For years, the idea of a new album from The Avalanches seemed like an almost fantastical concept – one reserved for those with more hope than common sense. But in 2016, the Melbourne duo did what many had thought impossible, and released Wildflower, the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed, and almost universally-beloved debut, Since I Left You.
Arriving after almost a full 16 years of waiting, fans found themselves unable to contain their excitement at receiving something they long thought may never arrive. But when it did, they were quick to refrain from looking ahead to the future, lest another 16 years stand between them and more new material.
In 2017 though, the group indicated that album number three was already in the works, resulting in more than just a little bit of cautious optimism surrounding their future. By the end 2019, it was confirmed that the rumours were true – not only was their third album almost finished, but that it would arrive 11 years earlier than some had anticipated.
Like most bands, The Avalanches went head-first into 2020, aiming to release their new record – We Will Always Love You – by May. An Instagram purge was the first indicator of a new album, and before long, billboards, cryptic messages, and – eventually – new music helped confirm that The Avalanches were truly back.
Unfortunately, a global pandemic threw a spanner in the works somewhat, resulting in the pair silently pushing things back a bit, and causing them to release a run of new singles in order to keep things ticking along while the countdown for the record’s release slowly ticked away.
But this time was beneficial. Not only did it allow The Avalanches themselves time to polish things off from a musical point of view, but it gave both artist and fan the chance to explain and understand the story behind the record.
Described by the pair as being an exploration of “the vibrational relationship between light, sound and spirit” and “the human voice”, the story surrounding the love affair between Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan, and their work on the Voyager Golden Record plays a vital role in the album, too, turning it into an almost interstellar creation that is larger than those who experience it.
Featuring more artists and collaborators than previously, We Will Always Love You provides something that many fans of The Avalanches might not expect. More song-oriented than their past work, the record boasts an all-star list of artists – including Leon Bridges, MGMT, Perry Farrell, Johnny Marr, Tricky, Neneh Cherry, Jamie xx, Karen O, and Rivers Cuomo, to name a few – yet still manages to capture the essence of what defines an Avalanches album, with their transcendent compositions underpinning the musical left-turn that the pair had aimed to deliver.
In anticipation of the release of We Will Always Love You, Tony Di Blasi and Robbie Chater spoke to Rolling Stone Australia about the creation of their new record, their decision to step back from sampling, and how they still ended up making an Avalanches record to spite themselves.
Firstly, let’s begin with the standard question: How have you been managing to deal with everything going on in the world this year?
Tony: It’s been a crazy year. I guess we’ve not been crazier than anyone else, but I’m glad we at least get to put some music out. We had a whole tour and everything booked, but like everyone else, it got cancelled. But at least we were able to do things, and it wasn’t… We already had the record mostly finished, which was good, because otherwise it might have been hard to finish just during the depression of everything during lockdown. It was a very uninspiring time.
So, obviously the big news here is that we have a new Avalanches album coming out next week. Like most fans, I would assume you guys are excited to get it out into the world at long last?
Robbie: Yeah, and we just decided that… I mean, the record label was like, “We can delay it until next year”, but we just thought, somehow it’s a timely record, and it allowed us to keep releasing songs in the lead-up to the album, and we just thought that we’re proud of the record, it’s got a beautiful message, so why not put it out in a shitty year and maybe at least provide a ray of light. And music is such a beautiful healing energy sometimes, so we decided to just roll with it.
Tony: I think it was meant to come out in May, or something, with “We Will Always Love You” in January and “Running Red Lights” in March or late Feb, and then the record would come out in May. So it was nice during lockdown to have something exciting like putting singles out, and things like that to look forward to.
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It definitely felt like things were supposed to happen earlier, especially with things such as the billboard near Flinders Station in Melbourne appearing in February. You mentioned things like a release date delay and a cancelled tour, but how badly did COVID mess things up?
Robbie: It’s been a difficult year on a number of different levels. I mean, it was difficult for anyone. On a broad spectrum of industries, people have had job uncertainty and financial stress. It’s just been tough for so many people, so we’re not alone in that regard. But certainly as musicians, and so many musicians I know can’t make a living from streaming. It’s just fucked. So we have to tour, to pay the rent, and that was a challenge for us this year. We were hoping to get the record out in May and tour through Europe, and that’s how we make a living, so it’s been tough.
