'There's A Lot Of Gatekeepers': The Merindas Have Their Sights Set Beyond Australia

4 March 2020 | 8:56 am | Rod Whitfield

Rod Whitfield speaks to Candice Lorrae and Kristel Kickett of The Merindas about the importance of staying connected to country and culture.

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From Darwin and Tammin respectively to now supporting the likes of R&B legend Craig David, Candice Lorrae and Kristel Kickett of The Merindas have come a long way from the college where they met. 

“We first met at Abmusic, which is a college for Aboriginal musicians in Perth,” Lorrae shares. “I was teaching and Kristel was a student, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that we caught up. I’d seen Kristel sing on YouTube and I asked her if she wanted to come and do this thing with me: we’d started this group called The Merindas and it was on the launch of [2012 film] The Sapphires.”

Things started to take off from there, the group getting regular bookings performing Motown classics. “We opened up for the film that night,” she continues. “It was a one-off show, but it became this full-time job because it was so popular. We had to do a line-up change because some of the girls had to go back to work. So I got Kristel on board and we really started to connect as soul sisters.”

While their early Sapphires success certainly helped things along, it wasn’t long before the pair emerged from Motown's shadow and the whole thing started to take on a life of its own. “We’re actually songwriters,” Lorrae states. “We said, ‘Let’s do original stuff. We can only do covers for so long, that’s not what’s in our hearts.'” What was in Lorrae and Kickett's hearts was a desire to express their own stories and heritage, as well as to bring them to a more mainstream audience, and generally convey a deeper message about who they are. “We want to tell our stories,” she says. “We want to share our language, our culture, and we want to do that through music. I think what we’re doing is unique, and if people support it, it’ll be a total game-changer.

“Even though we’re on this massive journey into this mainstream pop thing, we wanted to share our culture and we wanted to keep grounded as well, keep connected with our culture, and that’s something that we want to teach the young Indigenous kids coming up. Whatever it is that you’re doing, keep connected to country and keep your culture alive.

“And it’s in the music,” Kickett adds, “and music is forever!”

The duo are about to release their debut album, We Sing Until Sunrise, and will tour Australia extensively in support of it. At the same time, they have a definite eye on markets beyond our shores. “I feel that we’re going to do a lot better in overseas markets,” Lorrae states. “Australia is a really small pond, and there’s a lot of gatekeepers and a lot of resistance to certain genres and artists.

“What we’re offering is a little bit more worldly in the way of our costuming, body movement, our stories, our music and our genre.”