There’s no question that as debut albums go, Since I Left You is one of the most influential and confounding of the past two decades. The problem for the band that made it has always been how to follow it. Members of The Avalanches spent 16 years working on their next record, so it’s a surprise to hear Tony Di Blasi say he was “a little bit sad” when Wildflower finally came out this year.
“Even though it was hell doing it for the last few years, it was like, ‘Oh, what do I do now?’”
The answer to that question? Go on tour. The band’s first show since 2001 was on one of the country’s biggest stages; at Splendour in the Grass. “I was looking out at the crowd and there was no one over the age of 23. I was just crapping my pants, thinking, ‘No one’s ‘gonna know who we are’,” Di Blasi says. Needless to say, such fears proved unfounded, and the band will soon be touring nationally.
Wildflower is a release many fans thought they would never see. In the years following Since I Left You, release dates came and went and the band’s record label imploded.
Pressure mounted to create a follow-up that captured the magic of the debut, while income slowed to a trickle without any new releases or live shows. One by one, members left until only Di Blasi and Robbie Chater remained.
They responded by throwing themselves into the music, obsessing over tiny details and allegedly making hundreds of mixes of some songs. Eventually the pair realised it could no longer continue in that vein.
“In the last couple of years of finishing this record we’ve really started to understand what letting go meant,” says Di Blasi. “We’re a lot more down with just letting things be instead of trying to control every minute detail.”
Di Blasi and Chater are still responsible for all of the production, but perhaps in lieu of the departed members, there are a lot of collaborations on Wildflower. The album features a range of guest vocalists, particularly rappers.
“On a simple level, it’s just really hard to find really great vocal samples that can cover verses,” Di Blasi says. “Maybe it was evolving as a group, too. Instead of just having a loop and using that as your main thing, having a more structured verse and chorus ... I think the songs on this record are more traditional than a lot of the music on Since.”
In keeping with the traditional format, the pair performed with a backing band at Splendour; a line-up it will reprise for the upcoming shows. As well as a drummer, two vocalists will recreate most of the vocal parts. Di Blasi and Chater will play keys and guitar and trigger the samples that can’t be recreated live.
“In an ideal world we’d love to have all those people jump out onstage,” Di Blasi says, laughing. “Maybe we can invest in one of those hologram machines next time.” For now, audiences can expect “one or two guests from the record” at the shows.
Previous Avalanches performances have been famously chaotic, sometimes resulting in serious injuries. While the current incarnation will attempt to harness that energy, Di Blasi admits that as the band approaches middle age, “it’ll probably be toned down from broken legs and stuff like that.
“I think it’s really great for the live shows to just be wild and crazy and a bit nuts and bring that energy to it. Instead of this perfectionism where every note should be played perfectly, it’s kind of cool to be a bit shit sometimes. That’s the element I bring to the show.”
Fri December 30 – Falls Festival
Sat December 30 – Falls Festival (sold out)
Sun January 1 – Falls Festival (sold out)
Tue January 3 – Melbourne Town Hall (sold out)
Wed January 4 – Melbourne Town Hall
Thu January 5 – Enmore Theatre (sold out)
Sat January 7 – Thebarton Theatre
Sun January 8 – Falls Festival