And then all the vinyl plants in America shut down through COVID and we had to find one in Czechoslovakia that could make the record, and that wasn’t going to get until December.
Tony: Everyone was going to that one plant in Czechoslovakia – I think it was the only one open. It’s a really big one, but all of a sudden there’s a split between a few of them, and then every band that’s got a record out this year are all going to this one place. Like Robbie said, we had a tour booked and everything, so all that got cancelled.
We wanted to do an album quickly so we could tour again and just be a normal band and feel the energy of the crowd and all that sort of thing. So obviously that getting taken away was hard, but you just have to deal with it. And like Robbie said, so many other people in so many different industries have had to deal with the same thing, so we’re just one of many.
Sounds like the only ones coming out on top this year are the folks at the pressing plant in Czechoslovakia.
Tony: We should’ve bought some shares in that place.
Robbie: My heart’s been breaking all year. So many musicians I know are just selling their instruments to pay the rent, and all that sort of thing. So it’s been tough. Then the record label said to us, “Look, the soonest it’ll get out with vinyl manufacturing is December, but then it might get lost in the Christmas rush. Y’know, the Mariah Carey Christmas album, the Dolly Parton Christmas album.” And we just thought…
Tony: Don’t ever forget [Michael] Bublé [laughs].
Robbie: We just thought, with everything happening this year, that we should get it out as soon as we can. And holding it off to next year, well, we don’t even know if we can tour next year, so why hold it off?
I’m assuming there’s not even a tentative plan for when you might be able to get back on stage yet?
Robbie: We’ve got some tentative plans, but it’s so uncertain. We’re looking at Australian shows for next year, but with reduced capacities, it’s just hard to know if we’ll break even. There’s European festivals in summer that are like, “We’re going ahead”, and some are like “No way”, so there’s just a real mixed bag.
Tony: It’s really, really uncertain. That’s the vibe we get from our booking manager. It’s just a bit ridiculous that live outside venues have all these reduced capacities, and then you’ve got 50,000 in a stadium in Brisbane or Sydney for sport, and it’s like, “What’s the difference?” It’s crazy.
Let’s quickly duck back to Wildflower for a moment. How were you guys feeling about that when it was released? There was a lot of anticipation for it, but were you anxious to get it out there at the time? Or were you feeling more that you’d worked hard, and you were proud to get it out there?
Robbie: That’s how we felt by the end of the journey, but definitely along the way there were moments of doubt, overthinking, creative paralysis, and all that kind of thing. But by the time we got to the end of that journey, it had been such an epic journey, and we’d had to come through so much in our personal lives, our friendships and everything, so by the time we got to the end, we were just like, “We’ve done it”. It felt like an epic quest, and we were really just happy and excited for it to come out.
And we knew it was good, and that it was a very worthy follow-up to Since I Left You. I think that’s been proven over the four years since it’s been out – people seem to really love it, and love the two albums as a pair. They complement each other really well in different ways. So we were really happy with that.
And I think that freed us up to make a really big left turn, not that it’s ended up being as huge a left turn as we had intended. But we just felt like, “We’ve made two beautiful sample-based records that are dense and layered and long and intricate…”
Tony: And time-consuming [laughs].
Robbie: [Laughs] And I’m sure we’ll make another one like it, but right now, we were like, “It’s time to do something different.” So it freed us up a lot.
You mentioned it’s not as sample-based as the previous albums, but was there any particular apprehension that fans might find it to be too much of a left-turn? Or are you able to disconnect from that and just make music for the sake of making it?
Robbie: It’s a funny thing, and people have all sorts of points of view on it, so we just go with our own gut feeling. And we kind of know that whatever we do will be us. It’s got this essence that’s hard to put your finger on, but you can tell it’s us. And it’s been lovely when people have heard the new record and said like, “It sounds different wherever I put the needle down on it, but it still sounds like you guys.”
But we weren’t afraid to take the risk. We kind of just thought, if we make another record the same – even if it’s fucking amazing – a third record in the same style as the first two, will we start to become a bit of a known quantity? I think it’s that punk-rocker in us, like, we don’t want people to be like, “Ah, I know what I’m getting with them.” Even if it’s great, we want to keep people guessing. We kind of said, like, “Imagine if the response is like, ‘Oh… that’s different. I’m not sure if I like that,’ and people are challenged again.” That’s kind of a good result for us.
