Angus & Julia Stone

By Poppy Tohill

I was very excited when I heard Julia & Angus Stone are heading our way to perform one show at Auckland's Civic Theatre later next month. Even more so, when I got asked to interview Julia. Unfortunately losing her voice prior to our interview, Julia was kind enough to still respond to my
questions about her solo project and time apart from Angus, their recently released self-titled third album, working with Rick Rubin and of course, their upcoming show on September 27th.

So here's what went down...

Congratulations on the success of your self titled album reaching number one on the charts already, was that something you were expecting or did it come as a bit of surprise to you, considering your time apart with Angus?

Yes. It definitely comes as a surprise. When we were doing the album, we were so deep in the music, it all sort of starts to get diluted. You're just thinking about getting it finished and making it the best you can. You never really think about what people are going to think - it's all just a head spin of making it. So yeah, a really nice surprise. In terms of the time apart, I guess with Angus it feels like time apart just passes. It doesn't feel like that long since we were doing the same thing.

I know your parents were both musicians, and you grew up playing the trumpet, so music has obviously always been a fairly big part of your life. Did you ever have a moment where you thought, you weren't going to do music because you wanted to do your own thing, rather than sort of follow in your parents footsteps?

I've never really thought about it as following in my parents' footsteps. I think our parents used music as a creative outlet rather than a career, and that's the way we grew up with music. It wasn't an obvious path to tour the world playing songs. That's not really what Mum and Dad do. Mum was originally a marine biologist and dad is a teacher of history and English originally among other things- he kind of did everything: a truck driver, a builder, etc. I guess I don't get too caught up in whether this will be what I do forever. I will always play music but I have interests in lots of other things and maybe one day it will feel right to spend more time doing this or that.

You & Angus parted for a few years to both work on solo material, where did the inspiration for that project and idea originate?

I really wanted to work with Thomas Bartlett and that was always in the back of my head as some-thing I wanted to do. Once I had all these songs and I'd shown them to him, he said, "Come to New York and let's make a record!" So I did.

How do you think taking the time off and going solo, has changed your music?

Perhaps going solo helped me evolve as a person which definitely enhanced the music between the two of us. Getting back together is a whole new path now because of that time apart. We both brought our personal experiences in that time to the new sound.

Would you say you've matured a lot as a songwriter and musician since the release of ‘Memories Of An Old Friend,' to now, and that the self titled album is very different from your previous releases?

It's different. It's the same. I mean, it's hard to say that I've matured because I can't really be sure that is the case. I think I've calmed down a lot as a person. Things don't affect me as much as they used to. Things move slower and slower and I like that about my life. In saying that I'm not sure how that affects or changes the music. I feel like I write the same way I always have. I want to sing something, so I sing it.

After reforming as a duo, what was it like working on another album together after being apart for a number of years?

It was a really great time for me and Angus. We had a lot of fun jamming on the songs. I felt really excited to hear what he had to say about the sounds of the songs I had written and I was equally excited to hear his songs. It was also a change to write songs together. To sing line for line and see what unfolded out of that process.  We hadn't missed each other being apart but in spending the time together making this record I remembered how much I love his company.

Did you learn anything from your solo project that you could apply with the new Angus & Julia Stone record?

I learnt a lot during that time. From the guys in the studio and also the band I toured with. They all have such unique talents with the instruments they play and the way they all individually approach music. I love collaborating with people and I found every person I was involved with in that time had something to show me. For instance, there was a brilliant composer who was playing piano on my Australian tour - Edward Fairlie. I was privileged to watch him compose a brilliant piece of mu-sic with his voice. Four moving part harmonies to be sung as a hymn. It was a really wonderful ex-perience and opened my ears up to using different voicings for harmonies.

I recently read that prior to recording the new album, you and Angus had no intention of re-cording and working on another album together, following the release and success of this record, can we possibly expect more work from you two as a duo again in the future?

We don't really talk about the future. We both know how quickly life changes.... Things are never what they seem and we are happy to find out what will happen as it goes along. There is a great saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." That definitely resonates with us.

