Meet King Stingray, who come from royalty to share their first single, Hey Wanhaka
Signed to The Chats' Bargain Bin label, the North-East Arnhem Land group consist of descendants of Yothu Yindi greats.
There's not really too much to be said about King Stingray that won't emphasise how much of a special addition they are to Australia's music space, especially at a time like now. The four-piece was formed by Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu and Roy Kellaway – the nephew of the late Dr M Yunupiŋu and the son of Stu Kellaway respectively; both Yothu Yindi founding members and thus royalty within the Australian music space – in the heat of Yirrkala, North-East Arnhem Land; their work being quickly signed to The Chats' Bargain Bin Records as a stand-out act from their roster, something that was known even before the release of their debut single.
However, with that hurdle now being met with the release of Hey Wanhaka, it's clear that King Stingray's imprint on Australian music is going to be a lot more than just their connections to Australian greats. Hey Wanhaka is unlike anything we've ever heard before, which is probably why they've esteemed it with its own, unique sub-genre: Yolŋu surf-rock. It's a blend of rough-around-the-edges surf-rock rich with that distinct Australian charm mixed together with the rich tapestry of Indigenous culture, something that makes itself the centrepiece both through its historic melodies and its bilingual properties, switching between English and Yolŋu Matha.
It's a collection of sounds that work together to bring the best out of each other, an incredibly difficult thing to lock down on just your first single – especially when playing with such a complicated, wide-spanning list of sounds – but something that King Stingray do with a precision and energy that makes its place amongst the future's most distinctive and influential sounds almost-certain. There's also the single's stand-out properties beyond just its surface-level musicality, like how they use one of Australia's most distinctive current-day sounds as a vessel for learnings on the traditional Yolŋu manikay of the white cockatoo.
King Stingray unites Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu and Roy Kellaway together with Dimathaya Burarrwanga and Campbell Messer; the end result being four incredibly talented musicians coming together to showcase their strengths in a sound unlike anything else we've heard – and that's so, so incredibly exciting.
Dive into the single below, and underneath that, introduce yourself to the group as they blossom into a break-out act worth keeping an eye on in the year ahead.
Tell us about yourself?
We are King Stingray, and we play Yolngu surf-rock. We are young fellas from the bush – a community called Yirrkala in North-East Arnhem Land. Our band is a story of friendship really. It is also a brand new follow-up of the iconic Australian band Yothu Yindi, this time with the children of Yothu Yindi rocking it out on their own. Whether we are having a kick of the footy at the oval, running from angry camp dogs, or having a jam at the HOG Shed (local jam spot in Gove), we love to have a laugh and enjoy simple livin.
What’s the ‘vibe’ music-wise?
Being from the bush, we like to play rough and loud. Loud and proud, wrong and strong is what my old man always said to us who was also our music teacher at school. Yaka shame job. We call our genre Yolngu surf-rock but our debut record we are currently working on delves into indie pop and elements of funk at times. Think big drums, Yidaki (didgeridoo), ancient vocal melodies, wild surf tones and power-driven harmonies that will give you chronic goosebumps. I gotta be honest this stuff is weird to write – I reckon just crank it up and hear it for your self yo!
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
Usually, just Yirrnga and I sitting down having a yarn and a strum. Both of us play guitar, so we both like to have a guitar under the pit a lot. Most of the tracks off our upcoming debut record were written and recorded at Fifty Riffs Studios – our home studio that dad and I have made. It’s the perfect place to write and track demos; it’s so peaceful. It’s a cottage in the Northern Rivers region on 8 acres of lush rainforest. We wake up, have a surf (usually at the Lennox boaty) and have a pre-surf bullshit (yarn) followed by a post-surf bullshit with the oldies – usually the mat crew. At the epicentre of this high-quality bullshit is one of the all-time grates in George Greenough who leads the bullshit.
Anyways, we basically start off with getting in the water and then get back to the stude and crank it up. Throwing down a few freshly squeezed home-grown orange juices doesn’t go astray too. We also recorded parts of our debut record at Airlock Studios (Ian Hague’s studio guitarist from Powderfinger) and we love hangin out with him, yarning about surf forecasts, and he digs our tunes too!
Can you tell us a bit about this new song, Hey Wanhaka?
Wanhaka means “where” in Yolngu Matha, and it’s like the Yolngu way of saying “yo what’s up, what’s happening.” For example, if ya walking around town you’d be like "hey wanhaka" to your mate – it’s like saying yo what’s happening, whatcha doing, where you going, ya know?
What does the rest of 2020 have in store for you?
We have a clip coming out for Hey Wanhaka which we are really stoked and excited to get out. Got some gigs in the pipeline before the year ends too. And will keep working on our debut record. Very excited for 2021 as we have lots of music we want to share to you all and some clips to come too!
What do you want people to take away from the project?
Yolngu surf-rock is a thing! But we really do aim to celebrate culture, uplift all people, fight the good fight, and continue the influential legacy of Yothu Yindi to not only Australia but to the world! Without being too coy here, we do proudly advocate social justice and welfare through our culture-rich messages as we celebrate culture to the world. Mala Wangany! (we are all one mob)
Where can we find more of your music?
Grab ya nearest tech apparatus, type in “king stingray band,” and you should see some stuff pop up! We have our debut track on all platforms and also some merch and super limited edition 7” Vinyl pressings!!