Sam Bielby, Silas Darnell and Simon Little form the Dingo Creek String Band. The great thing about this awesome bunch of bearded blokes is they’re so inspired by the beautiful Manning-Great Lakes, they pen songs about the area – and perform them so we can gain a greater appreciation of the place we, too, call home.
Take banjos, guitars, a dobro and a very special double bass – throw in some harmonica, singing, and a bit of stomping – that’s how these guys roll! Simon stops by for a chat …
Where do you guys call home … and what do you most love about it?
After six months of attending uni in Sydney, I realised that I would never feel as whole as I did when I lived at home in the Manning. It was my spiritual residence; I decided then that I would die there. I brought Emily, my fiancée, back home with me, and we’re putting down roots and setting up a farm near Bobin. The forest is what I love most about my home. There is a magical interplay of light between the forests and fields here.
Silas is out by the river in Coopernook with his wife, Kate, and their two daughters, Eden and Lucy. He spent some time travelling around with Kate, before he was drawn back to the great Manning River to raise his family. When Silas isn’t working or studying, he spends much of his free time exploring the Manning Valley, its beaches and the bush … And the German butcher.
Sam was originally out at Harrington, before having to ship out of the area to Newcastle for university. I think it was a case of “absence making the heart grow fonder”, with Sam realising that this is the place he wanted to come back to, to raise his family. Sam, being a science teacher, is fascinated by the diversity of the Manning Valley – the way you can go from the beach to the river to the bush within a half hour.
How did you all meet and decide to form a band?
Emily got me some chooks for our first Christmas at home in 2015, so on a steamy December noon, we climbed down from Upper Lansdowne to Coopernook to pick up the poultry. This bloke with a beard and AC/DC shirt came out, and we hit it off immediately.
We became good mates, and subsequently discovered a mutual love of plucking the odd banjo. Silas and I just wanted to make music, no pretensions of fame, just fun, so I roped in a workmate, Sam, who is also bearded, of course, to play bass. The rest, as they say …
“Dingo Creek” … would I be correct in guessing your band is named after an actual place? What inspired you to name your band after it?
Yeah, the name is absolutely homage to my favourite watercourse. It forms about 500 metres of the south-western boundary of my property, right near Bobin.
We wanted the band’s name to resonate with locals. I wanted people to feel that their lives and connection to land was legitimised and celebrated publicly.
And from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, you should see the gallery of Water Gums, Weeping Lilly Pillys, She Oaks and Staghorn ferns that hang over this beautifully spooky water. It’s got some of the clearest waters in the valley … Seeping down through the thick green folds of the Elands and Comboyne escarpments, very sacred country. More than one of my melodies started as absent minded humming down there by the wet stones on a hot summer’s day.
The dingo itself is a mysterious creature, much maligned by many of my neighbours, for obviously agricultural reasons. My hope is that through our music we can restore some respect, or at least intrigue, for predators that aren’t us. That’s what our song, Carnivore’s Lullaby, is about.
And then there is the obvious fact of us all playing stringed instruments.
When Silas and I coined the Dingo Creek String Band, we hoped that our name would evoke some of these ideas for potential listeners.
What instruments do you all play?
I play the banjo and guitar, and am the principal singer. There’s also the odd bit of harmonica and foot stomping. Silas plays guitar and dobro, and Sam plays a modified cello that’s been converted to a mini double bass.
You guys write your own songs … who looks after the lyrics, and who works on the melodies and beats?
Thus far, I’ve been the songwriter both lyrically and musically. I generally come to the boys with something that’s pretty close to completion, and we then work on it together as a band. Silas flushes my twangy melodies with rich sound and Sam kicks it up the *rse with meaty bass lines.
What’s your favourite song to play at gigs (and why)?
I guess I enjoy playing Cattai Wetland Blues for having a stomp and a wail. Moon, Brother hits close to home for me too. It’s easy to sing stories that you care about.
What’s an awesome memory from a gig or jam session you can share with us?
Sam and Silas both have toddlers, so every practice we find we are fighting for airwaves with the kids. I honestly think they have helped us to project our sound and persist through background noise and distraction.
My fondest memory of a jam was when we were playing originals and Sam’s eldest son, Theo, who is only three, was singing along to our songs and having a boogie. Kids are honest. And they honestly like our sound. That is all the approval I need.
What upcoming gigs do you have?
6thAugust at Flow Bar, Old Bar, from 12:30pm – 2:30pm.
6th August at the Australian Hotel, Wingham, 4pm – 7pm.
30th September, “Groovin’ in the Garden” at the Manning Valley Community Gardens, Wingham.
Where can we find out more about you or contact you?
Simon: You can check us out on our Facebook page for regular band updates, songs and gigs: www.facebook.com/thedingocreekstringband/
Alternatively, you can make contact with the band via our email: