It’s not every day that artistes with that special something come about, and it’s taken several tumultuous years apart and Rick Rubin to get the enigmatic duo back together – better than ever before at that. The sibling duo’s self-titled third LP was then released last year to an extremely favourable response from fans and critics alike, with a harder edge to their heartfelt melodies compared to their previous offerings. JUICE talks to the female half of the pair about their past, working together with her brother, and how they differ sonically live compared to on record.
A lot of people have asked you about the reunification of the siblings Stone for this new album, but let’s talk about the beginning for a little bit. Way back when the two of you were first breaking into the scene, what made the both of you decide to work together on Chocolates and Cigarettes instead of striking out as solo artistes in your own rights?
At the very beginning, it wasn’t like a big decision. It was a series of events that unravelled into us being on tour. We had been playing open mic nights, and supporting each other as solo artistes. A lot of what we were doing was just to get experience; playing our own songs in front of people. And then I guess about four months into doing that, [Angus] got a manager who said, “Why don’t you put some of your songs together into a CD, call yourselves Angus and Julia?” So we did that, and we got a record deal, and before we knew it, two years had passed and we were touring. We didn’t ever really sit down and ask each other what we wanted. We just kept saying, “Yeah, let’s do it, let’s do it!” And that’s how it happened.
What was it like growing up in such a musical family?
I don’t have anything to compare it to, really, but I think that it was exciting. Mom and dad had a lot of interesting bands, and there was always something going on, noise in the house. There was always music playing late at night, the smell of cigarettes, glasses, and adults’ voices. If we weren’t there, we were always at a wedding, where dad’s band was playing. There was some kind of joy in music, and everything made us feel comfortable around live music, so it doesn’t really surprise me that this has come about.
Your recent eponymous release was the first time that the both of you wrote together. What were your inspirations like during the writing of the album – because we imagine that the both of you might have differing influences, and also, how was it like to work with Angus on that level?
To be honest, I’d say that Angus had a lot of the musical direction on this record, and I think that my sort of default setting with him is that I kind of lean on him in terms of where the music’s going to go. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as an artiste, and even though I’m the older sister, I’ve always looked up to him a lot when it comes to music. He was really good with me when making this record, because I have a lot of ideas, and a lot of songs which are stuck in the style that I’m used to, which is fingerpicking an acoustic guitar, and sort of quite folksy. He really pushed me to explore and to use different instruments, and really wanted me to try and play more electric guitar with a pedalboard, and write from a place like that. Most of the songs on this record started out very differently, and he encouraged me to explore those things – we went vintage guitar shopping, and he helped me set up my pedalboard, and when we sat down to do the preproduction for this record, new songs came out of the guitars, and the pedals, and I started playing more riffs, which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with before. And so yeah, Angus had a lot of influence on the sound for this record.
Interesting. We imagine that working with Rick Rubin would also have its perks, and that he’d have a certain influence on the musical direction of the album, no? What was it like working with him compared to your previous producers?
Working with Rick is such a treat. He’s a real music lover, and he’s a very passionate person. He doesn’t drift away, y’know, he’s there with you, and he wants to be in the studio. I like that about him, I like having him there because you’ve got a set of ears that you can trust. And he just brings suggestions, and he’s also worked with the best people in the world, so you’re really in a comfortable place working with Rick.
Earlier, you mentioned that you grew into live music because of your upbringing. How would you describe your live performance compared to the record?
That’s a hard question to answer (chuckles). It sounds like how we sound, but with a live element to it that you can’t get on record. And we’re there and moving, and we’re live! And I think that’s what makes live music so great. There’s this unknown entity, and you don’t know what’s going to happen at a live show. A record is a stagnant thing, a moment frozen in time. A live show is a moving and breathing body. And I love the band that we tour with, they’re just amazing musicians – everybody who played on the record loved the songs, and it’s got this really good feeling about it. They’re all just such experimental and imaginative players, and it makes the shows fun as well.
Angus & Julia Stone played at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore 2015 on Saturday 24 January ‘15.