South Australian ukulele duo The Ukulele Death Squad picked up their tiny instruments, stepped into their suits, and it was on.
It’s what happens when two musicians such as Benjamin Roberts (The Timbers) and Julian Ferguson (The Coconut Kids) hit on a winning concept of hardcore flamenco uke. Tarantino styled.
For Benjamin Roberts, an Adelaide-based music teacher, uke wasn’t his first love.
‘I am a guitar teacher. I teach in a private school called the Guitar Academy.
‘At first I was one of those people who turned their nose up at the uke – I think there are so many of those stereotypical songs like You are my Sunshine that just grated.
I had to teach a student ukulele so I picked it up. I had a couple of weeks before I started teaching. I started finger-picking it. I thought I can do cool stuff like on the banjo, it has a high g string at the top.’
Unbelievably, Ben was actually enjoying the ukulele and was quickly developing his own unique way of playing.
‘I got my friend Julian in and we had all these dirty comedy songs we thought we could turn into an Adelaide Fringe show.
‘We started jamming and then he brought a song to the list. I bought another one. We started playing with a flamenco feel and we saw how we could amp it up a notch and take it to a place we hadn’t taken it before!
‘The nylon strings means you can get that real flamenco sound. We do some really hardcore songs, and I said if we put on suits we can go Tarantino.
‘Then we came up with the name, Ukulele Death Squad. And it was game on.’
And it’s so much fun.
‘With this band nothing is off limits. In some parts of the song we go into heavy metal – but it’s more about the mindset and it is quite an energetic show!’
The guys launched their first-ever show at Adelaide Fringe this year and sold out all three shows.
They just did their fourth show on the weekend and on the strength of that the Adelaide government got behind them and pretty soon they’ll be heading over to the Edinburgh Fringe as a feature on the Made in Adelaide initiative.
Bello will be their fifth show!
Expect high energy and uke wizardry!
‘It was never meant to be really funny, but we’re having fun. This music is quite technical compared to other bands we have played in before,’ says Benjamin. ‘I have to concentrate a lot more than usual!’
‘We have a bass player; Julian plays quite percussive style and hits it quite hard, and I play more the lead and solos.’
Catch The Ukulele Death Squad at Bello Winter Music this weekend. Thursday–Sunday.
Tickets at bellowintermusic.com.