Tony: I always think bands go to die when they just keep churning out the same kind of thing, and I think for us, it’s kind pretty to just kind of keep doing everything the same. You constantly want to be pushed into new areas, and just trying to do different things. I think we try and not worry about the really hardcore fans who are going to be like, “This isn’t like Since I Left You…” There are people who still come up to me and say “Man, El Producto is the best album. I wish you guys had kept doing that.” Like, there’s always people like that. If you listen to them, you’re never going to move forward.
Robbie: And we need a reason to get up in the morning. I’m drinking my coffee and making a record and going to start sampling for the day, and it’s like, I need to be vibrant and going somewhere new. And look, every song begins with a sample and is based on samples, and I just feel like it’s another great Avalanches record.
It’s definitely an album that can’t be compared to previous works, and sort of stands alone in the discography.
Robbie: Well that’s good, and I know it’s a strange reference point, but we did think about when U2 had had their whole career and they made The Joshua Tree, and then they made that huge left turn and made Achtung Baby and it was electronic and different. We were kind of like, that opened up a whole ‘nother phase of their career and gave them another 20 years.
If they’d kept doing the same thing, maybe they wouldn’t have had… It’s like, I just admire bands for taking that kind of risk, and it’s really nice to hear you say it sounds different but it works, because that’s what we were trying to do.
When you started working on the new album, how quickly did you start looking at things after Wildflower was completed? I think there was talk of it in early 2017.
Robbie: Yeah, I think Wildflower was released and then we were on the road a lot. We try to write material on the road but it’s always pretty hard. We made it really quickly – about 18 months, I think.
Tony: It was like the concept, Robbie is very aware that during Wildflower, we didn’t quite have a mission statement… We were kind of searching for what Wildflower was about for so long that we just thought that maybe that was why it took so long. So he was very conscious of – quite early on, while we were on tour – thinking, “Let’s really talk about what we think this album’s going to be about.” So I think even just having that kind of mission statement early on was really good to just get it all done quick.
Robbie: I agree. Making Wildflower was almost like the journey was about finding “what is it?” while we were making it. Whereas, with this, it began on the road and being a little bit older and reflecting on our own personal journeys, we were just in a really good place in life to make a reflective album. It still ended up being quite clubby and fun, though. But yeah, on the road the idea crystallised, and when we got home and we made it very fast with our collaborator, Andy Szekeres.
Then another brave decision was that we had all this leftover stuff from Wildflower, and it would’ve been tempting to finish that off if you want to make another record fast, but we just thought, “We’ll start fresh.” So everything was written new in a really short period of time. It had a fresh identity and it was exciting for us to go somewhere new.
Tony: I mean, it was very tempting to go, “We’ve got about 485 songs leftover from Wildflower, let’s just do something really quickly off the back of that.” But again, it was just that decision to be inspired by something new and do something new. Also, I feel like those songs have so much karma from that whole period that I don’t think we would’ve personally been able to release them or go back there. That was the time, and that needed to just be sealed, and then we started again.
Speaking of starting again, how exactly do The Avalanches begin a new album?
Robbie: It always comes from a very strong feeling and place. Just a feeling. For this record, it was this sort of wanting to explore our own mortality in a way, and “who are we, really, as people?” I mean, we’ve done a lot of growth and reflection, Tony and I, along the journey, and we feel like there’s so much that’s rarely spoken about in regards to how vast the human consciousness is, and how vast we all are as people. And even things like life after death and what happens when we die, we just started to become interested in all of that stuff.
So when it’s a genuine passion and a genuine life journey you’re on anyway, then the music you’re making taps into that. It comes from a very real place, and it flows. You’re not just like, “I’m going to make a party tune.” It’s like, “I’m talking about my own personal experience,” and you begin sampling in that vein and you start to figure out how to tell that story.
That was something I felt while listening to the album. It has this gorgeous mix of nostalgia and visceral emotion, but there’s a massive sense of existentialism at play, which sort of goes along with the record’s somewhat spacey feeling – it makes you feel so small while the record feels so large.
