The Avalanches have contributed to a project that involves sending exclusive transmissions to the Moon and back as part of the UK-wide Tour de Moon festival.
- READ MORE: The Avalanches: “Now we’re just a regular band instead of the band who made an amazing debut”
The immersive and free festival – which brings together talks, cinema, music and games under one cosmic theme – has toured the UK throughout May and June via sustainable moon convoy, and is due to conclude at Hackney’s Pedro Youth Club on Thursday (June 16).
As part of the festival, creative director Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun, who is also the founder of NASA’s International Space Orchestra, has collaborated with artists including The Avalanches, Massive Attack, Moses Boyd and Pussy Riot using Moonbounce: an Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) technology.
“Radio waves are beamed from the Earth to the Moon, and they basically hit the surface of the entire side of the Moon facing the Earth,” Ben Hayoun said of the technology. “And that penetrates three metres deep into the surface before eventually being reflected and refracted by the deeper lunar rocks. And that’s a very unique way, if you’re a musician, to think about collaborating with the Moon, because effectively, the sound that you’re going to send to the Moon is going to come back to us completely distorted.
“That’s what really excited me about Moonbounce. At Tour de Moon, our festival is about new relationships to our environment, new relationships to humans and societies and looking at alternative futures. I really strongly believe that by actually starting to look at other ways of collaboration with our environment and with the cosmos we can start bringing in all new levels of innovation that avoids us just repeating history.”
When the Tour de Moon festival launched on October 21, 2021, a transmission was sent to the Moon through Moonbounce of a new original mix of the 1980 song ‘ITT (International Thief Thief)’ by Fela Kuti. The finished track included a saxophone improv that Fela Kuti’s youngest son Seun Kuti contributed over the recording.
Ben Hayoun has previously worked with The Avalanches on other projects and was excited to be able to send some of their tracks to the Moon. “The way that The Avalanches are mixing sounds and the way that they made their latest album [‘We Will Always Love You’] is very unique in the sense that they started to look at things like transmission technology to actually compose music,” she said.
Speaking from their current tour inStockholm, Avalanches’ Robbie Chater told NME about how they got involved. “We worked with Nelly during lockdown, when we did a collaboration with the International Space Orchestra via Zoom,” he said. “We performed a version of our song ‘Wherever You Go’ together, which was a really, really incredible experience.”
He continued: “I suppose we’ve always been interested in the idea of sampling and of sound as a kind of never ending life-force, a cycle of transmission that goes around and around and around. I love thinking about how there’ll be an old record that we find and I often think about what was going on in the person’s life who made that record at the time, say in the 1950s, and how they’ve recorded all their emotion and feelings onto wax.
“That record may have had various owners over the years who have played it over and over and added to crackles in the sound. Then I’ll find that record and sample it and then it’s broadcast out on the radio again or at a festival, where you have people singing along to old lyrics from songs from the ’50s that we’ve sampled and it’s sort of this never ending cycle of music and energy.
Chater added: “We’ve always been really fascinated by that. Sending some music to the moon and back feels like an extension of that idea and that cycle. We were really excited when Nelly told us it might be possible. We’ve been thinking about it for a long, long time, but never knew if it actually would technically be possible.”
Though the band haven’t actually heard the final result, Chater is pleased that they had the opportunity to take part in the first place and has some idea what their track may sound like. “I imagine it will be quite staticky – other earth transmissions I’ve heard are quite staticky,” he said. “But I love that kind of sound and that aesthetic, full of hiss and crackle and static, is in our records too. We feel very grateful to have been able to do this. It’s like a dream come true for us.”
The Australian duo are currently on tour in support of their third album ‘We Will Always Love You’, with dates coming up in Glasgow, Manchester, London and Brighton later in June, as well as a slot at Glastonbury. Any remaining tickets can be found here.
“It’s been so lovely,” Chater told NME about the band’s tour. “I can’t describe actually how moving it’s been, I don’t think I was prepared. We felt sort of stuck in Australia because our borders were closed for so long and you basically couldn’t travel. I knew the record had been well received around the world, but that’s just like an intellectual understanding.
“We were a little flat for a while that we were putting our hearts into this record and it coming out. It kind of felt like, ‘Oh, is that it?’ So now it’s so wonderful to be playing those songs. We were in Oslo a few days ago and people knew all the words to all the new songs, and I never would have expected that. It’s been wonderful.”
Admitting that “obviously in the past we’ve taken a long time to make records”, with 16 years between their seminal debut ‘Since I Left You’ and follow-up ‘Wildflower’, Chater said that they “had a very, very clear idea and a feeling we wanted to explore and some quite big themes” on 2020’s ‘We Will Always Love You’. “On a deeper level, it’s about exploring the nature of transmission, the history of recorded sound and vibration and energy and how that relates to us as living beings,” he said.
“I often think about how every radio broadcast has ever been broadcast from planet Earth since we started broadcasting terrestrial radio is still sort of floating out there in space. So there’s Elvis’s voice and John Lennon’s voice and Dolly Parton’s voice all floating out there in the cosmos, and traveling away from earth. It’s fun to think about where those voices will end up and if anybody’s listening and what they would make of planet Earth.”
It’s a really special moment to finally announce we’ll be playing @glastonbury 2022! After two years of delay it will be wonderful to share ‘We Will Always Love You’ with you all ❤️ pic.twitter.com/imPdJZUqW4
— The Avalanches (@TheAvalanches) March 4, 2022
Looking ahead to their slot at Worthy Farm next week, Chater said: “We’ve only done Glastonbury once before, but I’m so excited. As a kid growing up in Australia, I would get the NME and read all about Glastonbury and be like, ‘Oh, my God, one day I want to go’.
“Last time we were on a crazy schedule and we were in and out. We were literally there for like two hours. So this this year, we’ll be there the night before and we’ll get to see other acts and hang out and experience the whole thing. So I’m just so excited.”
Last year, Cola Boyy released the single, ‘Don’t Forget Your Neighborhood’, co-written and produced by The Avalanches. Of working with other artists and the band’s future, Chater said that fans should keep their eyes peeled for more new music.
“We’re mainly focused on our records,” he said, “but we did a track with Kacey Musgraves when we were in the States recently to play Coachella. We went down to Nashville for a day to work with her and that was absolutely incredible. So I’m not sure what we’re going to do with that song, but it’s really beautiful.
“We’ve got heaps of new music floating around,” Chater added. “I think it’s just a matter of finishing touring and then sort of figuring out what to do with all these new songs.”
Tour de Moon festival concludes on Thursday June 16. Visit here for more information.
The band will then perform at The Park Stage at Glastonbury on Saturday June 25. Check out the full line-up and stage times here.