Three future Avalanches members formed Alarm 115 in Melbourne in 1994 as a noise punk outfit inspired by Drive Like Jehu, The Fall, and Ultra Bidet. The line-up was Robbie Chater on keyboards, Tony Di Blasi on keyboards, bass and backing vocals, and Darren Seltmann on vocals. By 1995, Manabu Etoh joined on drums. The group bought instruments, recording gear and numerous old vinyl records by the crate at second-hand shops. When Etoh was deported and Alarm 115 disbanded, these records became the core of a new project. Chater was a film student at RMIT University and had access to a recording studio, which he and Seltmann used to turn the records into a 30-song demo tape labelled Pan Amateurs. In 1997 a new group consisting of Chater, Di Blasi, Seltmann, and Gordon McQuilten on keyboards was assembled to play the tracks live. Chater, Di Blasi and McQuilten had all been school mates in Maryborough. Starting in July, their first four shows were played under different names: Swinging Monkey Cocks, Quentin's Brittle Bones, and Whoops Downs Syndrome. The group became "The Avalanches" at their fifth gig, borrowing the new band name from an American surf rock band who recorded only one album, Ski Surfin' with the Avalanches, in 1963.
The Avalanches had been working on their second album since at least 2005. Seltmann had said the album was starting out as "ambient world music", but it was still moving in different directions and would feature both samples and live music. Subsequent announcements were made of the album's release, however, it had not appeared. Other artists began to announce having worked with the band on tracks around 2011. In February 2014, it was revealed that Darren Seltmann was no longer a member of the group, with Modular Recordings stating "officially the band is Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi right now". The band's official Facebook page was later updated in 2015, listing James Dela Cruz as a member of the band once again. In April 2016, the Avalanches added new images of a gold butterfly on black cloth to their social media accounts and official website. On 24 May, the group posted a video poking fun at their long hiatus since their last album and the continuous speculation of a follow-up release. On 2 June 2016, the first single from their second album, "Frankie Sinatra", was premiered on Australian radio station Triple J. The title of the album was revealed the same day to be Wildflower.