Robbie: That’s beautiful. I should remember that for other interviews [laughs]. But you’ve summed it up, because we always talk about the internal journey being mirrored by the… Like a micro and a macro journey that we’re exploring at the same time.
I hate to make comparisons to records, but listening to it gave me a similar feeling that I got while listening to Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space in terms of how large it feels, how small you as a listener feel, and how there’s this an overarching feeling of existentialism at play. But still, it feels grounded, and you still have the aspects of a party-like nature at times.
Robbie: I think they sort of come along inevitably, as part of just our personalities. But that’s a lovely reference point, because I sampled a bit of that Spiritualized record, knowing that we wouldn’t use it, but just that phrase of… I think it was his partner, Kate [Radley], who left that message on an answering machine – Jason Pierce’s partner, Kate – and then he sampled that “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”, and then on our record, it opens with an answering machine record. So it’s kind of full circle.
You alluded to Andrew Szekeres before, who plays a prominent role and was named as a collaborator on this record. What exactly was it that he was able to bring to the table?
Robbie: Tony and I were like, “We’ve got to make this thing, and we’re going to try and make it fast” and everything about it was like, “Let’s do things differently from the beginning. There’s no rule that it has to be constructed just from samples.” I think we also wanted the album to fit more in the ‘now’.
So when we’re working just with samples, all the songs are based on samples from the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s, and they don’t have a lot of bottom end. They have this beautiful character, but I mean, Since I Left You, that album doesn’t have hardly any bass, really. So we were like, “Can we start writing songs with samples, but then paint the sonic picture a lot broader?”
And then we thought of Andrew, who is just a fantastic musician, and we just never thought that we’d be able to find someone that we’d be able to conversations like this with – about feeling and about life. We were just very fortunate.
Tony: He’s just such a great songwriter, and he is just like one of us, I guess. It was so nice to be able to have someone come in and [understand].
Robbie: Maybe Tony and I couldn’t handle another 14 years as just the two of us [laughs]. But it was just this conscious decision to go, “How do we not get stuck in that rut that we were in again, and never go through that again?” And we’d known Andy for years. For our live show, we toured around and we didn’t have a bass player, so we got him to play bass on all the songs just to fill them out. So we’d had that working relationship with him before, and it’s just grown into something really amazing and great now, and we hope that it continues.
Obviously the album is more song-oriented, as you said, though it still features the interstitials and linking tracks, but when you began the creative process, was it always the plan to make it as such? Or again, was that something that followed on from the mission statement of the record?
Robbie: It was in the plan. I think that after Wildflower, it was like… Wildflower to me feels like it’s another beautiful, epic, sample-based album, and they’re pretty tough to make. So we were just like, “Clean slate, anything goes. We can work with other musicians if we want.” We took the pressure off ourselves and though, “Why don’t we just write four songs, six songs, and just put them out?” We’d put them out quickly, and just do that. But then us being us, it turned into 25 songs and they’re all joined. But it started with that idea of just songs.
Tony: We did just float the idea of, “Okay, let’s just do ten songs, they don’t have to join. We can just get an album out quick, and save ourselves the laborious kind of workload of putting together an album where there’s just so much detail and depth in everything to it.” So we did start off with that idea, and then as we went along, the songs got more [in-depth] and obviously they’re all tied together now. We just couldn’t help ourselves, I guess.
It just feels a bit boring when there’s a bit of a gap and there’s nothing, then there’s just something completely different that comes on. And we love feeling music, and there’s so much thought about what song would come next. So putting something in between that that has to feel right, and it has to feel right for the next one. I guess that’s, in the end, what just becomes an Avalanches album – when all that occurs.
Robbie: It’s a nice way to trick ourselves though, and take the pressure off by saying, “Oh we’ll just write some songs.” It’s a nice way to get going, and even though in the end we couldn’t help ourselves, and it’s ended up being just as epic a record as the others, it was just a nice way to get going again.
I feel that would be a liberating way of going into it, but I couldn’t ever imagine an Avalanches song standing alone.
Robbie: I don’t know, I think we ended up making an Avalanches record to spite ourselves [laughs].
There’s some amazing collaborators on the record here. How do these collaborations come about? What’s the process of how you end up working with an artist?
