There might have been a 16-year gap between The Avalanches’ first two albums but the WOMADelaide-bound Melburnians are already working on a new record, as they want to “try and do one quick” if they can.
The second coming of The Avalanches moved at a glacial pace. A decade-and-a-half had lapsed since their seminal debut Since I Left You, and its long-rumoured follow-up had become the stuff of urban legend.
Then, in 2016, the group suddenly resurfaced, older, leaner and with a glimmering LP of psychedelic hip hop to show for it. But while Wildflower was a treat for those fans who had almost given up waiting, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more relieved than founding member Robbie Chater.
“It’s unbelievable, actually,” Chater says eighteen months on. “Because there were no guarantees. You don’t know after so long how a record’s going to be received or how it would go down. Things change in the music industry so quickly, so we’re just so grateful that people embraced Wildflower. Since I Left You had become quite dear to people, so people were worried it could be a big letdown. So I think people were really excited that it still sounded like us; it was different but when you put the needle down on the record it still sounded like The Avalanches.”
‘Different’ is a key word. By 2016 only Chater and Tony Di Blasi remained of the original six member lineup seen in the dated press images that resurfaced online whenever new album rumours swirled. Meanwhile, the world of magpie-like sampling and painstaking musical decoupage that the band mastered had also moved on.
“The art of digging has changed, now you can find a cool blog where someone’s done all the digging for you,” he explains. “Or there’s YouTube with every rare disco record ever. It’s just so different, so for me it was about going on my own journey and getting back into stuff that really resonated with me. Not necessarily as funky as the stuff we were sampling on Since I Left You… it was a bit stranger and weirder. You just need that real connection, that energy you get when you’re genuinely passionate about the older stuff you’re uncovering, and the new music will flow.”
Wildflower’s release brought with it the freewheeling live shows that for so long were confined to grainy YouTube rips of Big Day Out and Recovery appearances — a generation ago in Australian music years.
One such performance from The Avalanches on Recovery
Now, they’re bringing it to WOMADelaide.
“It’s a record you made in your bedroom, and then seeing all these people sing along… it’s what music’s all about isn’t it?,” says Chater. “The boundaries seem quite blurred at our shows between band and audience, because it’s all samples being used that we didn’t make, and the audience didn’t make, so we’re all there enjoying the music together. It’s a really cool experience.
“In LA there was an amazing moment where Chandra came to the show, who was 14 when she sang the Subways song that we sampled on Wildflower, and she was at the show with her daughter who was the same age that she was when she made it. They were standing there watching an audience in LA singing along to this new version, it was a really emotional experience for her and for us. Just, strange.”
With the pressure of Wildflower’s anticipation lifted Chater and Di Blasi have returned to the studio, now with the added transparency of an Instagram feed to keep them accountable.
“We’re trying to put it out there that we’re doing it and we’ve started so we’ll force ourselves to do it quicker. We want to try and do one quick if we can,” he laughs. “I know that sounds ridiculous.”
“It’s a completely clean slate, just like Since I left You and Wildflower were two parts of the same thing, this is a brand new start which is lovely. Wildflower was just finishing stuff for the last few years, so it’s great to be in that creative phase again of just making new stuff which is so much fun.”
For Chater the feeling of not having a long-overdue project to finish still takes getting used to. “I still wake up and go, ‘oh I don’t have to do that anymore,’” he says. “That’s cool, we did it. Now I can just pick up a random record, have a coffee in the morning, fuck around and see what happens. I’m not finishing something that’s been hanging around forever.
“I’m fucking glad it’s finished,” he says, with well-earned sigh of relief.
Friday, March 9 to Monday, March 12