They’re Australia’s most revered singing sisters, known for their rich vocal harmonies and stylistic breadth. And while still celebrating the release of their first ever best-of collection (and first ARIA #1 album) ‘Akilotoa (Anthology 1996-2004), Vika and Linda Bull have wasted no time in following up with an inspired album of gospel songs, titled Sunday (The Gospel According To Iso). From Sunday, today Vika & Linda release the first single, ‘There Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)’, written by the late gospel singer Brother Claude Ely.
Sunday was brought about by the pandemic lockdown. As isolation began, Vika & Linda decided that they needed to keep on singing, and with just one gospel song live on social media on a Sunday morning back in March they were able to stay in touch and give something back to their faithful fans. And so, Sunday Sing Song was born from the loungeroom, usually with one musical friend accompanying via video link.
The seed for the album was sown over those ten weeks spent broadcasting from home, and together with their musical director Cameron Bruce, they began to shape the album. Despite the challenges of recording in isolation and working remotely (Cameron in NSW and the Bulls in Victoria), their persistence paid off.
The sisters’ love of gospel began while attending church as children in suburban Melbourne, listening to the Tongan choir with their mother, and after church exploring their Dad’s record collection, which included Mahalia Jackson and Elvis Presley singing gospel.
“Gospel is a genre we know we can do faithfully,” says Linda Bull. “It doesn’t feel laboured for us, it feels like a release and when we sing these songs, we feel better. And when that happens, hopefully people will feel the same way,” she adds.
“Gospel music has been a huge influence on the way we sing,” Vika Bull explains. “We love the rawness and minimal instrumentation of the early recordings of the great vocal powerhouses like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson”.
Sunday (The Gospel According To Iso) is a careful selection of songs that move them, including compositions going back to the 1930s but with lyrics that still feel as relevant as ever in 2020. Every song on the album was unearthed from their own collections, as well as recommendations from trusted musical friend Paul Kelly, with the exception of ‘Shallow Grave’, which was written especially for Vika & Linda by Kasey Chambers.
Vika & Linda are synonymous with the Australian music scene, having made their mark with everyone from Paul Kelly to Joe Camilleri. Like all in the music community, the award-winning sisters find themselves unable to perform on stages so for now, they have found comfort in their love of gospel music, and re-booted their Sunday Sing Song sessions to help them navigate their way through every day of the week – including Sunday.