Robbie: It’s pretty tough, because even just the timbre and tone of someone’s voice matters to us. The songs lead the way – that’s how we go about it. There might be an instrumental and a fragment of an idea, and it’s coming to life, and we’re thinking, “Who’s voice might suit this?”
And sometimes it’s months, like, you just don’t know. Then someone will go, “Perry Farrell!” It’s like this idea comes out of nowhere, and it’s like finding the perfect sample. Then we might sample a bit of an old Jane’s Addiction song and kind of try it out and go, “His voice fit really well in that.”
Tony: We get asked, “Did you just after a hitlist that you went after?” And we’re like, “No, everything just occurs around the song.” We listen to the song over and over and we go, “Who do you think? Whose voice will suit this?” So it’s very much orientated around the song and not just like a, “We want that guy, let’s get him on” or whatever.
Robbie: It’s also their voice and their energy as a person – it’s just a feeling that they have. Then the whole next phase begins where you reach out, and “How will we ever get in contact with him?” or “Would he ever have heard of us?”. It’s a long journey, and if people think that it was a way to make things easier to avoid sampling, I don’t know if it is. It’s been a huge amount of wonderful correspondence and travel, and still a wonderful experience.
So I think it begins with the songs, and they lead the way, but also – reflecting now – everyone involved in the record has been part of our DNA since we were young musicians anyway. I remember Tony and I living in a sharehouse and getting stoned and listening to Jane’s Addiction. When we were young punk musicians who couldn’t play, they were revolutionary. No rules, they broke every rule in terms of metal and alternative music, and they were fresh and freaky. [Perry Farrell] was part of our DNA long before we had ever met him or worked with him. And Mick Jones, for example, I mean, he’s very well known for The Clash, but Big Audio Dynamite were a part of our musical DNA because that was some of the first sample-based music we heard.
By extension, that would mean you’d occasionally have to find a ‘Plan B’, so to speak, if you can’t procure the perfect voice for a song?
Robbie: Yeah, sometimes. I mean, we’ve been pretty blessed.
Tony: Yeah, we were pretty lucky. We didn’t get too many noes when we did request, because, each time, we’d come back and be like, “Oh, wow, he or she does want to do something…” It’s like this feeling of, “Wow, we are incredibly blessed.” I guess there were some people who we couldn’t get in contact with who were the perfect voice, but then those songs didn’t make the record.
There were definitely cases of that, where we had songs that we really loved and we thought we had the perfect voice, but we couldn’t quite get the connection, so those songs just didn’t end up making the record. We didn’t end up trying to find someone else for them. [The songs] just wouldn’t make it.
This mentioning of being blessed just makes me the story of how you got the sample of the Kew High School on Wildflower. [Ed. note: The Avalanches had a partial cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together” cleared when they made contact with Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono after initially being knocked back.]
Robbie: We’re very lucky, and then when you spend time with these people too, it’s like, the generosity and spirit to embrace what we’re talking about – like you said, these big existential kind of themes – and not just dial in a performance and give us some party lyrics over the top, but to actually be a bit vulnerable and reveal a part of their own lives, and really tap into the deeper core of what we’re trying to talk about. That’s extreme generosity, and I still pinch myself. We’re very very lucky, and we don’t take any of it for granted at all. We still feel quite blessed for some of the recording sessions that we’ve had. They were really quite moving at times.
Often, the artists themselves feel less like a “special guest” and more like another instrument on the record. Which I assume is what you’re after, since star power just for the sake of it might take away from the message of what you’re putting out there.
Tony: That’s exactly it. We didn’t want to just have this guest record which is like, “Okay, here’s the Perry Farrell song, and here’s the Tricky song, and here’s the MGMT one…” and it’s all kind of this mishmash of different vibes. And Robbie also had written down a few paragraphs of what we’d explained about just before about the themes and everything that we were aiming for, and everyone kind of bought into that and interpreted that through their own prism of what they’re about.
So they all kind of got that, which made it so that no one was talking about partying and picking up girls, and all that sort of thing. So it all thematically fit and it was our intention for that to happen and not for it to be like a David Guetta guest vocal record [laughs]. Which can be scary, because with such prominent personalities and voices, you still want it to sound like The Avalanches and not just some guest record.
