Why The Avalanches took 16 years to grow Wildflower: Interview

From rising success to Missing in Action – The Avalanches have had their ups and downs though it’s safe to say they won’t be shying away from their recently lit spotlight. Having taken a break from their 2000 debut Since I Left You – and ironically leaving us to marinate in their plunderphonic collage of nostalgia. The musical Avalanche seemed to lay dormant until their colourful new Wildflower blossomed into a beast. Time has past and lot’s of shit happened, but with re-established wind beneath their butterfly wings, we caught up with Tony Di Blasi, one the original founders of the sample-crazed crew to ask: what took so long with their latest release and did they seek therapy after deciphering the sea of samples and clearances.



How did you guys manage to keep your sanity with all the samples and everything woven through Wildflower?


Well, to be honest, we didn’t for a lot of the time. I think that may have contributed to the sixteen years. I think we both kind of went off the rails a little bit and lost it. We did lose our sanity, but we got it back! We got it back just in time to finish it all. Haha


Did you scrutinize over things and fall into infinite editing?


That was endless, and it could’ve been endless unless we really made that conscious decision of like, “we need to finish now.”  It’s like a painting; you can almost put your face right up to it, and all you see is the intricate details, and you’re like, “I could change that little thing,” but you need to step away and see the whole thing from a distance also. I think there were a lot of times where we just too close and too involved in certain details without looking at the overall picture.


Did you guys have a set concept behind Wildflower at the start and did it manifest into something greater than expected?


We didn’t have fixed idea; it just blossomed as we progressed. I guess with the hip-hop songs at the start a theme developed where we imagined it starting off in this imaginary city, with kids, and it was about being young and growing up. It was about a journey of starting off in the city and somehow ending in a field somewhere in the country with the sun setting. That just developed over time and became stronger in our minds. Then we used more things to accentuate that path.



Does perfectionism still stand true with your work or are you finding solace with the imperfection?


I think perfectionism or the pursuit of perfectionism did, though I don’t believe you can ever achieve it. I guess it’s all subjective anyway, but the quest for it definitely contributed to a lot of the hold-up. Letting go of all that was the turning point in us being able to finish this record.


You Got epic clearance of the Beatles “Come Together” on your track “Noisy Eater.” – how does one go about such a sample?


Hahaha, well you gotta get on your knees and beg. Nicky, our manager, was in contact with Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono’s Camp. Basically, they came back and said write Paul and Yoko a letter and see how you go. If they say yes then we’ll be able to clear it, but generally they’d automatically say no like they do with every Beatles sample. We just ended up writing a heartfelt letter about the journey we’ve gone on to get this far and that we’re not doing it for any exploitive means. We believe we’re doing it for the art of music and how much we love music and The Beatles. It was quite an impassioned plea and obviously worked which was surprising. They both came back and said yes. You think maybe one, but it was a resounding yes, so we’re quite happy with that.

There are plenty of guests on Wildflower, so let’s focus on the rap features. How did you find meshing hip-hop in with your tracks?


That was quite an easy transition to get the rappers involved and make some more hip-hop tracks. I think that the quality of the rapping in this record compared to El Producto is a hell of a lot better and a lot easier to work with.



When you visualize a track, does it come out the way you intend or are there happy accidents that are formed along the way?


There are many happy accidents. I think especially with the sampling. You can kind of think of some takes in one direction, then you’re like, “Oh, what about this sample at the end of it?” Then it’s like, “Whoa!” All of a sudden that whole track changes. I think with sampling it’s always like a little mystery box. There are always a lot of happy surprises and things that’ll just pop in and make the track move in different directions. I guess the favorite things at the end of Frankie Sinatra, that’s something that’s been going for a while and then obviously if you listen to it without “favorite things” it’s got its own little vibe and then that comes in and changes the song completely.



How has growing up over the last 16 years changed your creative outlook?


I think it’s just definitely changed us as people but I mean I guess 16 years is going to change anyone as people, but we were definitely … Like I was saying before, we got to that perfectionist level, and it became this big thing in our lives. The longer it went along, the more people would talk about it and created a lot of stress and a lot of pressure. We both got to a point where we just got into meditation and just letting go and seriously, it helped our lives so much. Reading books by Eckhart Tolle and David Hawkins, and all this stuff just about the mind. We both just went on this nice journey of Zen, where we were able to look at this record, not as this big monster and this big important thing that’s in our lives. It’s just something we do, and it’s no big deal. We’re definitely a lot more chilled out.


And lastly – You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you had to leave off tracks to coin Wildflower as complete – any plans to release these in the near future?


Yeah, we’re still undecided about what to do with them. We’re not sure whether we just put them out or use the tracks for a third record… We don’t want to go away again for this one to be released. That last stint was a tough one. Look out 2018!