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.
Is there anyone you would love to collaborate with?
Angus: That's a tough one.
Julia: I really have wanted to work with Gary Jules, who did a cover of 'Mad World.' I heard he's a pretty amazing guy and I would love to work with him. Everyone you meet you sort of want to hang out with. It just depends on that level of connection.
Are you based in Australia?
Julia: We are based in Scandinavia!
How did you end up there?
Julia: We are not ever there. We are permanently on the road at the moment. We have places in London, Los Angeles, wherever we go.
Keeps things flexible --
Julia: Speaking of renting a place, it just doesn't make sense. There are only three weeks out of year we are not traveling.
You are so well-known in Australia. In the States, though you have a serious following, it's not as big as down under. How does it feel to be playing to smaller audiences?
Julia: Really hard [laughs].
Angus: It's not different at all. If anything, it's refreshing. It's like when we first started. It's really warm.
Julia: I like it. Meeting people at more intimate shows is better. Playing music to bigger crowds -- except if it is a rock show that is made for large stadiums -- sometimes loses its touch. As an audience member, I like to be able to see the musician's faces.
Angus: I get more nervous playing in front of fewer people. Like for instance, I was performing in Big Sur --
Big Sur? That's where I'm from originally. Did you play at the Henry Miller Library?
Angus: Yeah! I went on a road trip and my guitar was in the car. It was a bunch of people and there was an open mic night and I wrote my name down and when they called my name my heart was ripping out my chest. I couldn't breathe. I sang the songs all wrong. It was so bizarre. It was definitely really hard for me.
Did you guys take that trip together?
Angus: As soon as we are off tour we immediately separate. I took the coast up from Los Angeles and brought my camera with me.
So, when you are not making music, what are your other passions?
Angus: Photography is my thing. I love all the old cameras.
Julia: I like filming as well. A friend and I filmed a little horror movie down in Melbourne. That was fun. Melbourne is a great city because it has a lot of old houses and Victorian places. We found a place with high ceilings. My friend was the killer and I was the screamer. I would like to write. You keep yourself busy. I like to film. I like to write. I like to drink.
How would you describe your style, fashion-wise? Have you always been dressing bohemian?
Julia: We have a rocking set of grandparents. One of them, our dad's mother, has the most amazing style. She wakes up every morning with her hair in perfect curls and a full face of makeup. She makes that effort everyday. I look at photos of her from the '40s and '50s and I love the way they dressed back then. We decided to only wear secondhand clothes as a rule. I just don't really remember going into new stores and enjoying the clothes. I love vintage clothes. You can see this in our art. It's all about a story and it comes from somewhere. It's easier and more comfortable. They feel right on my body.
It has on a soul.
Julia: I don't know if I would say a soul but maybe it's just as practical that the fabric is not going to shrink because it's been washed so many times. I'm not going to deal with the stuff that comes with new clothes.
Angus: I think it definitely has a soul. There's a story behind it. It's like old furniture. There are nicks and wear-and-tear. Someone had a fight and smashed a wine glass. There is something you can see in it.
For more information and upcoming tour dates visit their official website.