The Waifs

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The Waifs scrap their big band and return to their roots for 2Oth annual Folks Festival

:: The Waifs ::
:: 20th Rocky Mountain Folks Festival ::
::  August 15 :: (Festival runs Aug. 13 - 15) ::

By Timothy Dwenger

Infighting in bands; it’s a story that’s been told countless times. Sometimes it ends in a breakup that is splashed all over the cover of tabloids (see The Eagles) and sometimes it ends in a band member being shown the door (see Dickey Betts and The Allman Brothers). Often, there is a reunion down the road after the band members have “patched things up,” but it’s rare that this kind of strife works itself out while a band is still actively touring and recording together. That’s where Australian folk group The Waifs have managed to set themselves apart. It wasn’t too long ago that sisters Vikki Thorn and Donna Simpson were throwing things at each other onstage while their bandmate Josh Cunningham was literally caught right between them.

“It was pretty bad. I see videos of us performing and at the time I don’t think we fully understood  that our issues were very obvious from the audience’s perspective,” Thorn said when The Marquee reached her by phone at home in Utah.  “It seemed to work for us in a funny sort of way, though, people liked the contention and the friction as we threw tambourines at each other but I see that stuff now and it makes me cringe.”

While Thorn admits that she gets along quite well with her sister these days, it may be because they have pulled back from the intense touring lifestyle that they were so immersed in for so long.  “The band has taken a back seat as a career for the past few years and we have all been doing other things. Josh is a Seventh Day Adventist and I think he’s doing missionary work and Bible studies in California. Although Donna and I aren’t necessarily in the same place, we respect him like a brother and still like to honor his contributions, so there are a few really good gospel songs in the set. He doesn’t write that really bad Christian stuff you hear on the radio,” she laughed. “Donna is working as a photographer’s assistant because photography has always been her passion, and my husband and I bought a farm. We are raising hay and garlic at the moment.”

With everyone’s focus being aimed away from the band recently, she revealed that they were all surprised at how well everything has been going this summer. “We decided to do this tour to see where the band was at,” she said. “I think there was a definite feeling in the band that we’ve been together for 18 years and no one was sure how much longer we actually had. We were thinking things like, ‘What do we have left in us?’ and ‘Is there really any more point to doing this.’”

At this point, the band seems refreshed and has decided that there is, indeed, a point to continuing. As Vikki discussed the songs the band has been rehearsing and performing for the last few months, she mentioned that a considerable number of new tunes have worked their way into the set while reassuring long time fans that they are playing some of the old favorites as well. “In the past, we were touring together and spent our whole lives together and pretty much just wrote songs about each other,” she said. “It’s nice to hear the songs that are coming out of all of us now as we are drawing from different sources of inspiration. That is really exciting.”

Another change that Thorn said has helped the band get back in touch with reasons that they started doing this in the first place, is that they have stripped down their touring lineup to just the three core members and a drummer. “It allows the music to come through. The big band was really fun, but we all felt that the sound was becoming a little generic and had lost some of the space and the rawness that was a lot of our appeal when we started,” she said.

It’s that rawness that first landed them on the stage of the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons back in 2002 and they have made the trip twice since then. As Vikki talked about what being invited back for a fourth appearance on the stage at Planet Bluegrass Ranch meant to her, one thing rang through clearly: She loves Folks Festival. “I spend a lot of time out with the audience at that particular festival and I really like the sense of community,” she said. “I love it; the setting, the people and obviously the music. I always get to see people that I would go and buy tickets to see. There are always people at that festival performing that are on my ‘to-hear list’ for the year.”

:: The Waifs ::

:: 20th Rocky Mountain Folks Festival ::

:: August 15 :: (Festival runs Aug. 13 – 15) ::

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