King Stingray: “We feel very optimistic about music and our lives because of our amazing leaders”

King Stingray. Credit: Luke Henery
(Image credit: Luke Henery)

Growing up together in Yolngu country – the tight-knit community of Yirrkala in North-East Arnhem Land – Yirrŋa Yunupiŋu and Roy Kellaway were surrounded by incredible music. Both are descendents of Indigenous rock royalty, the former being the nephew of Dr. M and the latter being the son of Stuart Kellaway, both of whom were founding members of Yothu Yindi. With music in their blood, Yirrŋa and Roy performed together from their earliest days, whether it was killing time backstage while their parents rocked out to thousands every night, or at school talent shows. It was only a matter of time until they turned rocking out into full-time careers of their own, but King Stingray was never supposed to be what kickstarted them.

The project came out serendipitously, when Kellaway had a random idea for a song while the Yothu Yindi crew were camped at his dad’s studio in Tintenbar (a village on the far-northern coast of New South Wales). Within hours of jamming, that idea blossomed into ‘Hey Wanhaka’, and though it came about as a bit of casual fun, Kellaway (on guitars) and Yunupiŋu (behind the mic) knew they had a hit on their hands. They whacked it online under the moniker King Stingray, and through word of mouth alone, ‘Hey Wanhaka’ became one of 2020’s biggest summer anthems. Enamoured by the reception, Yunupiŋu and Kellaway powered on, ballooning King Stingray into a five-piece – including fellow Yolŋu folk as well as balanda (non-Indigenous peoples) – and whipping up an album of loose, loveable surf-rock belters primed for intimate clubs and sprawling festival stages alike.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…