Electric Fields: ‘When a symphony orchestra knocks on your door, you don’t really know how to say no’

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Electric Fields: ‘When a symphony orchestra knocks on your door, you don’t really know how to say no’

Electric Fields
Words by Ben Lamb

Electric Fields hit the stage with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for a special show this NAIDOC Week.

Electric Fields are an unstoppable force. Since hitting the industry as a duo back in 2015, they’ve played a bunch of shows across the world, and have even been in the running for Eurovision. Now they’re back on home soil and gracing the iconic Hamer Hall stage for a show with the legendary MSO, and they’re pretty excited about it.

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this,” Zaachariaha (Fielding, vocals) says. “It’s not just going to be me and Michael, it’s going to be a bunch of other talented cats. I’m so happy, and hearing the tracks with the orchestral elements in there, it’s just so beautiful that our songs can move into this direction.”

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A show with the MSO seems to be a rite of passage for some of Australia’s most noteworthy groups; Electric Fields joining artists like Hilltop Hoods, Flight Facilities and Vera Blue, to name a few.

“Someone who works for the MSO used to work for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and he wrote to me about us possibly working with the Adelaide Symphony,” Michael (Ross, keyboards) says. “Then in the meantime, he switched from the ASO to the MSO, and he brought it up again and just said, ‘How about we do a show together?’ When a symphony orchestra knocks on your door, you don’t really know how to say no.”

There always seems to be something special about a joint show with the iconic orchestra, the crossover between vastly different musical genres providing the special sauce that makes these events so popular. “It’s exciting,” Zaachariaha notes. “Australian people with these creative minds coming up with these bizarre things and mixing them up together. I can’t wait to see what happens next with the next bold, brave move that creatives do.

It’s a collaborative process from the beginning, the artist often working with the MSO to shape the show from the early stages.

“The main players have been myself and Alex Turley (MSO’s 2022 Cybec Young Composer in Residence). He and I have been working together for a few months now,” Michael adds. “We’d have a chat about how it was going to be. I’d say ‘We can kind of try and take it a little bit trippy, in the sense of unexpected twists and turns that really utilise the texture of the giant organism that is the orchestra.

“But it’s not just the obvious replace pads with strings, replace this with that. For example, in one part where you’re expecting a giant chorus, we took a twist, where we bought it completely down and changed all of the chords underneath. I wrote new chords, I sent it to Alex and then Alex orchestrated that. So we’ve been playful with it.

“We played a bit of tennis back and forth. He’s obviously done the heavy lifting with the orchestration, but it has been collaborative between both of us.”

The show is one of the highlights of Arts Centre Melbourne’s NAIDOC week program, a week of huge cultural significance across Australia. Zaachariaha has always held his Indigenous heritage close to his heart, inspiring elements throughout Electric Fields’ work.

“I think it’s a great opportunity, it just has to happen,” Zaachariaha adds. “There’s just so much to learn and so much to understand on both ends, with our blackness and with the western way of doing things as well.

“When you ride a feeling, you’re not a black person, a gay person or white person, that frequency is just for energy only. I feel like we can tap into that, and that’s what Aboriginal people have always done.

“We’ve never seen ourselves as a label, it’s just once the western world came in, and then confused us with; ‘This is the cat you need to buy; this is the house that you need to get, this is the husband or wife you need to marry.’

“From my upbringing, and being amongst my elders, those things have never been important. I feel like with this music, I would like to contribute that philosophical way of thinking to events like NAIDOC Week.

“Our way of thinking is just completely different to how Western people think. It’s good that we have this week for us to have a moment to celebrate ourselves and learn, and it’s a good platform for the First Nations people who want to be to give something and take in return.”

 Electric Fields hit the Hamer Hall with the MSO this Thursday, July 7. Grab your tickets here.