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The Waifs

Josh Cunningham is a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and original member of The Waifs. Cunningham took 5 with Off The Leash to talk about writer's block, being on the road and his love of Vietnamese food.
By Claire Eltringham

The Waifs have been touring for over two decades. What are the worst and best things about being on the road? Oooh, it’s hard to think of the answer to the worst. If pushed, I’d have to say the worst is not being able to do laundry regularly. Ha ha! The best thing? One of the greatest joys in my life is to make music and share the experience with the band – we’re like a family so that’s really special.

Have you been to Darwin before? Darwin has a very special place in my heart. After school, me and my band mates lived there for about 6 months. We were a pub rock cover band – The Russell Taylor Band.  It’s not there now but we used to live out the back of the Nightcliff Hotel. We played there and The Berrimah Hotel, places like that.

One of my favourite things in Darwin was the green paw paw salad at the Parap Markets. That was my introduction to that dish. Vietnamese food is one of my favourite cuisines!

That was 20 years ago. Now Vicky lives in Utah, Donna in Fremantle and you in California. How hard is it to work together while living so far apart? 
Well, we’ve known each other for years but we’ve mostly written songs individually so that is the most natural process. When we were making [our new album] Beautiful You we had actually booked a studio for a week with the intention to write songs together for the first time. 

It really didn’t really feel very natural. We ended up retreating to our own respective corners to be creative and started writing on our own. 
In saying that, it’s very intuitive and everyone adds their little flavour. We’ve all developed our own writing style but when I write a song, I often think harmonies will sound great in this part or think about what Vicky and Donna will bring to it. 

The new single '6000 Miles' speaks of Vicky’s longing for her hometown in Albany, WA. Tell me about the influence Australia, in particular Western Australia, has had on The Waifs.
Oh it’s been huge. [In 6000 Miles] Vicky is writing from her own perspective but I think it’s easy to relate to, a general longing for Australia. It’s a sentiment that resonates with me. I actually get a bit teary when we’re doing that song. 
I connect really strongly with it.

I grew up in NSW but we [Vicky, Donna and I] are all from similar settings – coastal, rural small towns. We’re used to lots of space, no clutter. That translates into our songs and music. It’s something that is found in a lot of our music, old and new, the longing for our homeland and I think that’s something many Australians can relate to.
As the guitarist and vocalist for The Waifs, you’ve been part of some of the greatest and award-winning tracks produced by the band. I know this is a hard question but do you have a favourite?

Umm, it is a hard question. I guess it kind of changes over the years. It’s probably dependent on what’s current at the time. New material injects new energy into the band so that’s naturally what I’m drawn to.

Personally speaking – of songs that I’ve actually written – there’s a song called 'Shiny Apple' from our very first album. We’re actually playing it live in our current set. I’ve always felt a strong connection to that song.

From the new album, I love the title track 'Beautiful You' and '6000 Miles' – they’re both great songs! 

WHEN: Sun 8 Nov | 7.30pm
AT: Darwin Entertainment Centre
COST: $57

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