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The Waifs are a folk rock band from Western Australiamarker. The original members of The Waifs are Josh Cunningham (guitar, vocals), and sisters Vikki Thorn (harmonica, guitar, vocals) and Donna Simpson (guitar, vocals). Their current tour band also includes Ben Franz (bass) and David Ross MacDonald (drums).

Their 2003 album Up All Night reached double platinum in Australia and reached the top five of the Australian album charts, and the band won four ARIA Awards in October 2003. The Waifs have enjoyed two top fifty singles in Australia, London Still in 2002 and Bridal Train in 2004. The band so impressed Bob Dylan when they supported him on his 2003 Australian tour that he asked them to join him in his 2003 North American tour, including a gig at the Newport Folk Festival

The Waifs own (with John Butler) the independent label Jarrah Records, and their records are released in Australia under that label.


1992-1996: Fisherman's Daughters (The Early Years)

The Waifs formed in 1992. Donna Simpson and Vikki Simpson (now Vikki Thorn), sisters from Albany, Western Australiamarker, were touring as a duo called Colours. They met up with Josh Cunningham while playing in Broome, Western Australiamarker. The band changed its name to The Waifs a year later and commenced touring in Australia.

1996-2000: First album releases

In 1996, the band recorded their first, eponymous album with Jen Anderson and Mick Thomas of folk rock band Weddings Parties Anything and commenced a year-long tour. Their second album, Shelter Me, was recorded in Adelaidemarker and was supported by another tour.

The band released its third album, Sink or Swim, in 2000 and started to play at folk festivals in Canada and the United States. In 2001, the band made its first appearance at the Newport Folk Festival; the Newport Daily News acclaimed them as "the darlings of [that] year's festival". The growing international reputation of the band led to the release of Sink or Swim in the United States in 2002.

2000-2007: Chart success and Up All Night

The success of the London Still EP in Australia sparked the success of the fourth Waifs album Up All Night. Released in January 2003, it debuted in the Australian charts at number three. The album was certified gold four weeks after release, went platinum in October 2003 and double platinum in February 2004. The Lighthouse EP was released in April 2003 as a second single.

Vikki Simpson told the Sydney Morning Herald on October 1, 2003 that the success of the album had taken the band by surprise. "We were nonchalant about releasing albums. We'd released three already and had learned not to put too much hope behind an album because you're usually disappointed. So it was a surprise, but we took it in our stride. It was all very exciting but it didn't seem real to us because it was such a new experience."

The band supported Bob Dylan on his Australian tour in March 2003. Dylan was so impressed by the band that he offered them the support slot on his tour of North America in 2003. In 2003, the band also participated in Big Day Out, an Australian traveling music festival.

The Waifs won ARIA Awards for Best Roots and Blues Album, Best Independent Album, Best Produced Album and Best Engineered Album in 2003. Lighthouse also reached number twelve in the Triple J Hottest 100, 2003.

The Bridal Train EP was released in March 2004 and made the Australian Top 50 singles charts in April. The title track tells the story of Vikki and Donna Simpson's grandmother, a war-bride of a sailor in the United States Navy. She boarded the so-called "Bridal Train" between Perthmarker, Western Australiamarker, and Sydney to travel to San Francisco to meet with her husband. The Waifs released a double live album in November 2004 which debuted in the top thirty of the Australia album charts. Vikki Simpson gave birth to a baby boy, Noah, on Saturday June 19, 2004.

After the Asian Boxing Day Tsunamimarker, The Waifs joined a cast of Australian artists to perform at the WaveAid concert in Sydneymarker to help raise funds for the relief effort.

2007: Sun, Dirt, Water

In 2005 The Waifs continued with their well earned rest and commenting on a new album said "We won't be going into the studio any time soon. Our collective focus is too outside of music and career right now to put out an album."

The Waifs also announced via their MySpace that "there are some things in the pipeline. First of all a new record to be recorded sometime in the new year." On February 8, 2007, the Waifs issued a press release on their website with information about the new album:

In May 2007, Donna Simpson announced that the title of the band's newest album would be Sun Dirt Water. The album was released on September 1, 2007 in Australia. The album debuted and peaked at #2 on the ARIA Album Chart in September 2007.

The Waifs performed across Australia in the spring of 2007 on the SunDirtWater tour. The tour started on September 19 in Broome, Western Australiamarker, and ended on October 26 at Legs 11, a concert for breast cancer research. In November 2007, The Waifs announced that they would be collaborating with the John Butler Trio in the "Union of Soul Tour" in January 2009. The tour had five concerts, with shows taking place in various cities across Western Australiamarker including Denmarkmarker, Margaret Rivermarker, Swan Valley, and two gigs at the Fremantle Arts Centremarker.


  • Joshua Cunningham — guitars, vocals, mandolin, ukulele, dobro (1992-present)
  • Donna Simpson — vocals, acoustic guitar (1992-present)
  • Vikki Thorn — vocals, harmonica, acoustic guitar (1992-present)
  • Ben Franz — electric bass, double bass, dobro (2002-present)
  • David Ross MacDonald — drums, percussion (2002-present)
  • Mikel Azpiroz - keyboards (2009)
  • Jen Anderson - violin (1996, 1998)


Awards and nominations

ARIA Awards

The Waifs have won four Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards from thirteen nominations.

2002 London Still Best Independent Release
Breakthrough Artist - Single
2003 Up All Night Album of the Year
Best Blues and Roots Album
Best Group
Best Independent Release
Breakthrough Artist - Album
Chris Thompson for Up All Night Engineer of the Year
Producer of the Year
Lighthouse Single of the Year
2004 Bridal Train Best Independent Release
2005 A Brief History... Best Independent Release
2008 Sun Dirt Water Best Blues and Roots Album

Other awards

2003 "Lighthouse" APRA Music Awards, Song of the Year
2005 Rob Bygott (Bard Films) for "Bridal Train" West Australian Screen Awards, Best Music Video
2006 Vikki Thorn for "Bridal Train" USA Songwriting Competition, Folk Category First Prize
USA Songwriting Competition, Overall First Prize
Ben Franz WAMi Awards Best Bassist
2007 Ben Franz WAMi Awards Best Bassist
Vikki Thorn for "Sun Dirt Water" WAM Song of the Year, Professional
2008 Sun Dirt Water WAMi Awards Most Popular Single/EP
2009 "Sun Dirt Water" APRA Music Awards, Blues & Roots 'Work of the Year'


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