When a band is made up of members all younger than the band itself, you know something very special is occurring. On the first Thursday of every month, a queue snakes down AC/DC Lane towards the iconic Cherry Bar in Melbourne. The crowd, an eclectic mix of young and old, are waiting to hear the distinctive soul sound of a very special girl band.
Inside, some regulars to the venue’s popular “Soul in the Basement” gigs don’t realise that the dynamic performers they are dancing to, are still at secondary school. Nor do many realise that the Sweethearts, a 25-strong, all female, high school based band from Geelong, has a powerful international following and strong reputation, particularly in Europe.
From the outset, the Sweethearts defied expectations. Founder and local science teacher Ross Lipson had modest ambitions when he formed the band at Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College in 1989. Also a musician and instrumental music teacher, he says he and a few colleagues formed a social band with students simply because jamming together was so enjoyable. But word-of-mouth hype about this girl band meant the mostly year 10 to 12 students soon began to secure gigs.
Now 25 years later the Sweethearts has evolved into Australia’s most successful school based band, with a long list of high profile international music festival performances under their belt including Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival, Italy’s Porretta Soul Music Festival, France’s Jazz a Vienne, The world’s largest music festival, Summerfest, in the USA and Australian music favourites, the Port Fairy Folk Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival, Apollo Bay Music Festival, Woodford Folk Festival and many, many more.
The all-female band members cultivate a retro look and specialise in ‘‘new soul’’, modern interpretations of classic Soul and Motown numbers as well as their own compositions and arrangements. Getting a band of 14 – 18 year olds to this level — and staying there — is no mean feat because numbers must constantly be replenished by newcomers as year 12 members leave the band. As well, Sweethearts have released 10 CDs which have had lots of radio air play. Each year they perform more than 40 gigs including corporate and community events, education department awards nights and at many music festivals.
To celebrate the 25th year of the band, Sweethearts are running a special version of their annual “Party” event. Set down for Saturday the 22nd of November, at the Wool Exchange Entertainment Complex in Geelong, Sweethearts will be joined on the bill by ex-sweetheart Imogen Brough and her band, local Soul outfit Grand Soul Audio, featuring ex-sweetheart Ash Watson on vocals, Square One from Kardinia International College and the Sweethearts Academy Band, consisting of young musicians aged 9 – 14 years old.
The band would love to see past members, friends and families along to help celebrate as well as all people from around Geelong and the Surf Coast who love soul music.
Tickets are now onsale at www.party14.eventbrite.com.au