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Interview: Ukelele Death Squad

RAD LIFE

Interview: Ukelele Death Squad

Georgia Brass

Australia’s most power uke quartet, the Ukulele Death Squad are taking over Adelaide’s festival season. After selling out their 2018 Adelaide Fringe season, The Squad return with three curated shows for the 2019 Adelaide Fringe as well as a appearance at WOMADelaide 2019.

“We’ve toured the world over the last two years, and we’re going to make Adelaide the centre of the Ukulele Universe this Fringe Season. Ukes are a global phenomenon, and there’s no reason why Adelaide, which has such a vibrant music scene, can’t be at the centre of it all,” said Benjamin Roberts (Lead Ukulele).

I was lucky enough to be able to ask squad member Julian Ferguson (vocalist/ukelele) a few questions ahead of their arrival in Adelaide about their unique sound and inspirations, past achievements, and why the squad are known as ‘the most dangerous Ukelele live show in the world'. Read on to see what we chatted about!

‘Death Squad’ would not be the first words that come to mind for many people when they think of the Ukulele. How do you guys live up to your name and show a darker cooler side to this lovely little instrument? And do you think audiences enjoy this approach?

Julian: Without a doubt, people get a kick out of our name. Before they’ve even seen us play, they’re often saying “Ukulele Death What???”

Our whole approach to Ukulele playing is to take it to the next level. Yes, Ukuleles are lovely little instruments but many are surprised that they can be used to play more than just a few happy strum along tunes.

We got a lot of people after our shows coming up to us and saying that they hated ukuleles, but they’re willing to give them a go now. I guess we’re just trying to bend perceptions a little bit.

 

There’s been a reported rise in ukelele playing in recent times. Do you think you’ve contributed to that or are part and parcel of that resurgence?

Julian: We’d love to think so! Or at the very least, we’ve ridden the wave! There’s a huge global resurgence. We’re currently sponsored by Kala Ukuleles, and they’ve been telling us that Ukulele sales are going absolutely nuts – they managed to sell 14,588 units in Australia last financial year… and it looks like nothing is slowing down.

So yeah, I reckon we’re doing a part in the global ukulele resurgence, breaking one nylon string at a time.


It’s rumoured you guys put on the 'most dangerous Ukulele live show in the world'. What should your audiences look out for?

Julian: Broken strings, black eyes and general mayhem. Our shows are quite hectic, and we don’t even know what’s going to happen.  

3. Ukulele Death Squad - Supplied.jpg


You’ve cited Quentin Tarantino as your main influence. How has this iconic filmmaker impacted your music?

Julian: It’s funny you know. Every band has a different way of writing songs. When we started writing songs in the group, we started to think of our tunes as more cinematic in nature. We were going for a vibe rather than just writing a simple song. So I guess you can say everything from the way we dress to the style of tunes.


You’ve been touring the world the past two years. Do you have any highlights from your travels and shows?

Julian: There’s quite a few. Playing at the Edinburgh Fringe was so hectic… but so much fun. And we did this show in Glasgow which was absolute mayhem… seriously we thought our eardrums were going to burst (and it was a week-night).

But probably our favourite place to tour (apart from Australia) is definitely Ireland.


You sold out your 2018 Adelaide Fringe season. Can your returning audiences of last year expect some old favourites or something entirely new?

Julian: We’ve written quite a lot of brand new songs for this year’s Fringe Season.. but we promise we will throw in a few of the golden oldies for the die-hard fans.  


You won the Best Music Act award at Adelaide Fringe last year. Are you striving to take it out again?

Julian: To be honest, we never expected to win the award in the first place. We were shocked (and honoured when we won.) But this year, we’re just striving to get through The Fringe season without breaking too many ukuleles and making sure the audience leaves with a grin on their faces. Anything beyond that is a bonus!

The Ukelele Death Squad’s season will start with Fruke Fest held at the stunning Carclew mansion and grounds in North Adelaide. Fruke Fest is the world’s first Fringe Ukulele Festival offering Ukulele enthusiasts everything their nylon string hearts desire. Expect workshops running all day, incredible local and interstate Ukulele groups, food and drink trucks and free entry for kids. Don’t forget to bring your Ukulele.
 
Next, The Squad are set to get more intimate at the Grace Emily Hotel with Come Sail Your Ships, a Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds tribute like you’ve never heard it before. The Squad will do justice to the prolific songs across Nick Cave’s career and will be joined by a cast of Adelaide’s finest musical talent.
 
If that’s not enough, The Squad are set to shake up the Ukulele world again with Fifty Shades Of Uke. It’s time to dust off your best leathers as the world’s most dangerous Ukulele show is set to get a little bit sexy and a little bit saucy with a cast of choirs, dancers and of course, a truck load of nylon string exploding Ukulele. This will be a show not for the faint hearted, enter at your own risk.

For tickets and further information about Fruke Fest, Come Sail Your Ships, Fifty Shades of Uke or WOMADelaide, click the event name or visit the band’s website: www.ukedeathsquad.com


Images and quote via Against The Grain