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July 7, 2005
by ZOEY ABBOTT
ready to fall in love...(again)
THE FIRST TIME I MET TWO OF
THE WAIFS [photo below,
photo by Tony Abbott], DONNA AND
VIKKI Simpson, I was in their parents' living room in the Australian
summer of 2001 (December). I had driven down the west coast
with mutual friend Eva and we ended up camping out in the Simpson's
backyard. I had heard that the sisters were musicians but had
no idea what was in store. It was the next day on a hike out
over an enormous granite formation overlooking the ocean that
I would first experience what I have come to regard as "Waif
Vikki Simpson, Eva and I set
out on a multi-hour hike through wild flowering scrub and pesky
fly territory (which is almost everywhere Down Under) and finally
reached the forehead of "Bald Head." We stripped down
to our tank tops, the wind at the edge of the ocean providing
a haven from the flies. "Sing us a song, Vik!" Eva
entreated. (She's forever asking for personal concerts). And
so this small-statured woman faced wind and horizon and sang
from somewhere deep down in her gut, "Lighthouse Man."
My skin raised in excitement. I was hooked.
If Vikki set the hook, it was
Donna and Josh who reeled me in: Josh's gentle voice and strumming
over a self-caught abalone feed, Donna working her way through
a new song under the back porch light. (A song I couldn't get
out of my head for months, one that never made it on an album
or a set list!) Even their drummer, Dave MacDonald, sent us on
the road with hauntingly beautiful fodder for road trip sing-alongs.
Over the years, I've dragged
many a friend to a Waif concert. Sneaking peeks throughout the
show I see their faces glow. Normally mild-mannered friends
trill and clap. When I ask later how they liked it they say,
"I'm in love," or "Holy shit." Sometimes
they are speechless. The last time The Waifs played in Arcata
I looked over at my friend three seats down as she pulled up
her shirt sleeve and mouthed, "Goosebumps."
The Waifs return to Humboldt
County on Thursday, July 14, for a show at the Van Duzer Theater.
Recently, I had the privilege of asking Donna a few questions
Who is this man you made
I married a mid-west boy, Ben
Weaver. We met in London a few years ago when he opened for The
Waifs there. I walked into his dressing room with a bottle of
whisky after his show and he had his pants down changing out
of his suit and now we're married.
Will he be touring with you,
or will you hook up with him between tours?
Ben is opening the shows for
us on this tour. It's worked out really well. We play together
a lot so it's nice to be on tour and working together.
What's his music like?
His voice is like warm breath
on the back of your neck as you're running through a country
cemetery fumbling for your car keys as the man locks the gates
and walks away hmmm.
What is it like to share
an artistic passion in your relationship?
I find it's pretty basic really.
We do what we do. It's all that we know. I think a lot of people
find it more poetic than it really is or maybe it looks better
from the banker and the waitress' married life.
We give each other space to
write. I understand why he's locked in that room smoking his
cigarettes and drinking his whisky playing his guitar until three
in the morning. I encourage it `cos he's in there creating and
writing and there's nothing worse than knowing that you've just
got to get this music, melody and these words that haunt you
out of your brain and onto the fret board and scribbled notebook
before you go insane It's usually a manic experience and I'm
exactly the same when it comes to writing.
What is music to you these
days? Is that changing?
It's a shame `cos for a while
we were touring so much that "my" music became a bit
of a chore for me. But music is my savior always has been always
will be. Can't live without it. Life can sometimes get monotonous
and numbing and it's often the only thing that really moves me.
It makes me think and it makes me cry. And makes me move.
But as far as my own music goes
lately it's hard to sit down on my own and write `cos I get frustrated
with my same chord progressions and strumming patterns. I think
I need to start jamming again. That's where the magic is. It
gets your juices flowing.
How is Vik and her family?
I assume that traveling with a baby has changed the routine a
lot in terms of pace and priorities.
Vik and her family are really
well. They all come out on the road. They live on the road in
the USA in a big old bus. Having Noah on the road has been a
great thing for this band. We're all experiencing `Life' and
`Growth.' We pass him around on the planes, we all feed him at
the airports, even our band rider has changed. We get yoghurt
for Noah. He's been on the road with us since he was three months
old so he knows us all and is a pretty keen drummer already he
does soundchecks with Dave.
When I first met you, you were
all traveling lightly and cheaply. How do you think your work
is changing based on lifestyle changes?
Well, I think we've been traveling
for so long now that it's our natural state. Thirteen years pretty
much full time on the road it's the only way to do it. Hell,
if you're gonna play music then get out there and play it. That's
always been our thing. The older I get, the lighter my bags.
I went through stages where I wasn't living anywhere and took
sooo much gear with me that it made my life hell. A simple life
is best. How do I think our work is changing based on lifestyles?
I dunno. I don't know how to answer this one. I think we tour
a little less and we plan it better throughout the year. A lot
of our touring is based on the seasons.
Remember when Eva and
I would yell out at every show "The HAIRCUT SONG!"
What does it feel like to look back at songs you wrote and sing
songs from days long past?
Singing an old song is something
like pulling on an old pair of jeans you wore maybe ten years
ago. Sometimes they still fit and are nicely faded and torn.
You feel like you've found an old friend, but with the haircut
song, they're too tight too short and I wonder why I ever bought
them in the first place. What was I thinking
Where have you been since
you were last in Arcata?
Oh geez, I can't remember when
we were last there. I do remember a lady gave me a quit smoking
package after the gig. I quit eventually but I'll never forget
that. Oh, now I remember when we were there we went out to a
bar after the show and saw some crazy band play. It was a great
night. We've been to England and Ireland a couple of times, to
Australia a bunch, and back to the USA. This tour we're heading
up to beautiful Canada. It's been too long between tours. I love
How has your experience
of being on stage/ performing changed over time? Do you get more
comfortable, find spaces up there that are different?
I've been drunk and high for
ten years straight and now sober for six months, so being on
stage has been a big shift for me new nerves new confidence.
It's great, although it's still a very new learning curve for
What is the next step
or next level for the Waifs?
Two more babies in October.
The Waifs play HSU's
Van Duzer auditorium on Thursday, July 14, at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $25, $22 for HSU students.
Call CenterArts at 826-3928 for advance tickets.
The show is expected to sell out.
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