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Julia Stone on making music with her brother

Words by Bianca O’Neill

Changing pace.

Few people in the Australian music industry could match the career of Sydney siblings Angus and Julia Stone. But despite number one albums, a swag of ARIAs, multi-platinum certifications and more, they’re still as down to earth as ever.

We were lucky enough chat with Julia Stone about the duo’s sweet sibling closeness and how they’ve grown over the years, both creatively and personally.

How has making music with Angus changed since you started all the way back in 2006?
We used to keep our worlds very separate. In terms of writing, it was a really private time for us. Songwriting was an introverted thing we really enjoyed doing on our own. As the years have gone on, I don’t think we ever expected to be touring and making music this far down the track.

So now you work more collaboratively?
After Down The Way, we really wanted to do something different. The idea of having that ‘half Angus and half Julia’ album – the separation of our songs – didn’t appeal to us. So, we started going back and forwards on lyrics and melodies and ideas. That was representative of the ability we have as people, and friends, to be really honest and trusting of each other.

Trust is important for creativity.
I think that’s always the underlying thing with any creative endeavour. As you spend more and more time with anybody in that kind of environment, you develop a good friendship. There was always a connection, and a deep love and respect for each other, but we weren’t particularly good mates at the start. We were definitely brother and sister, trying to work out what the hell we were doing. Now it has this really nice quality to it – speaking more clearly about what we want, who we are, how we see the world and, I think, just growing up together.

Talk us through the process of making your new album?
Making this last record, Snow, was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had musically with Angus – to be in that environment, and to have such a relaxed approach to creating it. We’d get into this mode of working that was very peaceful. Waking up, going to the beach, coming back and working for a few hours, then cooking some lunch, taking a walk, writing some more… until we were too tired to write music anymore. Falling asleep at the night, feeling like we’d had a full day and then getting up and doing it all over again. It was a really special time.

How do you keep it fresh after all these years?
We really do take a time out after each record to do our own thing and creatively walk down other roads. By the time we walk back into the studio and are ready to write more music, there’s a kind of excitement and energy around it that’s fresh and feels alive. And if it doesn’t, or if there’s a moment during the recording process where we work for five days straight and nothing exciting is happening, we just stop. We don’t try and push anything.

Is that a new approach?
I think that’s an approach we’ve had from the start, knowing when to call it. Knowing today’s not the day, or this year’s not the year. There’s an element of excitement that we have for our own projects and being independently creative. We have this back and forwards between our two worlds. And that keeps what we do together exciting for us.

Why do you think ‘Chateau’ resonated so much with audiences?
When Angus and I write, there’s always that element of melancholy or longing in there. That’s the nature of the music we’ve always written. There’s that part of it that is also hopeful as well… it feels uplifting but also has an element of melancholy. “Don’t be scared of what you don’t already know” – that idea of living your life in a way that’s not afraid or limited. And I think we always crave that experience, or to live in that way. But I mean, I have no idea why people like one song over others. Labels and managers have ideas about what songs will work but my favourites are never the ones they say are going to be ‘the songs’.

You also featured Dacre Montgomery from Stranger Things in the ‘Chateau’ clip. Are you guys fans of the series?
Yeah, definitely. It was a really exciting thing because Dacre told us a lot about the season before it came out. We filmed ‘Chateau’ a couple of months before [they released Season 2]. Getting to know him during that time in Mexico City – he’s a guy from Perth and so down to earth and funny – and then seeing this character he plays who’s so naughty, it was a bit of a trip.

You’re about to head out on tour again. What can we expect to see this time around?
The first tour we did in Australia [for Snow] was basically two days after the record came out and we were very unfamiliar with playing the record live. We started off with an idea of what would work, but after three months touring around the world, we had a very different idea about what was working. The show is a lot stronger and I really love how it’s turned into the show it is now. The confidence of the new songs is really exciting but there are also songs we want to play that we haven’t played for a really long time, which is really fun. We’ve been finding songs off old records that you hear people call out for, so we’re putting a few of those back in.

What’s next for Angus and Julia?
We’ve got a show coming up at the Royal Albert Hall – that will be amazing, a venue we’ve always wanted to play. Following that, the European summer festivals and Mexico in November, as well as a run of shows in South America. It will be our first time playing there and we both want to travel around, so that’s sort of the plan. The loose plan.

angusandjuliastone.com

This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 177. You can read it here.

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