The VanderAa brothers tell the journey of their music to Samuel Rayfield.
Brothers and ‘sunshine funk’ duo Levi and Aaron VanderAa speak highly of their hometown Darwin’s music scene.
“It’s like a big family,” Aaron said. “Everyone’s very supportive. And there’s a lot of unique talent because there’s not much influence from the metropolitan areas.”
“You get lots of cool, quirky stuff, which you probably wouldn’t normally get when you’re out and about.”
VanderAa’s assessment is an astute one: they’re exemplary of it. They prove beat-boxing wasn’t a fad in their cover of Chet Faker and Flume’s ‘Drop the Game‘, are willing to use and in possession of a double-kicker bass pedal (to what capacity it is not yet clear), and effortlessly swim through watery guitar chords. Growing up in Darwin, where a past-time is simply ‘cooling off’, definitely had something to do with it.
“We don’t wear a lot of clothes, so there’s a lot of fun going on,” Levi said. “There’s a lot more outdoor things happening, so you’ve having all the endorphins from the sun rolling through you.”
“Have you ever heard of Kakadu? That’s at our doorstep … We used to go camping there all the time, and that’s had a heavy influence on the sound.”
It’s a refreshing brand of ‘chill’ that unarguably without precedent. Xavier Rudd, John Butler, and Tame Impala all possess sounds that belong to and emanate from the multifaceted beauty and monolith that is the Australian natural environment. Like coastal contemporary Akova, they are with a deeply rooted natural energy.
They’re big on the ocean. From Darwin, they eked around the Queensland north coast and ended as far south as Byron Bay, where they operated from for a year. Raymond Terrace, their current base, is perhaps the furthest they’ve been from the curative effects of the deep blue.
“We went for a swim in the ocean today,” Levi said. “It was amazing. I felt so alive. All the blood rushes to your vital organs.”
Aaron seconds this. “It dawned on me the other day. I started to get negative thoughts – you know, just as you do – that would just creep into the back of my head. Then I realised it was winter, and I hadn’t been in the ocean for a while.”
“It resets me, washes a lot of the shit away. All those bad thoughts… that’s quite an amazing and powerful thing. It’s so simple and it’s free.”
But it’s Byron where they feel most at home. It’s there they played at the most recent Splendour in the Grass, on the busking stage, meeting musicians they’d only dreamed of rubbing shoulders with. It’s there they found themselves after this “thing” they’ve started doing.
“For particular things we want to come into our life, we just ask the universe. Just put it out there.”
VanderAa’s on Facebook, but definitely go to the Lass O’Gowrie Hotel on Saturday September 19 to check out their live show. It’s simple and it’s free.