Finding Refuge in Queenscliff

October 31, 2017 BY

The Queenscliff Music Festival Emerging Artist Grant for 2017 has been decided, and one of the lucky dual recipients is young rock band The Refuge.

The group will receive $4,000 to record, produce and promote a new album.

Now in its seventh year, the QMF Emerging Artist Grant aims to provide local artists with the opportunity to enhance their musical career through the receipt of much needed funds to assist recording new original music.

The program has become a key offering of support to emerging talent in the regions of Geelong, Barwon South West and the Bellarine Peninsula, with each musician receiving funding and both the recipients will perform a slot at the festival.

The Refuge formed in Apollo Bay in 2014 when all five members were just 14 years old, taking inspiration from classic rock from the ‘70s and grunge from the ‘90s.

Comprising Riley Newton on vocals and guitar, Noa Matthews on backing vocals and guitar, Jackson Hayat on keyboard, Cameron Potter on bass and Leon Kennedy on backing vocals and drums, The Refuge have taken the local music scene by storm.

Frontman Riley said the group wanted to create their own album but didn’t have the funds to make it possible.

“We put in an application for the grant and hoped for the best! Our plan is to record an album in a studio in Melbourne with a producer and engineer. After that, the money will go toward CD pressing and promotion for the project,” Riley said.

“As a band we are going for a ‘70s or ‘90s rock sound, but really there’s a bit of everything rock in there. We also put as much energy in to our live shows as possible; jumping around and all that kind of thing. We often get compared by people in the audience to Silverchair, Nirvana, The Doors and Deep Purple.”

Forming the band was a no-brainer for Riley, having been passionate about music from a young age.

“We were always friends and decided to start the band. Soon enough we were writing our own music,” he said.

“It just sort of happened. I suppose at the time I was listening to Led Zeppelin which encouraged me play and start a band, eventually we were all listening to rock and we’ve been addicted to gigging ever since!

“For the Queenscliff Music Festival, the audience can expect lots of energy from us, new songs and see us having some fun up on stage.

“We all think Queenscliff is an awesome festival, two of us went last time and saw some really great acts!

“This year we are really keen on seeing Bernard Fanning, Temper Trap, Russell Morris, The Bamboos and the other grant winner Andrea Roberson, but everybody at the festival is going to be great.”

The boys have had many supporters on their journey so far and are incredibly grateful for all the help they’ve received.

“Buzz Thompson has been mentoring us, Matty Orchard has been helping out from the very start, a venue called The LOFT in Warrnambool has been giving us plenty of opportunities to play and our parents have been driving us around to gigs. We’re so thankful for everyone,” Riley said.

Riley had one piece of advice to other local aspiring musicians.

“The best thing to do is just apply for every damn thing you see, take every opportunity you get and weirdly enough, scroll Facebook and be in touch with the scene.”

For more information follow The Refuge on or head to for more information on the festival.