Robbie: It was a huge risk, and a fucking hell of a lot of work. Just like, millions of hours of conversations and correspondence and lyrics back and forth and edits back and forth and versions back and forth. You can’t get a result like that without spending time with the person and a sincere person.
One of the most notable parts of the record as well is not only the cover artwork, but the relationship between Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan, and the Voyager Golden Record. There’s obviously a lot to unpack there. But how did these all combine to serve as inspiration?
Robbie: These are dots that all joined in our minds over the journey, and I don’t know if I can sum it up now in a short conversation, but say… One day you might read about the cosmic microwave radiation that’s left over from the big bang, the very beginning of the universe, and how when you’re tuning in your TV set and there’s static, that’s what that is. It’s still the sound of the big bang just floating all around us.
So thinking about our creation and what we’re all made of, and then thinking about every radio broadcast that’s been broadcast from Earth in the last 100 years, those voices are still floating out there, and you can actually calculate how far they are from Earth now based on when they were first broadcast – whether it was the ’30s or the ’60s, or whatever.
I loved thinking about these voices of singers who have long passed, like Tammy Wynette and John Lennon, Dusty Springfield, and how their voices are still floating out there in the cosmos. And if you looked at planet Earth from a distance, it’s almost like their spirts and souls singing. It’s kind of a beautiful thought, and then that obviously ties into our art form of sampling and how we will sample the human voice.
Then you read about the Voyager Golden Record project and how Carl and Ann were asked to do that for NASA, and somehow sum up the sounds of planet Earth on one golden disc that was designed to last a billion years. Then the added story about how they fell in love while making it, and the sound of her brainwaves – the day after Carl proposed to her – were recorded and captured on that disc and is now floating out there. And when planet Earth is no more, it’ll still be floating out there.
I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, so I heard that story and I was just like, “That is like, the most beautiful fucking thing I have ever heard.” And we just started sampling a bit of the Golden Record, then we reached out to Ann, and she was open to perhaps doing a set of interviews with us for the album and recording dialogue.
I don’t know, this is the puzzle of making an Avalanches record, and all these themes begin to tie together and make sense to you on a personal level, then all of a sudden you have this momentum and you have an album on the way.
Another interesting inspiration on the record appears to be Barbara Payton. There’s the track “Song for Barbara Payton”, “Star Song” also features her via a spectrograph, and you had previously looked at using her for a possible album cover. Was her inspiration things sort of in the same sort of vein as Carl, Ann, and the Golden Record, or was it a bit more direct?
Tony: We did have an amazing cover of her. God, I loved that one…
Robbie: I think it’s on the vinyl picture disc. But yeah, it’s all part of the same story in an abstract way. Part of our own initial discussions coming into the record were about our own mortality and our own personal journeys. My personal journey is that I have a history of addiction – since I was a very young teenager – and that my life has nearly ended a number of times. Especially before we even made Since I Left You, I nearly died of alcohol dependency. So that’s part of my story and part of the reason I’m probably so interested in these bigger themes, I guess.
And then Barbara’s story is just one that I could relate to. It’s a very very sad, painful story. Her loneliness just kind of broke my heart. That loneliness of someone just lost in addiction – I could just totally relate to that story. So that’s part of the backstory of this album and why we were so interested in exploring these kind of deep themes. And I also felt like her story is one that’s not very well known.
When was everything for the record finally wrapped up? Was any of it still going on this year?
Tony: Yeah, it was right down to the finish line, and a bit over [laughs]. Even during the year, we were still mixing bits and pieces. I don’t know, we haven’t stopped this year.
Robbie: When we were reaching for the May deadline, we kind of got it all ready and mastered once for that to all occur. Then when that wasn’t going to occur, and we knew we were going to have a little bit more time, I guess there was such a mad scramble to get it ready to be mastered by that time that it probably wasn’t right. It was almost like COVID did us a little bit of a favour in that we had a little bit more time to take a couple of weeks away, come back to it, and go, “Oh, maybe that song wasn’t right?”
We took out a song here and there, added little things, ended up getting it remastered a few months later, and that was the finished result. So most of the music, everything was there, but it was like it was 99% or 98% complete, and then we did get it mastered and then what comes out now is like… It’s probably things that people won’t even notice, but they make us really happy with the way it is.
