If you could name one Australian act that has shaped 21st century music globally, it would be hard not to pick Melbourne outfit The Avalanches. Their two albums, Since I left You (2000) and Wildflower (2016) have been critical and commercial successes, and the sixteen years between releases are the stuff of legend. Their live performances have lit up stages from Japan to Europe and they have appeared at Coachella. To take a short break from putting together their latest release, Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi will travel up to Sydney for Bad Friday for a DJ set. We caught up with the incredibly chilled Robbie and spoke about playing live, the new album and growing as an artist.
BYO: What's the draw for you to come up and play at Bad Friday
Robbie: We still are in love with playing live and it's just a great opportunity to come up and just share that amazing experience. When you're sharing music with the audience, playing records, we're dancing and they're dancing, we just get such a kick out of it. We're finishing a record at the moment and we've said no to touring but this popped up and it was in Australia so we thought let's do it.
BYO: You play a lot outdoors, not only Bad Friday but going back to some of the earlier days playing outside St Jerome's in Melbourne. Do you find there's a particular connection you can have when you're outside of a club or traditional venue?
Robbie: I just like the atmosphere and being outside under the sky. It just feels like throwing a party with friends.
BYO: How do you go about putting a DJ set between the two of you?
Robbie: We've just played together for so long now we don't even have to speak about it. I have a few records that I think might kick off really well and Tony just knows what should come next. It's a process of having a lot of songs in the forefront of your mind that you could potentially play and also stuff you know you will play. We've got so many great hip hop records but they're only going to be a great two minutes in a six minute song, so we know there's stuff that we want to play that we prepare beforehand.
BYO: How is that process different from when you're performing your own work?
Robbie: It's completely different mindsets and this is just spontaneous, it's about ‘Oh I love this record.’ In terms of putting the live show together it can be more of a technical process. When you do it well it all comes together and it's a really fun show, but that's more labour intensive.
BYO: People talk about crate digging, and you're know for finding really rare sounds on your releases. For playing live is it the same, or is it about playing the songs that you love?
Robbie: It's a mixture. I mostly try not to think about it too much and play records that really bring me happiness, but then I'll be standing there playing this in front of thousands of people and it's like, ‘Can you dance to it?’ We've done some DJ shows recently that were great, probably an hour of music and nobody will know any of the songs and it works really well. A lot of it is up to the audience to come with an open mind.
BYO: Bad Friday is a bit of an ode to Marrickville and the Inner West in Sydney and I was wondering what's your connection with this part of Sydney?
Robbie: I don't really have one! I don't know if I've really ever gotten to hang out in Sydney, it's all been in and out of planes.
BYO: Will you have some time to hang out this time?
Robbie: I think we're going to stay up and do a bit of recording this time.
BYO: For the upcoming record?
Robbie: Yeah, there's recording sessions going on all over the place at the moment and there's one in Sydney that we might catch up on.
BYO: Wildflower took on almost a mythical story of the process of putting that together, how has it been different with this record?
Robbie: Wildflower was so dense in terms of samples and such a jigsaw. It took so long that we were like, ‘We cannot do that again, at least not right now.’ So we've been trying out different ways of working and working in a much more free and spontaneous way. There were so many songs made for Wildflower, whereas this record we finish every song we make and that's the record. Since I Left You, there was maybe twenty songs on the album. We've been freed up creatively after Wildflower which took so long.
BYO: Have you collaborated with a number of artists on this one as well? Or has it been the core group of Avalanches?
Robbie: It's a huge variety of people, including people we're writing with. Normally it's mainly vocals but we're working with a couple of people who are actually playing and we've got vocal sessions going on all over the world. For me, I'm taking a slight step back and putting myself more in a curator role and I'm being much more open, letting that fresh energy come in and I’m just loving it.
BYO: Has that led you to reflecting on your own process as well, as in, in coming away have there been other things that have come to light?
Robbie: You're always examining your creative process and trying to keep yourself from falling into the same old working habits. It's a constant journey to turn off the head as much as possible and work from the heart. Part of that is working with other people, I'm enjoying handing over the way I think things should be. I'm much more open to surprises and I'm surprised every day and then that can turn into great things for me. The record is kind of spontaneous and a lot of fun.
BYO: Do you find yourself maturing as an artist, being able to hand over parts and share that creative process with other people?
Robbie: What happens is you learn so much more, like ‘Oh you do it that way, I never would've thought of that,’ and then you start incorporating different perspectives. It's great to have that but it's kind of scary too, to open up and have someone that you're just getting to know and be raw and vulnerable and show a grand idea, it takes time both ways.
BYO: It seems that a lot of bands are returning to that punk sound, or post punk sound, and that's also where you started out in your music career, how have you seen the return to that very DIY style?
Robbie: It hasn't been an influence but I'm excited to see it and it warms my heart, I've been waiting.
Final release tickets for Bad Friday are on sale now, pick them up here: http://www.badfriday.com.au/