Let’s get one thing out of the way – Flight Facilities recognise the irony in the title of their just-announced second album, FOREVER.
“It's probably the most audacious thing that we've ever titled anything,” Jimmy Lyell tells MTV Australia.
Seven years on from their 2014 debut, Down To Earth, the duo – consisting of Lyell and Hugo Gruzman – are finally ready to take flight once again. It’s a record that’s been a long time coming, obviously. Its rollout began with the unspeakably cool “Lights Up” with the sultry tones of Channel Tres and was backed up with “Move”, with vocals from Drama. “Move” particularly offers a sound that’ll be both familiar to Flight Facilities fans; especially those that feeling nostalgic for a time when we could dance well beyond the walls of our own home.
The pandemic has delayed many albums, and while it didn’t exactly help the creation of FOREVER (out November 12) it seems like it would’ve taken Hugo and Jimmy just this long to get it finished without COVID-19.
“It just naturally took that long to finish,” Hugo laughs. “Even then, we still probably didn't meet the deadline for a few things. Give us seven years and we'll still miss that deadline.”
The length of time between albums seems particularly egregious when it’s now common for the world’s biggest artists to release two complete, individual albums in the space of a year – Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and Ariana Grande just to name a few. For anyone feeling particularly shirty about the wait, you can blame a curse that ails many an artist: perfectionism.
“I guess it's one of those things that you can't turn off. It's hard to ignore the tiniest little details,” Jimmy laments. “I've always felt that it's those last, tiny, little finishing touches on songs that make them seem more considered. You feel like you get the song that you're really trying to make, and have thought about every tiny little detail of it. I think that, in some ways, subconsciously translates to people – you get a sense of it when it hasn't just been a rush job to slam out.”
Don’t get them wrong – Jimmy and Hugo are elated with how the album turned out, and it’s likely you will be too. With opener “Lights Up” delivering a smokiness and warmth reminiscent of those first footsteps into a nightclub, we’re transported to a place – and a feeling – many of us sorely miss.
One thing you’ll notice as soon as you listen to Forever in its entirety is how it differs from the sound the duo are usually known for. Yes, there’s still the tried-and-true smooth, bass-heavy take on electronica, but the tracks also stretch their wings. The transition from the heavy, techno-driven “The Ghost” to the stunning, orchestral ballad “Altitude” alone is enough to showcase how far their journey has taken them. Flight Facilities are soaring to new places.
While they recognise FOREVER as an example of how they’ve honed in on their artistry, Jimmy admits having two pilots in the cockpit can be challenging. “It's a constant push and pull between Hugo and I.”
“Hugo wants to keep the Flight Facilities sound, which is so integral to the brand, and I really want to push limits. But I really think that we've done a great job of reaching out for new sounds, whilst keeping our core sound, our tone of voice and the thing that we're known for. Basically, I feel like we've kind of done the first album, but a little better, cleaner and with a bit less newbie dust on there.”
In case all of those elements weren’t enough to shift, upheave and distract from the creative process, Flight Facilities also had the added tidbit of Jimmy becoming a father. (He welcomed his first child, Louie, into the world last year.)
“Your use of time just becomes completely different from before,” Jimmy says of how fatherhood. “I have so little time now. If I want to be a good father, I have so little time now to do other things.”
“Everyone feels busy even before they have a kid,” he continues, “but then you throw a kid in the mix – that’s more than half of your time gone. For someone like me, who doesn't like to be particularly organised, it's been one of those things where I just have been forced to organise my life better. It's all worth it, but I'm still learning how to do it.”
With all those factors in play that would ultimately prolong the creation and release of Forever, Jimmy and Hugo were never going to be able to do this alone. Luckily, ‘doing things alone’ has never been their M.O. Forever sees a slew of different vocalists and writers featured, with one man in particular helping bring all of it together – revered producer Jono Ma.
“We took all the sort of big existing stuff and ran it through to him,” Jimmy says. “He's got an incredible synth collection – stuff from the sixties all the way up to more modern.”
“We just got to play around with them, and some of what came from that fucking around is what you hear on the record … it just brought a lot of things to life, made them sound a lot bigger and more dynamic because they had that analog feel to them, where Down to Earth is primarily digital.”
Despite the new ground, Hugo says that he can’t detach his love from the digital origins the duo have, saying “There's something I love about the shitty charm of a bedroom synth.”
“But there's also something that's incredible about the really big, amazing depth of that analog sound. If you're going to say one's better, it's probably analog. But if I were to go for preference, there's something about those old ones that’s charming because it's crappy and it feels honest.”
“Flight Facilities was built on soft synths and sample pads,” Jimmy continues, “and then songs like ‘Sunshine’ are full of guitars and sound live-ish. So we definitely have dabbled between both but, with this one, working with Jono led us to rewriting the songs that we had and re-imagining them into a more analog world.”
Flight Facilities were not only built on soft synths and sample pads, they were built on the nightclub circuit – an integral part of not only their rise to stardom, but of many of their most successful contemporaries. The NSW government hasn’t been kind to nightclubs at the best of times, but recent outrage has arisen over their treatment in the government’s reopening roadmap. Nightclubs will only be opening on December 1 – to both vaccinated and unvaccinated – and will only be allowed to operate at one person per 4sqm capacity.
It’s a rule that feels unworkable, or as Hugo says, “It’s dumb… really, really dumb. The dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. It just reiterates that none of them have ever been to a nightclub.”
This is something Jimmy doubles down on, saying, “They clearly have no idea about it. You've got a whole bunch of people with pretty niche life experience, and they're trying to legislate for industries based on having never visited it or been a part of it. That's the really frustrating thing.
“It’d be like me going, ‘Hey, guys, I'm going to give you a little talk on astrophysics’. I don't know a fucking thing about it. Who am I to tell you what limits you can have on your resource? If we’re at 90% fully vaccinated, and if we theoretically wouldn’t need a vaccine passport then, why would clubs still only be able to open at 25% capacity?”
“No one will answer [the music industry’s] questions and they’re leaving people to go broke,” Hugo says, “it sucks because this is how we started”.
“That's how we started our careers – it sucks. It's so unfair to people, they're not given the same opportunity as we were to start their careers.”
Playing the live shows they would like to in Australia is off the cards for now, but the duo are on the cusp of embarking on an American tour – they hope.
“I'm apprehensive given how many shows have been canceled,” Hugo says, “We'll accept shows and be like, ‘Yeah, cool, great. We're going to do it’. But I'm not going to sit there and be like, ‘Can't wait!’.
“At this rate, I'm just going to wait until I'm actually side of stage and they announce we're going on,” Jimmy laments, “and even then I’m not going to trust it.”
None of us can really trust anything at the moment, and everything feels especially uncertain right now. Flight Facilities share that hesitancy, but their return with Forever is charged with such electricity that fans might be able to forget about their anxieties for just a moment. Definitely not for forever, but at least for right now.
Flight Facilities’ sophomore album, FOREVER, is set for release on November 12. Their single, “FOREVER”, is out now.