Into the Lost Lands with The Waifs’ Josh Cunningham

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Into the Lost Lands with The Waifs’ Josh Cunningham

When a farmer’s son, Josh Cunningham, met the daughters of a salmon fisherman, Donna and Vicki Simpson, on a humid night in Broome back in 1992, little did they know that it would be the start of a musical partnership and enduring friendship that would survive many of life’s trials and tribulations well into the next century. “Next year will be The Waifs 25th anniversary. I can’t believe how quickly it has come around,” smiles Cunningham as he reflects on the milestone.

“It seems like it’s been a long time, and a blink-of-an-eye at the same time. It’s certainly been a great adventure and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend 25 years of my life than with beautiful people, making music together!”

Calling in from his home on the south coast of NSW, Cunningham sounds relaxed and excited about the band’s plans for the rest of the year. “The Lost Lands Family Festival will be our last show for 2016 because we’ve got some recording to get into straight after that – and it’ll keep us pretty busy I imagine,” he says. “Early in the New Year we’ll get out on the road again.”

While over the years the indie three-piece have found themselves in very different parts of the world, when asked what we can expect from them in 2017, Cunningham promises it will be a home-grown effort. “We’re going to be recording in Australia this time. We’re going to be doing it a bit differently. We’re not going to be in a proper studio, we’re going to set up some recording gear in my house – so it’s going to be more low-key, with a bit more of an organic feel, and more stripped-back sounding as well.

“I’ve been working on getting back to the roots of what ‘The Waifs’ essentially are, and always have been,” he continues. “I hesitate to use the word ‘unplugged’ because it’s become a bit of a cliché – but it will be something in that vein.”

In much the same way the world has changed in the last two decades since The Waifs began to write and release music together, the music industry has evolved right along with it. “We were probably on the scene about a decade before the wider world knew about us. It was at the beginning of a time when music was becoming a little bit plastic and artificial,” Cunningham says, “whereas we were just kids with acoustic guitars and simple songs with stories. The average person who came to see us probably felt they could be up there and singing and playing too.

“Somehow we’ve created this really wonderful relationship between the band and the listener, and it’s really a special thing. We’ve grown up with the people that have enjoyed our music over the years, and there’s something real about it.”

25 years in one profession is an achievement by any measure, and Cunningham says the entire band (including their tour back-up musicians Ben Franz on bass and drummer David Ross MacDonald) can’t wait to catch up with old friends at the Lost Lands Festival next month.

“I’m really looking forward to it, and I guess the great thing about this festival is that it goes beyond just music,” Cunningham says. “There are so many different elements to it. It’s really a great concept, and I hope that it’s successful and it catches on and becomes not just a festival in its own right that continues from year to year, but one that inspires similar kinds of events in different parts of the country, and the world as well.”

Surrounded by the picturesque landscape of the Werribee Mansion, the Lost Lands Festival brings together the best local and international music talent, as well as a captivating arts program, cultural activities, comedy, performance, and dedicated kids’ entertainment.

All children’s tickets include entry to the Werribee Open Range Zoo from Saturday until Sunday, and the Lost Lands Family Festival will also feature a quality selection of Melbourne restaurants, street eats, the best craft brews and wine.

The stellar line-up features some of Australia’s best loved artists, including Missy Higgins, The Grates, Architecture in Helsinki, The Bamboos with Tim Rogers, Tash Sultana, Harts, and of course The Waifs. Flying the flag for the US are two of LA’s finest, Mariachi El Bronx and Ozomatli.
“These types of events are a great opportunity to get involved in the musical community and to reconnect with people, while enjoying old familiar music and experiencing new fresh stuff as well,” Cunningham says.

“We don’t get to tour as much these days because people have families and kids, and don’t want to be away for too long, so when we get a chance like this, we want to make the most of it and not take the opportunity for granted.”

Written by Natalie Rogers

When & Where: The Lost Lands Festival, Werribee Park – October 28-31