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Music that is just Waiful

Who: The Waifs Where: Garibaldi Lift Co. When: Wednesday, March 19 Anybody who loves folky, rootsy acoustic rhythms will no doubt have a Waifs story.

Who: The Waifs

Where: Garibaldi Lift Co.

When: Wednesday, March 19

Anybody who loves folky, rootsy acoustic rhythms will no doubt have a Waifs story. Tales abound about gigs in the rain at small hippie gatherings to massive crowds at outdoor festivals or playing smoky bars from Nowheresville to New York. In the last 11 years, the Waifs have done it all and managed to stay independent and true to their fans.

So you think you haven’t heard of the Waifs yet? Well chances are you actually have but just don’t know it. If you’ve done the backpacking thing, had a barbie at an Aussie’s house, been on a roadtrip with a Canadian or sat around a hostel balcony making new friends, it’s highly likely you’ve heard their stuff. Even the band admit Waif tales from the audience are endless.

"I don’t think we ever played a gig on the last tour where someone didn’t come up to us with a Waifs story," said one third of the Waifs, Donna Simpson.

"It amazes us. We’ve had people come up to us who’ve been in cafes in Nepal and they’ve burnt a CD from the tape playing behind the counter. They’ve then travelled the world with it, ending up at our gig in Utah or somewhere and they say ‘you’ll never know where I got this’."

For a band that’s been sitting at the top of the Australian independent charts for 34 weeks and toured with Bob Dylan and Ani De Franco, it’s refreshing to find the Waifs still enjoy the little things in life. The small stories are the ones that matter. Their attitude could also explain part of their popularity. It feels like a reunion of family and friends at a Waifs gig. The trio’s comfortable stage presence and interaction with each other, their songs about silly things like apple flowers, haircuts and love give off a vibe that makes you feel good, plain and simple. That all that really matters is right here, right now and being happy with what you’ve got.

"We just do what we do," said Donna. "I mean, we don’t rock out all night or anything, we’re just cruisin’ and dancin’ music that’s a little bluesy, a little rootsy, a little countryish, a little bit of everything I guess."

The Waifs are sisters Donna and Vicki Simpson and good friend Josh Cunningham. While they all sing and write songs, they each share an assortment of instruments on stage creating a magical musical atmosphere. Josh plays lead guitar, Donna plays acoustic guitar, tambourine and mandolin and Vikki plays acoustic guitar and a wicked harmonica that belies the breath you think she’d have in that petite frame.

Vikki and Donna grew up in Albany, Western Australia before buying a campervan in 1992 to travel their homeland.

"We started playing in bars along the way so we wouldn’t have to pick fruit anymore," laughed Donna.

The girls made their way up the west coast and met Josh, playing in his own rock band in Broome. After a 10-minute jam session he was invited to join the sisters and for the next three years the van was their home.

Eleven years later, the band’s fourth album, aptly titled Up All Night , went gold in Australia in less than four weeks and is now racing off the table at gigs across North America.

"We never really had the ambition to get this far. I still fall asleep at meetings, and forget interviews but we just love playing music. That’s all it comes down to, touring to us is still travelling," said Donna.

Sure, it’s just travelling. But not everyone gets to backpack with Bob Dylan and Ani De Franco. The Waifs have just wrapped up an Australian tour with the performing greats, and after a little Canadian tour starting in Whistler, they’ll be joining Dylan again through the U.S.A.

The success of the LP Up All Night has meant a busy touring schedule of late, but one that the Waifs are very proud of.

"It’s finally the album we’re all happy with. There’s so much truth to these songs. This is probably the closest thing to the music we love playing," said Donna.

It was actually on their last major North American tour that the single London Still, off the new album, blew up so big.

"I had friends ringing me from back home going ‘I heard your song on the radio’ and I just figured they’d all heard it at once and then we got home and we were like ‘holy shit, what happened?’"

The band’s success with song writing has always been one of their strengths, but it may come as a surprise to find out they’ve never actually written a song together, only as individuals.

"I don’t think we could write one together because it’s a very personal thing for us. I need space to write and I can’t stand being near the band when I’m doing it. I go into a really manic, self imposed state and just lock myself in a house for three days."

As for getting a song into the Waif’s playlist, that’s a whole other ball game. "We don’t actually make an announcement that we have a new song or anything, we’re weird like that. You just sneak into sound check early and when nobody’s making a noise you start playing it and if you get a good response, you know it’s a winner. We’re so sensitive with each other’s stuff, which is silly, but that’s the truth," said Donna.

The Waif’s popularity seems to grow with each ensuing gig, and yet they’ve stayed independent the whole time.

"It’s an easy choice really because for us it has never been about getting songs on radio or TV or doing interviews. Just being able to tour and get people to a show is rewarding enough."

Awww. Don’t you just want to hug them? Get your $15 tickets from the GLC early as there’s a very strong likelihood they will sell out.