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One thing that you made a bit of news with was the release of the x-ray vinyl. How did that come about for you guys? The Soviet “Bone Music” is something that’s quite interesting, so was that something you’d looked at in the past?
Tony: I can’t remember how I heard of it, but I’d heard of this many years ago, because I love hearing about things in Soviet Russia and things like that. But I can’t remember how it came about recently. Someone talked about it…
Robbie: Yeah, it just kind of tied in beautifully because it was for the song “Reflecting Light”, which x-rays are, and because this album was like a personal exploration of like, “Who are we, really?”, it just kind of tied in perfectly.
Tony: It’s actually really hard to get x-ray film these days. We wanted to get a lot printed up, and we were like, “Who’s got some old x-rays lying around?” I went to a doctor and was like, “Oh, my back hurts, I’d better get this looked at…” [laughs].
Tony: We actually thought of Alex [Cameron, Bad//Dreems guitarist and plastic surgeon] at first.
Robbie: We did, and he was like, “I don’t know anyone.” Apparently it’s very bad for the environment, so it’s understandable – they try to do it digitally now. But we were trying to x-ray hustle to get all those done. So that’s why they’re quite limited. We would’ve loved to put out more, but, yeah…
With the album set to arrive this week, what is next for The Avalanches now? You mentioned having the chance to open up possibilities with the new album, so are you already thinking of more new music, or waiting for this album to get out into the world first?
Robbie: I think it’s been such an epic year that I think we’ll just get it out, sleep for a week, and then… I don’t know, knowing us, we’ll probably just start sampling again. Hopefully we can tour.
Tony: We want to tour, and the lockdowns were quite uninspiring to make new music. Everyone thought they’d get so much done, like, “I’m gonna be at home, so I’ll do this…” But you just lose your creative spark, because you don’t realise how much you rely on the vibe and the energy of the city that you’re in. And the people, even though you’re not talking to them, just walking through a crowd really does something to you that you don’t realise until it’s completely gone.
But we’d love to tour, we missed out on the tour this year, so hopefully that’s all starting to piece itself together again. But we want to come back with new music and new songs just as soon as we can.
Robbie: I don’t know what else we would do in this life if we weren’t doing this.
Looking away from the album, you celebrated the 20th anniversary of Since I Left You recently. How did it feel to be able to look back on an anniversary like that?
Robbie: It’s lovely, and we’ll celebrate the album, probably next year. I think, in April, when it’s 20 years since the British release, and that’s when the big reissue will come out and all that stuff. But it’s actually turned out beautifully that the 20th anniversary is pretty much landed on the release of this album. The timing is quite beautiful because you look at it and go, “Wow, 20 years later and we’re still making music. People are still interested, and how lucky are we?”
Tony: It’s a tiny bit of a shame that they were so close to each other that we couldn’t really give Since I Left You its big birthday celebration, because obviously you don’t want to take away and detract from the new stuff and everything. But like Robbie said, we are going to have the reissue next April, and we’ll do a lot of stuff around it then. I feel like it deserves to be featured and to have a big birthday bash, which we’ll do. It’ll get its moment, because I feel like it sort of came and went a little bit. I did an interview on the day of its anniversary and we were talking about it, and I said, “It’s the 20th anniversary today”, and she didn’t even know. It would be good to make more of a statement and say, “Hey, it is 20”, and to just showcase it. The little guy deserves it [laughs].
You mentioned the reissue of the album. Is that the same reissue that was being talked about a decade ago?
Tony: Yeah, I worked on it for like ten years, this reissue. It was going to be the tenth anniversary at one point.
Robbie: Welcome to The Avalanches’ black-hole time vortex [laughs].
Going off of that, have there been thoughts of reissuing the early material as well? Or since that’s pre-Modular, are there some rights issues at play there?
Robbie: Yeah, there’s sample issues, and The Doors samples and stuff [laughs]. Spotify asked about it recently, actually, but I don’t know if we can. We’re still looking into it.
Tony: They were looking into it, but yeah, not sure how it works with the whole Modular, Wondergram, and who owns that now… Like Robbie said, I don’t think we were too worried about clearing samples back then. So we’d have to worry about that now.
The Avalanches’ We Will Always Love You is released on Friday, December 11th, with pre-orders available now.