“When a symphony orchestra knocks on your door, you don’t really know how to say no”

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Lyrics by Ben Lamb

Electric Fields took the stage with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for a special NAIDOC show this week.

Electric fields are an unstoppable force. Since breaking into the industry as a duo in 2015, they’ve played a bunch of shows around the world and even been in the running for Eurovision. Now they’re back home and gracing the iconic Hamer Hall stage for a show with the legendary MSO, and they’re very excited about it.

“It’s the first time we’ve done something like this, says Zaachariaha (Fielding, vocals). “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, it’s so beautiful that our songs can go in that direction.

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

“Someone who works for the MSO was working for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and he wrote to me that we might be working with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra,” says Michael (Ross, keyboards). “In the meantime, he went from ASO to MSO, and he talked about it 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 very different musical genres providing the special sauce that makes these events so popular. “It’s exciting,” notes Zaachariaha. “Australians with these creative minds coming up with these weird things and mixing them together. I can’t wait to see what happens next with the next bold and brave move the creatives will make.

It’s been a collaborative process from the start, with the artist often working with the MSO to shape the show from the earliest stages.

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

“But it’s not just about replacing pads with strings, replacing this with that. For example, in a part where you expect a giant chorus, we took a twist, where we bought it completely and changed all the chords underneath. I wrote new chords, sent them to Alex and then Alex orchestrated that. So we played with it.

“We played a little tennis back and forth. He obviously did the heavy lifting with the orchestration, but it was a collaboration between the two of us.

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

“I think it’s a great opportunity, it has to happen,” added Zaachariaha. “There is so much to learn and so much to understand on both sides, with our darkness and with the Western way of doing things as well.

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

“We never saw ourselves as a label, it’s just once the western world came along and then confused us with; ‘This is the cat you must buy; it is the house that you must have, it is the husband or the wife that you must marry.

“Since my upbringing and being among my seniors, these things have never mattered. I feel like with this music, I would like to contribute to this philosophical way of thinking about events like NAIDOC Week.

“Our way of thinking is completely different from that of Westerners. It’s good that we have this week so that we have a moment to celebrate and learn from each other, and it’s a good platform for First Nations people who want to be to give something and receive in return.

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

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