.
JL: But you usually end up with all of them.
HG: I take them halfway across the world, I’ve had times when I’ve managed to return still with some.
JL: Yeah you bought the other ones on a second tour.
HG: See, at least I’m not hoarding them at home, they’re very much the team chocolates.
Does it lift team spirits?
HG: If everyone’s a little peckish and you go on the bus, it’s a nice thing you know.
Have you got a favourite?
HG: Peanut butter M&Ms get a lot of air time.
JL: I’ve got some funny stories about snacks, I’m looking at carrot and vegetables right now. On our first American us tour, I was like if I eat semi-healthy, that’s a good thing, and you know I don’t like to eat a lot before the show. So there’s this Ranch dressing and I was eating carrots and everything, I just kept going because it tasted so good. I thought I felt a bit weird, then we got on the bus and the next morning I woke up and I was so sick. Food poisoning of some sort.
HG: Oh it was so bad.
JL: We had a show that night in Seattle and…
HG: I can’t believe you came good by the show.
JL: I wasn’t. There was a bucket there…
HG: But he still pulled it together. I would have had some really depressing Shakespearean moment, like “Noooo, go on without me I’m done!” Curled into a ball.
JL: Nah I was just like fuck it, it can’t get any worse than right now.
HG: He can do that, I cannot pull through that kind of stuff. I would have been writing a will, having a really traumatic moment with someone holding my hand. I would not deal, whenever I get sick I don’t want anyone to be near me, I’m kind of like a dog, I’d go and dig a hole.
JL: You are like a dog, not in the derogatory sense of the word, but when you’re sick you’re like, “I’m outta here. This is for your own good.”
HG: I’m getting away from everyone, I need to go die quietly.
Well on that topic, have you ever thought about anyone living or dead that you’d be happy to take your place should you be unable to make it?
JL: Well when I was out with a back injury Touch Sensitive took my place and now I don’t know if I have a job anymore because he was that good.
HG: I’m trying to think of someone who Jimmy would enjoy playing alongside…The thing is they have to look good in my costume and my costume isn’t easy to look good in, I look like a ridiculous person in it. They need to look just as ridiculous, you can’t put a cool person in that, it just doesn’t translate.
JL: I’m gonna be really lame here and just say no one could do it. Seriously, even my favourite artist, just no. It’s not the same.
HG: It was a weird experience, I loved having Mike from Touch Sensitive on stage but if you have to make a really important decision it makes it a lot harder when it’s not Jimmy.
Have you got a wishlist of vocalists you want to collaborate with?
HG: Bill Withers. I’d love to get a few old school hip hop guys.
JL: We were in contact recently with Big Boi from Outkast.
HG: He’s a busy man.
JL: But he’s really keen to work on something down the line.
Speaking of collabs, you’ve collaborated with a bunch of people from lighting designers to artists and this is my sentence- how is the creative process for you and do you have a vision first or does everything unfold like a beautiful flag fluttering in the wind?
HG: Woah, articulate much?!
JL: First of all, we do what we do because we enjoy making music but we just want to put a touch that we don’t have, on it. That’s why we love collaborating.
HG: It’s also the essence of remixes as well, which is where we started. It’s hearing a song and saying “Oh, I wish it had that,” or done in another way. Generally, we’ve got a vision first and the most important thing is to have an idea. Because you can sit there and hit as many keys as you want, but you’re not going to make something great until you’ve got an idea of the direction you want to take it in. Once you have that, it’s so much easier to let it find its feet afterwards.
JL: To have an idea in the beginning and then once it starts to veer off track, because it always does, it’s important to go with it because that’s what it’s supposed to be in the first place.
HG: Yeah, bang on!
Can you remember the first gig you went to and what impact that had?
JL: John Farnham.
HG: Billy Joel. I still sing billy Joel in the car, Always a Woman to Me, great song.
JL: I have a vision of you singing that, then once you get to the lights you pretend you’re not singing it.
How was John Farnham?
JL: Absolutely amazing. I’ve got a cool story, I was 12 and he was like, “I’m not singing the next line, the band can keep playing till everyone stands up.” So everyone stands up and I’m still sitting down and he looks over my way and he wouldn’t start playing. Then I was like “Shit, I better get up!” Then he started singing and I realised that it was obviously me.
Have you met him?
JL: No but I’d love to.
That’s a cool collaborator.
HG: How do you get Farnsy on a track?
Just call him up.
HG: He is a very likeable person.
JL: Apparently he’s really funny to his band. What was the story we got told the other day? Oh yeah, that he turned around to his band in the middle of the show and it looked like he said, “Sound’s great!” But he actually said, “Sounds shithouse guys!” and turns back around. Apparently he does it every gig, with a real straight face.
If you didn’t have music what do you think you’d be doing?
HG: I was enrolled in COFA, so I would’ve done fine arts and painting at which point I would have done a four-year degree and gone, “You’re an artist! Sick, who’s gonna employ me?” I love that anyone who’s at COFA right now is going to read that be liked “Oh shit, fuck you guys.” It would’ve honed my skills as an artist though, so I do regret not having the four years of intense painting. But I think I would’ve liked to do something creative, Jimmy and I came to the same decision recently, a friend of ours just did AWARDS school for advertising, and the creative aspect of advertising I’d love to do. I mean our job includes that, we’ve got a really big say in it. You’ve got to find unique ways of pushing your product.
JL: And one has driven the other, the fact that we’ve done it for this has driven our passion and then maybe we could own a firm one day, who knows? Can you imagine it?
JL: Yeah and have scribed on the door, “As seen on stage.”
You’ve known each other a long time, do you still get surprised by each other?
JL: Yes in small instances, like singular instances, but not the reason of where it’s come from.
HG: More like, “I can’t believe you still do that.” Surprised at the consistency.
Are you a whiskey neat or a piña colada vibe?
JL: I could go either way. Oh, that didn’t sound quite right.
HG: I could go a whiskey neat every now and then piña coladas….yeah I look like such a piña colada guy. If I said whiskey neat they’d be like “Bullshit. He likes a piña colada with a little umbrella and a little twirly straw.”
Ha – have a great show!