Need to Know: Angus & Julia Stone
By Courtney Nichols
Angus & Julia Stone garnered almost instantaneous fame in their homeland of Australia when they released their first EP in 2006. Their latest, the full-length album Down the Way, debuted at number 1 in their native country, reaching platinum status and becoming the highest-selling album by an Australian artist in 2010 in just two months. Now, they're traveling the U.S. with their pure breed of folk music, and luckily for them, American audiences are equally as enamored. Nearly selling out their nationwide tour, Angus & Julia Stone maintain an accessible kindness that exudes from them while on stage. We caught up with the brother-sister duo to chat about songwriting, keeping music in the family, and their vintage bohemian fashion sense.
Out: Lately I've been listening to your solo album a lot and I am obsessed with the track 'Catastrophe.' What influences you to write these eerily romantic songs?
Julia Stone: I can't even remember when I wrote that. I think I am mostly inspired by the people I have fallen in love with and the people I have fallen out of love with. It's those times. It's the questioning of what it means to be in love and what love is. I am really fascinated by the whole idea of it and the human condition that causes the drive to meet that persona and if it reflects you in an honest way. All my music shows the sadness that I haven't figured it out yet.
Are you in love right now?
Julia: No. Yes and no. I am in love every day but not in a way that is in love.
Since you were raised in a musical household, why was 2006 the year you decided to finally release an album with your sibling? Why didn't you release the album earlier?
Julia: Any earlier and we would have been too young. Angus was only 19 when we released Chocolates and Cigarettes, our first EP. I think before that we weren't close at all. We weren't hanging out and making music. There wasn't that going on. It was the best time because we discovered each other and that we like making music and that we like making music together.
So, you had dabbled in other bands before?
Angus Stone: I used to play in a band at school that was a little punky. We have side projects. But in 2006 we enjoyed the love of each other finally.
Do you have other siblings?
Julia: We have an older sister but we don't talk about her [laughs].
Your recording locations are so varied. Where did you record your most recent release and what has been your favorite recording location?
Julia: The last place we recorded in for Down the Way was in Queens. I don't think that was my favorite. I don't know if I have a favorite. They are all so varied. One of the places we recorded -- which was incredibly beautiful and picturesque but doesn't necessarily reflect the time there because some of it was really fun and some of it was really hard -- was an old saw mill down in the South of England. We had to get there by boat. We were stranded there for a couple weeks with the band. It was really good but it was really challenging as well. We made the tracks for Down the Way there. We look back and say how beautiful it was --
Angus: We had such a shit time.
Julia: It was the smell of death in that house.
Angus: There was something dark lying dormant there. But it we had a really awesome time. Being close to nature was beautiful.
Julia: We were under this bridge on a lake so we would wake up and go lie down and see three beautiful white swans. It was quite cold so we drank quite a few cups of tea and we'd go sit down by the river.
Did that inspire the aesthetic of the album at all?
Julia: I think everything inspires the aesthetic of the album. It was recorded in a lot of different places with a lot of different people and everything was an inspiration. I thought the swans were so inspiring. It becomes a part of you in the moment and then naturally becomes a part of the sound you are making.
You self-produced this release, right?
Julia: It's interesting that you say that because we did it and we didn't. We ultimately had the final call but everyone was making creative decisions. We had four different rhythm sections on this album. Each drum player, each bass player, each string player -- basically everyone brings something to the table. We are definitely not the sort of people to say no. We work with such talented, amazing musicians that we let everyone do what they want as long as they've got the foundation of the song down. The engineers we worked with were really spot-on and phenomenal. Then we coproduced a couple of the tracks. That just means that they were more involved in the process of making the songs.
Do you collaborate equally when you write?
Julia: We don't write together actually.
How does that work? Does one write the lyrics and one write the music?
Julia: Oh, no. We write totally different songs!
So does that mean that when you release solo albums it's not much different then when you're working together?
Angus: Well, in a way that's true but I look at my album solo as the star. When I'm around Julia and the band, I have a certain way of writing.
Julia: I think when we are in the studio we have gotten much better at giving each other the space we need. I'd say that the songs Angus writes, he is the main producer. I sit back and maybe help with takes and give my opinion but in the end it is his thing. When you have someone else in the studio with their energy and when you are alone in the studio making all the decisions or you are working with someone it brings out a whole new side. If you are working with someone who loves heavier sounds, you end up making tracks with heavier sounds. It's the way they engineer it.