Sal Kimber, of rootsy Melbourne act The Rollin’ Wheel, is pretty busy as her band has just released a new single, Hell & Highwater, and she’s also heading our way in duo mode to perform at Fleurieu Folk Festival this weekend.
“Yeah, I’m coming over with a buddy called Tully Sumner so I’m very excited as he’s one of my favourite musicians,” Sal enthuses.
“Tully heads a nine-piece Afro funk band here in Melbourne but he also does folky stuff as well,” she continues. “He’s great at harmonies – he does them beautifully – and plays a bit of lap steel as well as guitar.”
“I saw him playing at The National Folk Festival in Canberra about 10 years ago now,” Sal responds. “I was there playing my very first festival with my sister, Beth, and we fell in love with him because he was covering a song by Tool on this small stage.
“And Beth and I were like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool’, because I don’t think anyone else in the crowd knew what the song was,” she laughs. “So we just thought Tully was the coolest dude ever and we’ve been really good friends ever since.”
Sal, in solo mode, has just completed a tour of West Australia as a special guest of The Waifs.
“It was great because we played all of these out of the way places – places that I just wouldn’t normally go to,” she says. “And The Waifs had said, ‘Lots of our audience can be very Waifs-centric so don’t worry if they don’t really listen to you’.
“So I was a bit concerned with that at first because we were mostly playing theatres – y’know, places where they have ushers showing people to their seats – but while I was playing you could her a pin drop so it was great.
“And I was a bit nervous about playing solo because I am now so used to playing with my band to a more raucous sort of crowd,” Sal admits. “So I was a bit concerned about how I was going to pull it off, especially in the more intimate venues, but I ended up loving doing it?”
Did you know The Waifs before accepting the offer to tour their home state with them?
“I’d met them in London many years ago when I was working at a house for people with drug-induced psychosis who had mental health issues,” Sal says. “So I dragged the whole house – there were 18 people living there at the time to see The Waifs play in London.
“And The Waifs met the whole crew and gave the house a Maton guitar for them to play,” she says. “So I’ve loosely kept in contact with them ever since then and have done a bit of songwriting with Vicki [Simpson] and Josh [Cunningham].
“In fact Josh and I wrote a tender little song together called Chiko Roll,” Sal adds with a laugh. “It was about a guy who just loved Chiko Rolls.”
Can you still grab a Chiko Roll?
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Sal says. “You’ll find them being kept warm in any steamy bain-marie in any roadhouse around the country. There will always be a Chiko Roll lying in there somewhere.”
Has the song ended up anywhere?
“No, but Josh sent me a little recording he’d done of it as he’s added another verse and turned it into a sad country song,” Sal says. “We should actually get onto the Chiko Roll people and see if they might want to use it.
“Or maybe I can somehow sneak it onto The Rollin’ Wheel’s album when it comes out in February,” she then considers.
And how is the album you are recording with Shane O’Mara at his Yikesville Studio coming along?
“It’s pretty much finished and has been for a while,” Sal says. “We’ve just got to go back and tidy a few things up. And it’s been a bit of a slow burner because we’ve added a couple of new songs and a couple of older ones have been dropped because we don’t think they suit the band anymore.
“So it will actually be interesting to see how it all ends up,” she continues. “And we’re just about to plan a big tour in February for when it comes out.
“And when we released the last single, we did a big tour of all the capitals – Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide – but I think for the next tour we’ll do a lot of regional places.
“So we’ll probably do a tour of country halls,” Sal says. “After doing that tour with The Waifs, I just loved playing in all those small places. Everyone in town comes along because there’s not too much else happening.
“People make a real effort to come out,” she adds. “They go there with all their friends and make a big night of it.”
The Rollin’ Wheel’s new single, Hell & Highwater, is about the floods and fires that have wreaked havoc in country areas is recent times.
“Yeah, and everyone in the band grew up somewhere in country Victoria – that’s where we all started – and most of us still live in country towns,” Sal notes.
And what can we expect at your performances at Fleurieu Folk Festival?
“Well I’m lucky because I’m coming over with Tully and we are playing every day [of the festival],” Sal says. ‘And because I’ve just done that tour with The Waifs, I’m really beginning to enjoy playing intimately and leaving some space and telling a few stories.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she adds, “because I still love playing with the band at venues where we can get really loud and raucous, but it will be nice having Tully with me at the festival doing some lovely harmonies.”
And perhaps dropping a Tool cover into the set?
“Oh, I think we’ll be ending every set with an extended Tool instrumental,” Sal jokes.
Fleurieu Folk Festival happens down in Willunga from Friday 23 October until Sunday 25 October with Beccy Cole as headlining act. Other acts set to perform include Senor Cabrales from NSW, Melbourne’s Appalachian Heaven String Band, Perth’s The Ballpoint Penguins and more as well as a huge, huge line-up of local talent including The BordererS, The Timbers, Brillig, Goldstein, Kaurna Cronin, Spiral Dance, Sourbsob Bob and so many, many more.
Sal Kimber, accompanied by Tully Sumner, will be performing at the Festival Hall from 7.15pm on Friday 23 October and also at 9.30pm on Saturday 24 October as well as at 6pm on Sunday 25 October.
Tickets are available via Fleurieu Folk Festival website