The Interview: Angus and Julia Stone – Part 2

Published on 19 July 2014

[A]ngus and Julia Stone are back, and not just back, but back together. After two successful albums, the brother and sister duo decided to go their separate ways. But super-producer Rick Rubin had other ideas, and following a call from him, the pair decided that a third album was inevitable.

“We found a new way to make music together,” states Julia of the outcome.  “I think we had enough space from each other to be able to really listen to this time and appreciate each other’s ideas, thoughts and feelings.” Following our interview with Angus earlier this week, we sit down with Julia to find out why two is better than one.

I LOVED YOUR COVER OF SIA. SHE’S DOING A REALLY COOL THING WITH HER NEW ALBUM WHERE SHE’S NOT SHOWING HER FACE IN ANY OF HER VIDEOS OR PERFORMANCES, SO SHE’S USING OTHER PEOPLE TO REPRESENT HER SO IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT IMAGE.

That’s really cool. I think that’s a really smart thing. Sometimes all the focus is on the artist, the face ,the body and it does sort of take away from what they’re doing. It’s almost a bit confusing, you’re like “do I like the person or do I like the music?” I really like Sia I think she’s a really unique artist and she’s not afraid to be herself and that’s pretty rare.

IN THE INDUSTRY NOW THERE’S SO MUCH PRESSURE ON IMAGE AND WHAT YOU BRING TO THE STAGE…

I think especially now with how much social media there is, it’s like record labels are always asking for more content, content, content and I think it puts pressure on artists, somehow you have to not only perform the songs all the time, which actually isn’t an effort at all, it’s really fun to do that but then there’s the other side to things. You know like “can we get photos from every show?” and “can you guys say something about the gig” and some artists just don’t do it and I think that’s a good thing.

DO YOU THINK?

Yeah I mean we both run our own separate Instagrams and I like that because I get to put up pictures of beautiful things that I see and it’s not so focused on the idea of “and here I am again, being cool”. Like the other day I saw lightening striking out the front of the hotel room and I thought it was the most beautiful thing and to be able to share that image is really nice and that’s kind of fun, especially for family and friends. All my brothers and sisters follow me on Instagram and we communicate through Instagram. That’s like my main thing I guess, I don’t have a Facebook or anything. But the Angus and Julia one is run by someone else and I think that’s a good, healthy situation.

DO THEY EVER PUT STUFF UP AND YOU CRINGE, LIKE ‘WHY DID THEY PUT THAT UP?”

Yeah sometimes they put stuff up and you’re like “ooh, don’t know about that shot” but it’s like “oh well it’s too late.” I mean if you really hated something I’m sure you could pull it off.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL THE NEW ALBUM HAS ACHIEVED THAT THE PREVIOUS ONES HAVEN’T?

I think the focus in the studio was really different. In the past it always felt like we were recording between tours. We’d tour and tour and then we’d have two weeks off and book a studio somewhere and you’d have this two weeks to cram in as many songs as you could and because we were much more separate in the ways that we worked. It felt very ramshackle, just the way we did it, we’d spend two weeks down in Cornwall and record ten songs and then you’d have them on a hard drive and then you get another week of between two tours and we’d record a whole bunch more somewhere else. Then Angus would go off to Byron and do recording on his own and I’d go to New York and record on my own there and then at the end of a whole touring cycle we’d have all these hard drives and all these songs and we’d go “well which ones do we like the best, lets put them on a record”. A Book Like This was a combination of three different recording sessions and Down The Way was the same. This time, it was like we’re working with Rick, we’re in the studio for this period of time, making a record. We were also very conscious about making this record, we had to go through a process to get to a place where we both wanted to do it because we had just made the decision to separate so coming back together was like, we really had to want it and want to work together. That changed things as well, we had a focus that meant that we both wanted to be there and in the past it was more like “err do we really want to be doing this together? It was almost like two solo artists putting their songs on the same record.

SO WAS THERE A PART OF YOU THAT WASN’T SATISFIED WITH YOUR SOLO RECORDS?

