King Stingray delivers a stinging gig

Get me out of the city: King Stingray perform at the Corner Hotel last Friday. Pictures: Edie Russell
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Eddie Russell reports on a whirlwind set by King Stingray, an Arnhem Land band kicking off their national tour in Melbourne.

MUSIC REVIEW
Band: King Stingray
Support acts: Colbey, Adam Newling
Where: Corner Hotel, Richmond
When: February 25

King Stingray kicked off their national tour in emphatic fashion last Friday night, playing an hour long show to a full house at the legendary Corner Hotel in Richmond. 

After opening with three unreleased numbers, rhythm guitarist Dimathaya Burarrwanga tested the temperament of the audience, asking: “Thank you Melbourne! Howzat?” 

The rapturous reception was definitive proof of the crowd’s approval – they didn’t ask again.

Throughout the set, King Stingray seamlessly weaved between genres, flexing their versality and range by incorporating elements of punk, funk, and surf rock of both the coastal indie and spaghetti western variety. 

Their self-described “Yolŋu surf rock” is achieved by incorporating ancient Indigenous instruments such as bilma (clapsticks) and yidaki (didgeridoo) into western rock’n’roll. The distinctive sound is personified by the presence of frontman Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu, who sings some of the lyrics in his native Yolŋu Matha

Propelling the songs is drummer Lewis Stiles, a tour de force on the kit whipping up frenzied hi-hat rhythms and stomping rock beats.

King Stingray delivers a stinging gig
Left to right: Roy Kellaway, Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu, Dimathaya Burarrwanga, Campbell Messer.

If you trace the lineage of King Stingray, you’ll find they descend from Indigenous music royalty – Yirrŋa is the nephew of Yothu Yindi founding member Mandawuy Yunupiŋu, and Roy Kellaway (lead guitar) is the son of fellow founding member Stuart Kellaway.

Milkumana emulates these familial influences both sonically and lyrically – driven by exceptional bass playing from Campbell Messer, the song proclaims the power of passing on knowledge through the generations. 

Get Me Out, Triple J’s most played song of 2021, received the biggest reception of the night – you couldn’t blame Melburnians for resonating with it after months of stay-at-home orders. Fittingly, the ethereal anthem was inspired by a family member of the group getting lost in Melbourne on a Yothu Yindi tour.

After the inevitable “one more song” chants, the band from Yirrkala, Arnhem Land, returned with a rousing cover of Warumpi Band’s Waru (Fire) and closed the night with an original tune about “the lifetime journey”. 

And speaking of lifetime journeys – the sky is the limit for this young crew, who, less than 18 months after the release of their debut single, have scored two Hottest 100 features (Milkumana #56, Get Me Out #46) and 2021 Unearthed Artist of the Year.