The Avalanches have contributed to a project which 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 that had such an amazing debut’
The immersive, free festival – which brings together talks, film, music and games under one cosmic theme – circled the UK in May and June via a sustainable lunar convoy and is set to end at Hackney’s Pedro Youth Club 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, collaborated with artists such as The Avalanches, Massive Attack, Moses Boyd and Pussy Riot using Moonbounce : an Earth-Moon-Earth technology (EME).
“Radio waves are transmitted from the Earth to the Moon, and they basically eat up the surface of the entire side of the Moon facing Earth,” Hayoun said of the technology. “And that penetrates three meters deep into the surface before eventually being reflected and refracted by the deeper lunar rocks. And it’s a very special way, if you’re a musician, to think about collaborating with the Moon, because indeed, the sound you’re going to send to the Moon will come back to us completely distorted.
“That’s what really got me excited about Moonbounce. At Tour de Moon, our festival is about new relationships with our environment, new relationships with people and societies and about alternative futures. I really strongly believe that by starting to look at other ways to collaborate with our environment and with the cosmos, we can start to bring new levels of innovation that save us from just repeating history.
When the Tour de Moon festival kicked off on October 21, 2021, a transmission was sent to the Moon via Moonbounce of a new original mix of Fela Kuti’s 1980 song ‘ITT (International Thief Thief)’. The finished track included a saxophone improvisation that Fela Kuti’s youngest son, Seun Kuti, contributed to the recording.
Hayoun has worked with The Avalanches on other projects before and was thrilled to be able to send some of their tracks to the Moon. “The way the Avalanches mix sounds and the way they made their last album [‘We Will Always Love You’] is very unique in the sense that they started looking at things like transmission technology to compose music,” she said.
Speaking about their current tour in Stockholm, Robbie Chater of the Avalanches said NME on how they got involved. “We worked with Nelly during lockdown, when we collaborated 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 amazing experience.”
He continued, “I guess we’ve always been interested in the idea of sampling and sound as some sort of endless life force, a cycle of transmission that spins and spins and spins. I like to think about how there will be an old record that we find and I often think about what was going on in the life of the person who made that record at the time, say in the 1950s, and how she recorded all her emotions and feelings on wax.
“This record may have had several owners over the years who have played it over and over and added crackles to the sound. Then I will find this record and sample it, then it will be played on the radio again or at a festival, where you have people singing along to old song lyrics from the 50s that we sampled and it’s kind of a never ending cycle of music and energy.
Chater added, “We’ve always been really fascinated by that. Sending 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 had been thinking about it for a very, very long time, but we never knew if it would be technically possible.
Although the band has yet to hear the final result, Chater is thrilled they had the opportunity to participate in the first place and has an idea of what their track might sound like. “I imagine it will be quite static – other terrestrial transmissions I’ve heard are quite static,” he said. “But I love that kind of sound and that aesthetic, full of hiss and crackle and static, is also reflected in our records. We’re so grateful that we were able to do that. It’s like a dream come true for we.
The Australian duo are currently on tour in support of their third album ‘We Will Always Love You’, with upcoming dates in Glasgow, Manchester, London and Brighton later in June, as well as a slot in Glastonbury. All remaining tickets can be found here.
“It’s been so beautiful,” Chater said NME on the band’s tour. “I can’t describe how emotional it was, I don’t think I was prepared. We felt kind of stuck in Australia because our borders had been closed for so long and you basically couldn’t I knew the record was well received around the world, but it’s like an intellectual understanding.
“We were kind of flat for a while putting our hearts into this record and having it come out. It was kind of like, ‘Oh, is that it?’ So now it’s so wonderful to play these songs. We were in Oslo a few days ago and people knew all the lyrics to all the new songs, and I never expected that. It was 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 their follow-up “Wildflower”, Chater said they ” had a very, very clear idea and feeling that we wanted to explore and some pretty 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, vibration and energy and how it relates to us as living beings,” he said.
“I often think about how every radio broadcast has been broadcast from planet Earth since we started broadcasting terrestrial radio which is still floating in space. So there’s the voice of Elvis, the voice of John Lennon, and the voice of Dolly Parton all floating out there in the cosmos and traveling far away from the earth. It’s fun to think about where those voices end up and if anyone is listening and what they would do with planet Earth.
It’s a really special moment to finally announce that we will be playing @glastonbury 2022! After two years of delay, it will be wonderful to share “We will always love you” with all of you ❤️ pic.twitter.com/imPdJZUqW4
— The Avalanches (@TheAvalanches) March 4, 2022
Looking ahead to their place 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 was getting the NME and read all about Glastonbury and be like ‘Oh my God, someday I want to go there’.
“Last time we had a crazy schedule and we were in and out. We were literally there for about two hours. So this year we’ll be there the day before and we can see other artists and hang out and experience it all. I’m so excited.
Last year, Cola Boyy released the single “Don’t Forget Your Neighborhood”, co-written and produced by The Avalanches. On working with other artists and the band’s future, Chater said fans should keep their eyes peeled for more new music.
“We’re mostly focused on our records,” he said, “but we did a track with Kacey Musgraves when we were in the States recently playing Coachella. We went to Nashville for a day to work with her and it was absolutely amazing. So I’m not sure what we’re going to do with this song, but it’s really beautiful.
“We have loads of new music floating around,” Chater added. “I think it’s just a matter of finishing the tour and then figuring out what to do with all these new songs.”
The Tour de Moon festival ends on Thursday, June 16. Visit here for more information.
The band will then perform at the Park Stage in Glastonbury on Saturday June 25. Check out the full lineup and stage times here.