Do you think what you produced with your solo album ‘By Your Horns,'is a totally different sound to the new album or do you think the result is an extension of that?

There are crossover elements for sure. Thomas plays a lot of the organs and keys on this new record with Angus and myself and he has a very distinctive sound that is very prominent on ‘By the Horns' -- but I feel like this new record is a whole different thing for us. We hadn't written songs together before and that really brought something new to our experience and the sound. There is a lot more singing line for line and in unison. All things we hadn't done previously.

Usually bands name their debut albums after themselves. Why have you decided to name your third album ‘Angus & Julia Stone'?

It wasn't really a decision that had a reason behind it. It just felt right and when we suggested it to Rick, he liked it. That was it. I guess looking back at making the record, in a way it does feel like a first record. We did things very differently to how we had in the past. So perhaps there was some unconscious reason to the choice..

Your voice and sound, on the new record, has been described by many as sounding similar to Kate Bush & Norah Jones, were they inspirations for you when working on this record.. if not who were your musical inspirations behind the album?

I am really inspired by lots of different music. The stuff at the time of the record was pretty varied. Angus and I would make playlists to listen to while we drove to and from the studio... there were tracks on there by all kinds of rad artists.

It must have been pretty amazing working with Rick Rubin as the producer, what did he bring to the table with the record?

He has a wonderful way about him. He is very clear and present. You never get the sense that he wants or needs to be anywhere else other than where he is. I found that a really special quality and it brings everyone into the room. It makes for a good vibe and for everyone wanting to be there and make the best music that they can.

What was it like recording in Malibu? I've heard it's a cool but kind of strange place, do you think recording there had any affect on your sound?

I think all environments have an affect on whatever is being created, but it's too hard to say how. I feel like I'm bullshitting when I try to explain that stuff. It would all be made up. I mean, who knows. The water is peaceful to watch, the grass is green and good to lie down on. It all plays its part.

I love the video for ‘A Heartbreak.' the contrast between the party scene and the journey of travelling in the car is very cool. Did either of you have a lot of creative input into this idea for the video?

This film clip comes from a short film made by our very good friend, Jessie Hill. She made a film called ‘Marie-Celeste' about two girls traveling finding out about their love and their feelings for each other. We saw the footage for the film and loved it- so we all decided to tie the film, the girls and us together. It's a beautiful story.

You've got a pretty intense touring schedule ahead of you over the next few months, in-cluding a show in New Zealand next month. What are you most looking forward to about coming over here and performing?

It's really, really exciting for us. This will be our first ever show in New Zealand.  We both visited when we were kids and haven't been back. Angus went snowboarding I think. I visited with my school on a volleyball trip. I was young and stupidly excited about being overseas with my best friends, so the whole experience left a very vivid impression on me.

Without giving too much away what can fans expect from your upcoming show?

It is us playing music we love with people we love.

What's the best thing about playing with Angus?

He doesn't bullshit me at all. He says everything straight. It makes things really easy and also really funny. I always know that he'll say what he means.

Touring as much as you do, what do you miss the most when you are away from Australia and the place you call home?

I usually know I'm coming back in a few weeks or a couple of months so I don't get too nostalgic. Sometimes I miss the ocean if we've been away from it for too long. But usually we get into the water every couple of weeks.

Aside from touring what does the next year have in store for you musically?

I am writing a score for Jessie's short film ‘Marie-Celeste' at the moment. I'm really excited about that. I am writing most of it on piano. 
Reminds me of being a kid and listening to grandpa make up songs on the piano.

You've achieved a lot throughout your career as an artist, what is the one achievement you are most proud of?

I know it doesn't really seem career related but it kind of is: The most recent thing I'm proud of is that I did yoga a few days in a row. I find it so hard to get into a routine on the road... so when I get through a few days doing something I feel really great. 
I get super pumped about those kinds of achievements.

To finish off, who are three New Zealand artists you enjoy listening to?

Flight of the Conchords
Fat Freddy's Drop
Split Enz

Angus & Julia Stone iTunes

Angus & Julia Stone

Sunday September 28th:  Civic TheatreAuckland

Tickets via Ticketmaster