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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Interview with The Waifs

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The Waifs

Bluesfest  |  9–13 April

Back in 1992, sisters, Vikki Thorn and Donna Simpson teamed up with Josh Cunningham to create The Waifs. Later down the track their tour and recording band welcomed Ben Franz and Davide Ross MacDonald.

Now in their 28th year, Josh reflects back on what has been a charmed ride for this folk-rock band.

‘It’s been an amazing life and so rewarding and satisfying. The funniest thing is that we have never been ambitious. We never set out to forge a career in music. Our paths crossed, and we were playing cover songs – we had no long term vision. We weren’t writing songs – people said we should write songs, so we wrote them.

We didn’t fight to make it happen, it all just fell into place!’ says Josh.

It seems that this is how things happen for The Waifs, even their 25 year album happened in just a few days.

‘We had no idea of what we were going to do’ says Josh, ‘I am sitting right where we were recoding, we had a friend from Western Australia who bought portable equipment so we all turned up and started jamming. We started tinkering around and recording the process, three or four days in, we had 16 songs – we said, “if we keep going we will have 25!” – it was a organic natural process.’

The Waifs are getting ready to play the Blues Festival this Easter. The band are currently in discussion about just what set list they have planned. Not that it matters. Their fans will know every song they play. That’s what it’s like to be a Waifs fan. Once you’re a Waifs fan you’re a Waifs fan for life.

Vikki Thorn laughs about this… ‘The Waifs fans are legendary in the industry for their loyalty and enthusiasm. It feels like we all grew up together. We are now the band you can bring your parents and your kids to hear!’

Playing Bluesfest is exciting for the Waifs who haven’t played there for over ten years. The last time Josh remembers playing there was when the festival was at Red Devil Park.

With Vikki having been living between the US and Australia, and Donna in Western Australia, a Waifs show really is something special.

‘We get together in Cairns for a few days before we head off – and we’ll do a gig as well to warm up – at least two days of rehearsing. We don’t get out on the road as much we would like…’

But being back on stage together is definitely the happy place for The Waifs. It’s hard to define the magic that exists when musicians find each other and that exactly right combination ‘just happens’.

‘I think if you could define it, it would cease to be magical’ says Josh. ‘I first heard Donna and Vikki play music and I had an instant sense that I was going to be playing music with them. When I did, it felt instantly natural and right, and it felt like that on a personal level as well. We connected in every single way – it has been a natural thing – you meet some people and it’s like you’ve known them all your life’.

The Waifs play Bluesfest 9–13 April. For tix and program info go to bluesfest.com.au

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