Embarking on their astonishing 25th anniversary together, The Waifs knew only two things. The first was that they would make an album to celebrate and the second was that it would be made for the fans. The rest just fell in to place, according to Vikki Thorn.
“We didn’t plan too much,” Thorn reveals. “We set aside two weeks and said ‘Let’s go to Josh’s house’, and we didn’t put a lot of forethought into it. But when we landed there, we sat down and faced each other and went, ‘Okay, now what are we going to do?’ We talked about maybe recording an album of covers and old songs. The premise was [that] we were going to sit around in a room together and just play acoustically. ‘Cause the whole approach was not what do we want to do, but what do we think the fans would want.”
Continuing the album process in true Waifs nature, the recording of Ironbark found its place in an unlikely, makeshift spot. “Josh [has] built this magnificent old farmhouse that is actually modelled on an old school house he used to drive past, and it’s just a big open plan room. We set up the studio where his kitchen will be,” she enunciates. “I think there’s about a 30 foot ceiling, so it’s [an] incredibly open space with a lot of reverb. It’s a very live room. We brought a bunch of baffles to dampen the sound, but the idea was just an informal setting. It’s all very live and, I think, a really good representation of where the band is at after 25 years. This is who we are. This is what we sound like.“
Part of The Waifs’ unique output over the years has found the Australian folk trio with their share of sad songs. But it’s Thorn’s new track Long Way From Home that strikes a chord for the girl who used to live by the Australian ocean. “Where I live in America, it’s the Wild West, it’s not the America you see in television or in the news,” she states. “It’s a very isolated part of Utah that I live in, with a house at the end of the road. I just have these moments where I literally feel so far from everything I know, and everything I’ve grown up with, and everything I love. I actually love it in Utah, but I write a lot of homesick songs because I feel it. I feel it there. I feel that distance.”
Despite living in vastly different areas geographically, Thorn laughs when the battle theme of angsty tracks Lion And Gazelle, I Won’t Go Down and Done And Dusted is raised. “Well, the interesting thing is, all those three songs? One’s written by Donna, one’s written by me, one’s written by Josh,” she chuckles. “I think it reflects a pretty common experience of middle age. I think we all sort of struggle with the same thing. You have kids, you see the good and the bad in the world, and the struggle within that, and you’re always walking that line.”
Ironbark is out February 24 via Jarrah Records/MGM.