Published on Drunken Werewolf Magazine
“When I watched Angus perform, He shone.”
That’s how Julia Stone describes the second half of her two-man act Angus and Julia Stone after watching her brother perform solo during their two year break away from each other. Just like the soft, story-telling nature of the singer/songwriter’s voice, the course of the re-union of the two siblings took the same pace. Of course, the involvement of New York, stripped-down, laid back producer, Rick Ruben, made the re-union an even more hippie one.
“We sort of approached it from a very relaxed attitude, and this is the same for how Rick operates, we were all just getting to know each other,” Julia tells us. “We would spend time with Rick separately, so when I was in LA I’d go and hang out with him, and when Angus was in LA he’d hang out with him, so we were just hanging out as friends. And during that time, Angus and I started chatting on the phone, just about our experiences of touring on our own and we started to talk more, which we hadn’t done because we were both just so busy doing our own tours- and we’re not really phone people that way, we’re not get on the phone and have a chat kind of people. And then Rick sort of approached the subject and said that he wanted to make a record with the two of us together and I guess that was the beginning of conversations of what Angus and I thought about it, and what we thought we could do, or whether we wanted to do it at all, and those conversations led into us talking about the way we’d worked in the past.”
She gradually builds up to the instant of epiphany as she continues, “There was a moment where we were both billed on the same music festival as solo artists, and we both got to see each other play for the first time without each other,” she pauses for a second, “I think that was a really important moment for both of us because I was just so amazed by how talented he is. I just remember watching him, thinking: “He’s a really phenomenal musician.” And without me, he’d really grown so much and he owned his own show. And then he had a similar experience watching me, and I think at the end of it we both thought maybe we could see what happens with the people that we’ve become over these past couple of years, what kind of music would we make together with these kind of new experience, so we approached it from that place of kind of exploring it creatively, finding a new way to work together.”
Speaking of creative explorations, the Stones had never previously worked with a producer, so the involvement of Rubin was a big step for them- one which proved to be successful as Julia described how “exciting” it’s been to play the new material to the crowds on tour and seeing how “people are starting to be familiar with the new songs off the new record.”
“We play a mix of old and new songs and it feels nice to play songs that are more recent. When people react to something that you just created, it’s definitely got a fun feeling, I think, because when you do something new it feels more relevant in a way to your life.”
The singer does reminisce about the older, less relevant yet earthier, acoustic songs such as Big Jet Plane, Draw Your Swords, And I’m Not Yours.
“But then at the same time it’s really nice to play old songs. It’s so familiar and they’ve been with us for so many years. Just playing the old songs with Angus now after everything that we’ve gone through and touring together again, they have a new sound and beauty to us now.”
Their single A Heartbreak certainly seemed to reflect something about their current situation. Aside from the bold lyrics of short strong statements and powerful words, which, combined with the muted guitar strums and trudging drums, was a proclamation of change and growth all on its own, the music video spoke verses about the pair’s new-found position in life, as Julia explained, “I think we definitely grew up over those couple of years by being on stage on our own. It definitely gave me a sense of confidence that I didn’t have before. I felt like with Angus, there was always that net of safety- safety in numbers, you know? But being on your own, even though you’ve got the band, it’s still your show; every song’s your song, you have to really own it. I never really understood the art of being a solo artist, and I definitely have a new found respect for people that go out on their own under their name, you really are putting yourself out there, and
not to say that Angus and I weren’t, but I think performing on my own for those couple of years made me feel a lot stronger, and I felt like I had explored my voice in ways that I hadn’t so much done with Angus.”
“So when it came to doing this record, we both felt more settled in our skin and then I think it came through working on these videos, we have a friend of ours, Jesse Hill, who directed most of the videos, and her and I became close friends during my solo touring. She’d made a few videos with me, and when Angus and I got together she came along and became really close with Angus as well, and she certainly was a big pivotal part in me feeling more confident in my body and just being like: “Whatever, just get in front of your camera and sing your songs!” And so when we filmed A Heartbreak and Heart Beats Slow, it was all just a lot more free,” she laughs, recalling the experience, “it was like, let’s be bank robbers and driver around on a motorbike, and let’s be rock stars at a party! I had less worries about what that may or may not look like, I just thought it could be fun. These are all for the element of people who have come on board that bring them out of us as well.”
During my chat with Julia, she proved to be not only a talented artist, but also one of the most insightful, reflective people I ever had the pleasure of speaking to. In the course of telling me about her song-writing process, saying how “That’s one part of making music that’s really consistent, when it comes to writing [she] doesn’t ever feel like [she has] anything to hide,” she accidentally ended up giving some great life advice.
“It’s funny because in real life, in the day to day interactions of the world I feel like there’s a lot about who I am that I keep hidden and there’s a certain struggle to know how to be myself at all times and I guess that’s the great battle of being a human, to never have to pretend for anybody including yourself. But when it comes to music, there’s a sense of freedom in that, you just don’t have to hide. I don’t know why it’s like this, I’m not saying that you can’t hide in music, but for me song-writing’s always been a way to just sort of sit on my own and think about the rubbish of life, or the great things in life that are happening.”
She admitted that the support she gets from Angus also plays a big part in the way she feels in facing the world in the form of music.
“I know Angus feels the same about music and I think for both of us we often know so much about each other’s lives that nothing’s a surprise, I think he knows the way that my mind works and the way that I move in the world and my insecurities and fears and the people that I’ve loved and so when a song comes to the table we never talk about it but we know what’s going on, and there’s kind of a sense of safety in that. He’s not judging me and I’m not judging him. I guess I feel the same in that I can sing these songs in front of however many people and I never feel like I’m being judged or being monitored so I’m pretty sure every single person in the world knows what it feels like to fall in love and to have heartbreak and to be full of fear; no body’s different! Some people are at different levels of accepting that this is life, and that’s the variation of humanity but we’re all on the same path, so it doesn’t feel so scary.”
In line with the general sense of relaxed attitude that Julia has, she confessed to never allowing herself to think about what her audience thinks of her work, “when you have abstract ideas of what other people think about you, you do start to become maybe a little bit limited in the way that you can move because you have so many other things to think about when you take a step, and that sounds to me like that could be challenging.”
She goes deeper into the concept of freedom, saying, “We’re responsible for ourselves and I think our responsibility is to try to develop our own skills and our understanding of ourselves in the world but I think for me to bring in the element of how that affects other people, it’s too vast, it’s such an unknown field, there’s no way to grasp what you do or don’t contribute.”
What Julia does allow herself to think about is hers and Angus’s plans for the future, which include a European tour that involves “a lot of good food, great crowds, and beautiful places” including France, Germany, Holland, and ,of course, England, where the Stones will be stopping by the O2 Academy in Bristol on the 12th of December before heading back to Australia to spend Christmas with the family, which “should be exciting” according to Ms Stone.
With such a successful go at a second chance to jump back onto the life path of being Angus and Julia Stone rather than Angus Stone and Julia Stone, and with such a bright prospect ahead of the duo, “exciting” certainly fits the blank space when describing the future of this dynamic, enchanting pair. We’re definitely excited to see what’s to come.