When The Cat Empire frontman Felix Riebl went to the Pilbara to work on a musical project, he wasn't really sure what was going to emerge.
Struck by this desert landscape in WA and the stories of the indigenous community there, he worked with members of The Gondwana Indigenous Children's Choir who went on to form Marliya - a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait teenage singers - and the album Spinifex Gum materialised.
"It's a very moving place to be, also a very strange one," Riebl told AAP.
Along with his Cat Empire bandmate Ollie McGill, they recorded the sounds of the area - the iron ore trains, bouncing basketballs, industrial sounds of the mines - which became the drum machines, playing in contrast to the youthful voices of the choir.
And from this place, the stories that form the album began to emerge.
Starting with the tragedy of Ms Dhu, a young Aboriginal woman who died in police custody, Riebl found many stories from the Pilbara and the album began to take shape.
"I didn't go into it wanting to write a political album, but it felt very, very natural to tell the story of Ms Dhu, for example, because I read the transcripts from the court and I read the newspaper articles and the song wrote itself," he said.
"It was just one of those rare magic experiences you get artistically where you stumble into something and from there the project really took on a momentum of its own, and it's become something that none of us could have expected."
The issues of the area and its community came into sharp focus.
On Locked Up he enlists rapper Briggs to deliver a powerful track about the disproportionate detention of Indigenous youths.
Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett also features on the album singing about a suicidal FIFO worker in the area on the track Malungungu.
"It's one of those projects that's really mysterious and joyous with the young singers and on the other hand it's the right time to be written and released now because these things are a part of a current national dialogue that both white and black Australia are involved in," he said.
"These are about stories that would break your heart, and break your heart especially because you're working with young girls who could in a different circumstance be in the same situation that some of the people in the songs were in."
* Spinifex Gum is out now and will be performed live at the Adelaide Festival on March 13.