The True Story of Watling & Bates
Kym Watling & Geoff Bates met in 2002. Watling was completing her Honours studies at Griffith University and living in a flat in Brisbane, Bates was on 100 acres in the bush outside Kyogle. The pair was introduced by a banjo player, who drove Watling along a rough dirt track to meet the man who was to become her greatest love and eternal source of frustration.
Things did not go smoothly. Watling bought a penthouse overlooking the city and looked after the swimming pool. Bates stayed on the block and had to drive to town to get mobile signal. They broke up.
Watling completed a PhD in Physical Chemistry, and became a spectroelectrochemist, specialising in Raman spectroscopy and electrochemistry of mineral and metal surfaces. Life as a scientist saw her travel across Australia, the United States and Canada. Bates rejected city life, staying in his shed with a pit toilet and no power, reading by the light of hurricane lamps and trying to keep his books dry in the wet season.
They got back together. Although they were opposite in many ways, they saw eye to eye on most things, and each had children of the same age. They both enjoyed playing their Martin guitars together, drinking cups of tea, talking for hours, and writing postcards when they were apart.
Photo of Disgraceland by Oscar Von Wieldt at the Powerhouse Brisbane 2007
Watling played in a band called Disgraceland, an urban country outfit that played beautiful songs that dance instructors could waltz together to in city bars. Before that, a band called the Pineapples From the Dawn of Time. Bates spent the 1970-80s as a sound engineer and roadie, driving bands up and down the Eastern coast in big trucks.
Photo by Dr Gretel Heber - Griffith University Graduation Brisbane Convention Centre 2007
They broke up again. Bates bought a house in Kyogle and worked in the produce store selling hay. Watling worked with molten metals and X-ray photoelectron spectrometers. Bates drove a truck for a local freight company. They got back together, shared Bates’ house, then broke up for what might have been the last time.
Photo by Jasmine Phillips - Kyogle Farmers Market 2015
Watling stayed in Kyogle and started a music society. Bates bought a house in Unumgar. They didn’t talk for five years, then one day a chance meeting on the street brought them back together. Science funding dried up and Watling started playing banjo on the street. Bates joined her.
Photo by Michelle McCleary of Corayla Pheonix Photography, Texas Qld Sept 2016
They married in 2016 in Texas Queensland and settled in Unumgar, where they remain until this day, facing new challenges, making new music, and forging a life together as Watling & Bates.