The Waifs

The Waifs – Beautiful You

With more than two decades of solid international touring under their belts, one of Australia’s most loved touring bands, The Waifs return to North Queensland for shows in Townsville and Cairns as part of a national tour on the back of their new LP, Beautiful You.

With a dedicated and loyal fan base and a reputation for faultless live shows, The Waifs latest offering demonstrates the easy chemistry the band has built as well as celebrating the depth of song writing talent they have at their disposal.

I was lucky enough to have a chat with The Waifs Josh Cunningham ahead of ‘Musica Botanica’ at The Tanks on Sunday 18th October.

The Waifs have been extremely kind to us in the Far North over the years making Cairns a regular stop on tours and even recording at our very own Purple Sound Studios back in 2011.

“We love it up there. Apart from just going there and playing and seeing all the great people up there, we like the Barra Burgers (laughter) so we’re all looking forward to having one of those”

“We did a song (6000 Miles) that’s actually on the album, but we ended up re-recording it with all the new songs. I remember we actually pulled it out that day and we went into the studio for however many hours we had, then packed it up and went directly to the airport.”

‘6000 Miles’ is the first single off the LP and it highlights the albums feeling of a strong attachment to home. It’s a stunning Australian anthem that finds Vikki Thorn contemplating the distance between her old home in Albany WA and her new one in Utah, USA. Her sister Donna Simpson now lives in Fremantle after spending eight years in Minneapolis while Josh splits his time between California and the NSW south coast where he is currently building his family home.

“I kind of got to the point after a few years where I really struggled being away from Australia. Vikki has put that feeling, very successfully into her songs, and it’s something that I think a lot of people relate to if they’ve lived overseas or wherever. I think a lot of life is about yearning and longing for something that feels like home, whether it’s a location or a relationship or anything, I think we all tend to go through that at various stages of life.”

“We’ve toured and spent a lot of time over there (USA). But when you tour, even if it’s just for a few months, you know that end of the tour there’s a ticket to jump on a plane and come home. But when you actually end up making your home there, there’s something different about the way that feels.”

This time around, the three mainstays of The Waifs decided to take a break from tradition. Instead of writing separately, the formula that has served them so well for almost 20 years and gave us Top 50 singles ‘London Still’ and ‘Sun Dirt Water’, decided it was time for total collaboration. The three musicians would work together as a unit until a bunch of songs emerged.

To everybody’s surprise, it didn’t work out.

“It just didn’t feel entirely natural. Playing music together is a really natural thing for us, spending time together is natural. But song writing has always typically been a personal/individual thing for each of us. Going back to the days when we first started song writing we were all living together, a lot of the time in the same vehicle (laughter). So when it came time to writing songs it was like a little bit of respite being able to sneak off and get a few hours away on your own and do it. We kind of evolved a bit as song writers that way. The other part is that song writing is such a personal thing. I’ve personally always struggled with co-writing, I’ve tried it with other people and it’s never been something that’s ever felt entirely natural. So we ended up reverting back to the tried and true formula that we’ve always used.”

That moment of frustration opened the floodgates to what has become The Waifs’ seventh studio album. The exquisitely crafted collection of songs from the three songwriters bears all the hallmarks of a Waifs classic.

Josh’s country stroll ‘Dark Highway’ is a gentle prod at humanity inspired by the night his van broke down and no one stopped to help him.

“It happened on dusk, about an hour before it got dark. I spent that last hour of daylight trying to flag somebody down. When it became obvious to me that no one was going to stop I jumped back into the van where I had a guitar and wrote that song about the experience.”

My personal favourite from the album is Josh’s song ‘Cracks Of Dawn’ which sounds like the band in their true element. You can really hear their musicianship thrive with their close connection while jamming and bouncing off each other’s ideas. It comes across as the kind of tune that can be played for hours on end and originally started out as a song that they used in sound checks.

“It came together in a pretty raw spontaneous natural way. It was written some years ago when we’d been opening for Bob Dylan in The States. It was something that we’d pull out and just jam on but it never before found its way onto a recording until now.”

After their Cairns show, ‘The Beautiful You Tour’ will travel south to Bangalow NSW, right near 301 Studios where The Waifs recorded in January 2015. With producer Nick DiDia (Bruce Springteen, Rage Against The Machine, Powderfinger) at the helm and aided by regular rhythm section Dave Ross Macdonald (drums) and Ben Franz (bass) the emotionally raw but musically buoyant album demonstrates the easy chemistry we the listening audience have appreciated for the last two decades. Choosing 301 Studios was a fairly easy decision.

“We recorded ‘Bridal Train’ there years ago so we knew it was a good space. We like the Byron Bay area and Nick was there so the timing and everything aligned.”

It’s hard to believe that this great enduring Australian band has been at it since 1992. Starting off with the Simpson’ sister duo of Colours and shortly after adding Cunningham to the fold after meeting in Broome. The band has stood the test of time and still luckily for us has no sight of a finish line. When quizzed on the future paths of The Waifs, Josh said.

“I think we’ll probably try to record more frequently then every four years. I think as long as we enjoy what we do and people get something out of it, then there’s a reason to keep going. I would never say there’s going to be another album and that’s it or another 5 years and that’s it. We’ve always been a natural free flowing entity and that’s the way we look at the future. We’ll keep going with that method and as long as it feels right, we’ll keep doing it.

One last question that I couldn’t help but ask Josh about was his impressive beard that he is currently sporting.

(laughter) “I hate shaving. It’s just an annoying thing to do. I went a week without shaving about a year ago and I was just saying to my wife how nice it was not to have to shave. She said ‘well just grow a beard again’. I’ve had beards over the years, in the photos it has been trimmed back a bit. At the moment I guess it’s at the length that they call a ‘Yeard’ (when you’ve been growing it for a year). When I started growing it I don’t remember seeing that many beards but now it seems every second blokes got one!

Mitch Sullivan

The Waifs “Beautiful You’ and New Single ‘6000 Miles’ available digitally via iTunes now via Jarrah Records/ MGM  

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The Waifs perform at Musica Botanica – The Tanks Outdoors.  Sunday 18th October with special guest Mia Dyson. Local support Em Joy. Gates open 1pm. Show starts 1.30pm     Tickets – SOLD OUT

For our Townsville readers:

The Waifs perform at Townsville Civic Theatre. Saturday 17th October with special guest Mia Dyson.  Show starts 7pm. Tickets from | | 4727 9797

The Waifs Image by Jarrad Seng

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