Even nearly 15 years after its release, The Avalanches’ turn-of-the-century masterpiece Since I Left You has managed to impact upon and influence countless musical acts in countless ways. Just two of them are Jonti Danilewitz and Rainbow Chan, who are partaking in a tribute show to the album as a part of this year’s Vivid LIVE festivities.
Their stories of being exposed to the album differ greatly – Danilewitz recalls discovering the album upon his arrival to Australia from South Africa at age 13, while Chan found the record during her time at uni.
“I had never heard anything like it,” recalls Danilewitz. “I remember seeing the video for ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ and I couldn’t believe that this kind of music was popular in Australia. It really made an impression – I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew I had to find out.”
Although Chan was vaguely familiar with the singles that were lifted from the album, it was a classmate that sparked her interest in scratching below the surface. “We were asked to discuss our top five biggest music influences,” she recalls, “and this guy put on ‘Electricity’. I was really blown away by it – that song just sounds like someone falling in love.”
Jonti and Rainbow are part of a larger ensemble that originally brought the album to life as part of the 2013 OutsideIn festival. This year sees their collective grow even larger with the addition of a string section, which serves as somewhat of a double-edged sword. While it has certainly brought a bigger, brighter sound to the performance, Danilewitz is the first to admit that trying to work around the schedules of so many people is a significant obstacle.
“Getting ten people in last time around was hard enough,” he says with a laugh and an exasperated sigh. “Now we have 17! Organising has definitely proved a lot more challenging, but we’re all driven by the fact that there’s no turning back. We’ll never get a chance to do something like this again. It’s really special and fun – we’re just gonna go for it.”
Chan was last seen at Vividduring the 2013 festival, in which she performed as a part of Karen O’s Stop The Virgens. Comparing the two experiences, she says both presented different challenges but reaped their own rewards. “We had a two-week intensive run of training and rehearsal – there were about 20 of us,” she says of Stop The Virgens. “In that role, we were always going to be more in the background. It wasn’t as daunting thinking about performing that to a large audience – we were fully costumed and I could really adapt to a new character. With this one, it’s a lot more bare. It’s actually going to be us. It’ll just be me singing at one point. It’s actually a really nice sensation to be that nervous.”
Since I Left You is one of many shows that make up the festival, and when they’re not busy reimagining a modern classic both Jonti and Rainbow are eager to check out what else this year’s lineup has to offer. “St. Vincent is a huge one for me,” says Danilewitz. “She’s a hero. I’ve also got to have a little hometown pride and check out Penny Penny.”
As for Chan, one act is the highest of priority – “I can’t wait to see Lauryn Hill,” she enthuses. “The other people I’m playing with on the Astral People bill are amazing, too – there’s going to be some great nights coming up.”