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Oct 27, 2022
We’re sorry, this feature is currently unavailable. We’re working to restore it. Please try again later. Dismiss Vika and Linda’s pull-no-punches memoir Their extraordinary voices have accompanied many of the best in the Australian music industry and now, it’s time for the Bull sisters to sit centre stage. Normal text size Very large text size Writing a book is liberating, according to Linda Bull, one half of the duo – and Australian music royalty – Vika and Linda. The half-Tongan, half-Australian sisters have had an ARIA nomination this year, a number one debut album last year, and now they’ve released a memoir, the aptly titled No Bull. Singers, sisters and best friends Vika and Linda Bull. Credit:Simon Schluter Regulars on RockWiz, they have performed with many of the country’s best artists, won countless awards and headlined at the AFL grand final. Even so, their story is not well-known. “There are a lot of things people don’t know about Vika and I that we’ve written about,” says Linda. “I didn’t feel so scared about revealing that side of myself ... The fact that I had a difficult relationship with food or that my marriage broke down … a lot of people go through that stuff.” Vika too reveals intimate detail, namely her battle with alcohol; she stopped drinking in January. “It’s been hard because it’s been such a big part of my life,” she says. “I’m in an industry where I am surrounded by it all the time – and it’s free, it’s just handed to us on a plate, ‘There’s your rider.’ I loved it, don’t get me wrong, I loved it and I drank every drop, but it’s a trap.” As she discusses frankly in the book, Vika saw it was a problem and that she had to stop. “I’m glad that I woke up eventually ... The number one reason was because of my child, she is the most important thing in the world to me. Drinking is not.” “I was very proud of Vik to write about that,” says Linda. “That was the gate we didn’t know she would open.” Like other big issues explored in the book, it underlines a problem with the music industry: riders are free booze provided to performers as a matter of course before shows. “I couldn’t take myself out of the industry – that’s my livelihood, it’s the only thing I know how to do,” Vika says. “Most people when they stop drinking will say, ‘I’ll remove myself from this situation.’ And I knew I just had to quit because I couldn’t stop singing.” Advertisement Remarkably, an app helped her follow through on that resolve. “That was the one thing that I connected with; I tried therapy, I tried AA [Alcoholic’s Anonymous], I tried NA [Narcotics Anonymous], but that was the one thing [that worked].” Despite their revered status in the Australian music industry, neither sister was sure anyone would want to read about their life. They considered their upbringing in the suburbs – from Doncaster to Clifton Hill – fairly unremarkable, except for the racism they encountered. The children of Austen and Siniva Bull, they grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne in the gloriously carefree 1970s. Their desire to sing was apparent even when they were tiny, and was nurtured by their mum and the Tongan Church, which also celebrates the joy – and power – of singing together. When they were growing up, music created by families like the Jackson Five, the Staple Singers, the Osmonds, the Partridge family and Neil and Tim Finn, was on high rotation, as was ABBA. Every sibling or family group has their own unique sound, says Vika; their harmonies sound different, in part because of the shape of their body and resonating chambers. “That harmony thing is so beautiful on the ear, everyone loves it. It’s one thing to hear a choir sing together but when you hear a family do it, it’s a completely different thing. I think it’s something to do with the love for each other.” You’re listening to the same music as youngsters, it’s in your DNA, you know what sounds good, says Linda. “We pick notes no one else will pick. When we go to do a session and someone asks you to do something that’s not a natural harmony, then we realise this is our sound: we pick similar notes, we hear the same close combinations.” Advertisement She calls it blood harmony. The importance of family is a recurrent theme in the book: Vika and Linda’s parents live in Clifton Hill; Linda has two children, aged 24 and 17, while Vika’s daughter is 25. They all live nearby and spend a lot of time together. “When it comes to parent lotto, I think we hit the jackpot because they are very invested in their children. The rule was, ‘There’s only two of you [sisters], you’ve got to get along’. Now, it’s the grandchildren,” says Linda. “[Our parents] are just really lovely, down-to-earth people, they don’t stand for that rock’n’roll lifestyle. Any time we got too big for our boots, we’d be straight to the sink, doing the dishes.” So, have their parents or kids read the book? Not yet. It helps that their mum has also written a memoir and that no one is allowed to read it until she dies. “Mum is busting to – she had a go at me on the weekend, [saying] ‘Don’t you think you should let me read it?’” says Linda with a laugh. “There were a couple of chapters where I thought, ‘Mum’s going to die when she reads this’ ... But I’m here still, it’s my journey and I’ve survived it,” Vika says. TAKE 7: THE ANSWERS ACCORDING TO VIKA & LINDA BULL Worst habit? Vika: Saying sorry all the time. Linda: Eavesdropping. Greatest fear? Vika: Losing my mind. Linda: Being asked to go on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. The line that stayed with you? Vika: “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.” (Maya Angelou) Linda: “Life’s too short”. Biggest regret? Vika: Drinking. Linda: Never learning an instrument or how to read music. Favourite room? Vika: Bedroom. Linda: My lounge room at 5pm. The artwork/song you wish was yours? Vika: A Song For You (Leon Russell). Linda: A painting I saw at Alice Springs airport in 1990 by Emily Kame Kngwarreye. If I could solve one thing ... Vika: Poverty. Linda: Racism. No Bull reads like a conversation between the sisters, one writing one chapter, the other responding. Remarkably, they wrote separately, not knowing what each other was covering until the last stages of editing. Neither wanted to edit or correct the other. The resulting book is full of insights into their lives growing up mixed race in the suburbs, and later the Australian music scene – back when the gig guide and Beat magazine were the key sources of information. Venues where they worked waitressing, long gone now, are name-checked, such as the Black Cat in Fitzroy, run by Henry Maas of Bachelors from Prague fame and Toni Edwards. “It opened our eyes to a whole new world,” says Vika. “That completely changed both our lives,” adds Linda. Soon after came the offer of a lifetime: to tour with Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows. Even though they had their own band at the time, it was an offer they could not refuse. Advertisement The book addresses big issues along the way: favourite collaborators; management – good and bad; family; Tongan culture; having children; career uncertainty and ambition; relationship breakdowns; mates and their many champions. Paul Kelly is a notable mentor, one of the first people to encourage them to write their own material; another is the legendary Venetta Fields, who taught them how to sing professionally. No Bull also explores career decisions, such as what motivated their second album Princess Tabu, a concept album that explored their Tongan heritage, based around the mythical titular princess. Looking back, it was ahead of its time. “That’s something we definitely wanted to do, explore our culture; we used Tongan words, and we did whole songs in Tongan,” says Vika. “I think people really liked that record but I wish we had continued down that path. I don’t think Australia was ready for it.” The Bull sisters in 1996. Credit:Pierre Baroni Next up was a gospel record. It’s a recurring theme, the sisters jumping around styles and genres, embracing their broad interests and abilities. Although it all contributed to their wide-ranging, eclectic sound, commercially it played against them. Straddling world music, pop, rock, gospel and soul, the duo recognise that being a twosome made their work a trickier “sell”. The influence of the Australian rock music scene is not to be underestimated. “That’s how we learnt to sing, singing seven nights a week in a pub rock band,” says Vika. “That’s a headache for a record company, but that’s who we are,” says Linda. Clearly very close, the sisters have an incredible friendship. They laugh a lot and are quite different: Vika is a self-named “belter” and more fiery than Virgoan Linda. You’re the angel, I’m the devil, Vika jokes. “I think that’s the secret to our success, we are so different,” says Linda. “There’s something about the way that Vik sings with that gusto and power, it matches my more mellow tones.” The book charts the ups and downs of the Bull sisters’ careers thus far, including a hiatus of about a decade, when Linda set up a children’s clothing shop in North Fitzroy, which she’s since sold. Vika pursued an unexpected career in musical theatre, playing the title role in a show about Etta James, and several other roles in similarly styled sell-out series. Advertisement While they missed performing together, both acknowledge that it has benefitted their work. In 2020, they released Akilotoa (Anthology 1994–2006), which was the first-ever number one by a female duo in Australia. Last year’s The Wait, a selection of songs written for them by artists including Paul Kelly and Kasey Chambers, has been nominated for an ARIA. “We’re better singers now, stronger singers, and The Wait showcases that. We know how to write now, we should concentrate on that side of things. If we can write a bloody book, we can write a song. I’ve always been scared of songwriting because people might say it’s cliched ... That’s what’s held me back,” says Vika. Both sisters now want to write their own material and create work that celebrates their heritage. For Linda “it feels like this burning thing that we have to do to pay respect to both cultures”. It’s our responsibility as Australian-Tongan singers, says Vika. “I won’t shut the door on anything because I love Marvin Gaye, I adore Etta James, I love Carole King, but I think Linda and I need to concentrate. We’ve got a lot to do in terms of writing stuff; I don’t want to tell anyone else’s story at the moment.” No Bull is out now via Affirm Press. Gee Whiz It’s Christmas is out on November 4. Vika and Linda play the Melbourne Recital Centre on December 2. They will be in conversation on November 5 at the Wheeler Centre and in Sydney on November 2. The Booklist is a weekly newsletter for book lovers from books editor Jason Steger. Get it delivered every Friday . Save
Vika Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Where is Vika's headquarters?
Vika's headquarters is located at Nizolaan 4, Ede.
What is Vika's latest funding round?
Vika's latest funding round is Acquired.
Who are the investors of Vika?
Investors of Vika include Givaudan.
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