North East Arnhem Land’s new Yolngu surf-rock band King Stingray have released their debut single Hey Wanhaka.

The four-piece band was formed by Roy Kellaway, the son of Yothu Yindi founding member and bass player Stuart Kellaway, and Yirrnga Yunupingu, nephew of Yothu Yindi frontman the late Dr M Yunupingu.

Both Kellaway and Yunupingu have been playing and making music together for as long as they can remember—from growing up as part of the Yothu Yindi entourage in the 1990s to touring as members of the band today.

Guitarist for both Yothu Yindi and King Stingray, Roy Kellaway said the project has been in the pipeline for two years.

“Playing with our family has been a huge privilege. We are such big fans on such a personal level and having that opportunity to be on the road with everyone has been awesome,” he said.

“Over the course of the last two years, we would write in our free time on the road. We’ve always been working on music and jamming together.

“In the last 12 months we’ve been recording our debut record and put out our first single.”

The band is completed by Dimathaya Burarrawanga on drums and percussion and Campbell Messer on bass and backup vocals.

The debut single is written in both English and Yolngu Matha and blends the traditional Yolngu manikay (traditional songline) of the Lorrpu (White Cockatoo) into an upbeat indie rock song.

Kellaway said the mix comes naturally and is influenced by the loud bush music of Warumpi Band as well as surf-rock.

“We look up to our family and what they continue to do with Yothu Yindi and celebrating culture.”

“That’s what we’re doing too in our own contemporary way with the music we like to play.”

With the reassurance of their parents’ success, King Stingray is focused on making music that is uplifting and culturally proud.

“We have a very optimistic approach with the success of our parents but at the end of the day we’re just brothers playing music together,” Kellaway said.

“We’re not trying to push an agenda or anything. We’re just making music and celebrating culture.

“We really hope the music we make reflects the fun that we have.”

King Stingray will be releasing new music in January 2021. Listen to Hey Wanhaka below.

By Darby Ingram