LDRU Talks Flume and Skrillex Co-Signs, Preps EP on Ultra

Truong Tran
LDRU

Australia has launched plenty of acts into the American popular consciousness over the years -- to pick a couple major examples, AC/DC and Kylie Minogue still make regular appearances in the playlists of bars and clubs, respectively -- but the '10s have seen a new crowd of artists from the country infiltrate the highest levels of American pop. Just this year, Flume hit the top 20 with "Never Be Like You," while Tame Impala's Kevin Parker helped write a Lady Gaga single.

Drew Carmody, who produces as LDRU, may be the latest to join this club. As a member of the duo Carmada, he earned the attention of Skrillex's OWSLA label, and his forthcoming solo EP will be released in the States by Ultra Records, which has repeatedly shown a knack for importing dance music from abroad. 

LDRU's path into music was somewhat unconventional. He was kicked out of boarding school for smoking weed -- "I wasn't really an academic type kid," he explains -- but landed an apprenticeship with a carpenter within a week of his expulsion. When he suffered a nasty back injury falling from a ladder, which kept him horizontal for roughly 18 months, he put his recovery time to use by learning music production.

"I'd been DJing before that at a few clubs around town," he remembers. "I thought if I actually wanted to make a name for myself then I have to start producing, so I just picked up the laptop and found Logic. It took a lot of YouTube videos, heaps and heaps. After a few months, once you get to know the programs and the plugins, it starts to get fun."

This industriousness paid off immediately: LDRU's first release, "The Tropics," was signed by the Australian label Future Classic -- which also helped launch the careers of Flume, Flight Facilities, and Jagwar Ma -- and released in 2013. "I'm pretty sure Flume put 'The Tropics' in one of his BBC6 Mixes," LDRU recalls. "[Future Classic] picked it up and I got a message from them on SoundCloud saying, 'we would love to sign your track.' That made me blow up a little bit in the Australian scene."

"The Tropics" showed LDRU was capable of making the sort of trap-inflected tunes -- syncopated shouts, air horns, a wall-buckling low end -- that can earn you a spot on the electronic music festival circuit. (On SoundCloud, he tagged the track as "#Trapical."). Occasionally, a woman's voice added onomatopoeic interjections to the song in an amusingly bored monotone, as if she could barely stand it: "Boom." "Bang." "Bang." Any thoughts LDRU might have had about returning to carpentry vanished when his song started to take off. "There was no return from that point," he says. 

His music continued to attract the attention of big names. The following year, LDRU teamed up with Max Armata -- the two played together several times around Australia -- as Carmada to put out "Maybe," which was soon gobbled up by Skrillex. The synths are fluffy, the vocals are artfully de-centered, and a similarly bored voice returns to intone the title phrase, but what surely caught Skrillex's ear was "Maybe"'s pulverizing instrumental hook. LDRU describes Carmada as "more club oriented" than his solo work. "We like making the heavier stuff," he notes. 

LDRU massaged his sound lightly on "Keeping Score," his most successful single to date. A festival crowd loves a vicious drop as much as a singalong, but it's the singalong-inciters that usually get picked up by radio. There wasn't much to hum on "The Tropics," and the vocals were anemic on "Maybe," but on "Keeping Score," LDRU tempers Carmada's vigorous template with the help of the singer Paige IV, who offers generalized metaphors about risk-taking: "On a later day, I might get wet/ But it's only rain: I know what I'm in for." The track is certified platinum in Australia, with 10 million plays and counting on Spotify

LDRU tends to chalk up his success to chance. "That was a lucky one," he says of "Keeping Score," which came together in just two days. "I've got a couple of tracks that I've been working on for years."

He's similarly glib about the growing wave of Australians gaining international recognition. "I'm not too sure what the formula is," he says. "Maybe just the Vegemite and toast every morning?" Whatever it is, it's working.