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July 7, 2005



Get 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 haThe Waifs photo by Tony Abbottd 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 Goosebumps."

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 over e-mail.


Who is this man you made your husband?

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 Canada.

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 me.

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 ou



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