No not at all, it was the opposite. Working separately was fulfilling us in a really positive way, we were both very happy and we didn’t really have any intention to get back together. So when Rick contacted us it was so out of the blue and it was something that we could just ignore. It wasn’t just some random dude being like “I want to make a record with you,” it was Rick Rubin. That was why we really had to want it because we were so happy on our own, we wanted it for so long and we’d finally got to this place where we were like “cool, we’re both doing well on our own and enjoying it” and we both had our own bands. It had to be a really good reason and for us the really good reason was that we’d never worked together like this and we thought “you know what, let’s at least try, let’s see what happens if we try and work together. If we try and be in it together as a band and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll know within a week and we’ll walk away, but if it does work out then cool. We get to step into a new phase of our relationship” and that was exciting for us.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE’S A LOT OF PRESSURE AND EXPECTATION ON THE ALBUM?

You know I think just because of everything I’ve just said about how much it means to us to work like this there is no pressure because it’s already accomplished what it’s meant to accomplish for us. We’re better friends than we’ve ever been, we’re nicer to each other, we enjoyed the experience and went through so much together to get to this place that if no body likes it, if nobody thinks it’s good we’re better off because of it and that’s cool. That’s all I ever really want out of what we’re doing is to be better people and I know it sounds a bit bullshit, like of course if people love it you’re stoked. I love that people come to the shows, I love that people enjoy it, it’s a nice feeling when somebody relates to what you do. For us it’s been such a blessing, for all families if you get pushed together and you get to work through more stuff you’re blessed because it’s so often that you drift off and shit just goes on and you don’t get to figure it out.

WHAT’S YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF MUSIC?

Did you ask Angus the same question?

YEAH!

What he said his was probably my first memory as well and I think that was because it was just such a constant thing. I don’t know if he did say this but I would assume he would say being in bed and hearing the bass guitar through the walls from Dad’s band. For us the bass guitar was such a big part of our childhood memory because when you were put to bed as a kid or asleep, you’d always feel the bass, so you’re kind of falling into a sleep and you could feel it. I remember just as a kid the feeling I got when I heard that late at night and them downstairs practicing and just being all warm in bed. There’s something about when you’re a kid and you’re scared of the dark, and when you can hear family moving and alive, it makes you feel safe.

WHAT IS THE BEST PART ABOUT PLAYING WITH ANGUS?

Angus has always been like this in everything he’s done since he’s a kid, he’s very observant, he never misses a beat. Working with him, I feel like I’m working with someone who cares so much. He cares so much about me but cares also so much about the music and making things as good as they can be and I really like that because he pushes me. Watching the way he works, he’s so thorough, he’s so dedicated.  The way he plays is so phenomenal and I’ve become a better musician because of working with him.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING THAT MADE YOU CRY?

Actually it was just yesterday, I went our for dinner with my friend and he was telling me that his uncle didn’t have very long to live. At first I was sort of trying to distance myself from the information, you know it’s like someone telling you about someone you don’t know dying and you’re like “oh that’s really sad” but you don’t feel anything and it’s like “yeah anyway what wine are we getting?” I sort of did that at first and then I was looking at him and how much it was affecting him and I knew he didn’t know this person very well but then I remembered that his father had passed away when he was just a boy and this was the last relative that was directly connected to his dad. And the whole story made sense to me and why it was affecting him so much and I just saw him all of a sudden, he’s a grown man, but as a little kid. I felt really upset and it was the overwhelming realisation that everything ends and we’re all just little kids that want our parents to love us and want to be close to people we love and then I started crying at the dinner table!

IF YOU WERE GOING TO PACK ANGUS A LUNCH WHAT WOULD YOU PACK IN IT? WHAT WOULD HE WANT YOU TO PACK?

Oh my god I really want to know what he said he’d pack for me! Angus’s perfect lunch would definitely be a mix of Japanese, tuna nigiri and fresh salmon, and then he would have a seaweed salad and miso soup. If he was really hungry I would probably put in a cooked salmon teriyaki but it would go cold in a lunch box so I’d just keep it cold with heaps of really good wasabi and soy sauce and then probably put a thermos with it. He likes cups of tea so I’d make a chai tea in a thermos for him and then a couple of chocolate chip cookies.

WHAT WOULD YOU WANT HIM TO MAKE YOU?

A packed lunch… I guess I would love like a piece of cooked fish, some kind of fish and some vegetables, like steamed spinach, cooked asparagus, cooked veggies and a cup of tea with it would be lovely.

Angus & Julia Stone is released on August 1st on Virgin / EMI Records