The Avalanches on “We Will Always Love You” True Recovery | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, September 25th, 2023  

L to R: Robbie Chater, Tony DiBlasi

The Avalanches on “We Will Always Love You”

True Recovery

Aug 09, 2021 Photography by Grant Spanier Issue #68 - Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue)
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The Avalanches had their audience prepared to wait another decade for their next album. The Australian group’s Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi surprised everyone with the relatively quick arrival of their third album, We Will Always Love You, only four years after its predecessor, Wildflower, which took four times as long to be released after the group’s critically and commercially acclaimed debut album, Since I Left You in 2000.

It is Chater completing his addiction recovery process that is to be credited, not just for the completion of We Will Always Love You, but also the other albums. An abuser of primarily, but not strictly, alcohol from his young teens, it was upon Chater’s initial recovery at 20—after a seizure and prolonged stay in intensive care—that he was able to make Since I Left You. And it was partially his relapse, among multiple other health issues, that was responsible for Wildflower’s delay. A look back at Chater’s life with perspective, We Will Always Love You is the most personal of The Avalanches’ albums.

“I didn’t have a very good relationship with myself until I was much older,” says Chater speaking from his hometown of Melbourne. “I was very shy with very low self-esteem. Drinking was a way I could numb myself, make myself feel better. I didn’t realize how negative I was toward myself internally. My thinking was very self-critical, no self-love whatsoever. It took a long time for that to grow in me. That was part of the work of recovering. How can you be part of the world when you’re disconnected from yourself? Talking about it now, I realize it was all in me. I was able to express it in art even when I didn’t have the skills to connect with the world in any other way.”

“What I’ve learned is, there are no outside factors that can help you,” says DiBlasio, who has done his fair share of partying, but still serves as the anchoring element in The Avalanches. “It’s internally that you need to work out what is going on with you. Once you can work all that out, that’s when you recover and that is something that happens personally.”

The concept for We Will Always Love You was developed from Chater’s wide-angle lens on his addiction and recovery. This is translated through the works of scientist Carl Sagan and his widow, Ann Druyan, particularly the Voyager Interstellar Message Project and the Golden Record Druyan was responsible for compiling, which are attached to the spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2. Druyan’s face is the cover of We Will Always Love You.

“Getting older, thinking about your mortality and your place in the world, becoming interested in the spiritual side of life, that internal reflection is mirrored in this external, bigger picture of the cosmos and universal life,” says Chater. “What we do, sampling a record from the ’40s, using someone’s voice that’s passed away, their vibration is captured forever. It’s like their spirit is living on through the music. [Druyan’s] compilation is like a mixtape of planet Earth that is floating in the cosmos forever.”

We Will Always Love You is The Avalanches’ attempt at intentionally writing pop songs. Sharing its predecessors’ mind-bending creativity, plunderphonics, that is, stitching and collaging highly recognizable and obscure samples is still the approach, except now they have a staggering and stellar group of collaborators. These include MGMT, Johnny Marr, Leon Bridges, Perry Farrell, Blood Orange, Denzel Curry, Neneh Cherry, and Tricky, among others.

The songs are written first, then ideas are explored on who would sound good on them. The guest contributions are treated as samples—at times becoming almost unrecognizable—which maintains The Avalanches’ signature genre-free style, neatly avoiding We Will Always Love You ending up sounding like a playlist.

“I make music the same way I’ve always made it,” says Chater. “But it’s great to be challenged and see how other people do things and work and think. It kept me creatively in check and awake and alive and learning again.”

“Collaborators were a really good way to get things done quickly,” says Di Blasi. “Instead of searching months and months for a vocal sample, let’s see if Neneh Cherry wants to do something. She can do something in a week. It’s amazing and it’s Neneh Cherry. We’re still pretty underground. Every time someone says yes to us, it is a surprise and we’re always grateful for it. It’s what made this album.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 68 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

Also read our 2017 interview with The Avalanches on Wildflower.

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