Angus and Julia Stone on How Their Time Apart Has Made It Easier to Be a Band
Whenever a band goes on hiatus to pursue other projects, fans worry whether or not this is just the gateway to the group's ultimate breakup. However, for Sydney's Angus and Julia Stone, that's not necessarily the case.
After releasing 2007's A Book Like This and 2010's Down the Way, the brother-and-sister indie-folk outfit decided to pursue their own solo careers while still having the idea of making another album together neatly kept in the back of their minds. Angus and Julia both forged their own successful paths and released a number of records that gained them critical acclaim as solo artists. Then in 2014, the two entered the studio with Rick Rubin to work on their self-titled third record, which hit the streets in August last year.
While they were on the road, we spoke with Julia and found out about how they've been surviving the festival circuit, the story behind "From the Stalls" and whether or not she and Angus have plans to release another record together.
How has the festival circuit been treating you so far?
It's been fun, but you know what's going to happen. There's so many factors that make it work, and it's a little bit of chaos with the sound check or whether it's raining or you've had too many drugs.
Do you approach performing festivals differently than you would a normal gig?
They're very different. After years of festivals, [the band] has an attitude of "what will be, will be" and not to have too many expectations. Festivals can be great or they can be really difficult. Like I said before, sometimes festivals are set up in a way where you have a lot of sound from another stage. A band is playing at the same time as you, and you're hearing the breath of the other stage. So musically, it can be very difficult for a band. But you may have some bad sound but have a great crowd. It's a real up-and-down experience. So I think the less you have any expectations of it being great or having a good show and you just take it as it comes, it'll be better. We try to be as in the moment as we can, because it's kind of like going to battle. You kind of have to have your wits about you and really be listening to each other.
Your self-titled album has been out for a year now, but this is kind of yours and Angus' comeback record as a duo. How does it feel to be back together?
I think it really feels different. It has more to do with Angus and me and the experiences we've been through in our time apart than anything else. We grew up a lot when we went to make our [own] solo records and touring on our own and being on stage without each other. It gave us a really different perspective on the choice to come back together, and that was a decision that came from a totally different place where we knew we had the choice. In the past, we felt it was kind of like following the yellow brick road without looking sideways. And then when we did make the choice to go off that road, it was like, "Okay, do you want to come back and do this again?" It felt like it was a really positive thing. We really wanted to do it, and we both wanted to do it. I think the confidence we have in each other and having the perspective of having missed each other and making music now, it's a little bit more relaxed for us. There's a lot more joy and ease to the whole thing. We kind of settled into being a touring band and being friends and being artists on the road. Everything seems less intense than it was when we started, and I think that's just part of growing up and getting used to stuff.
Let's talk about your single, "From the Stalls." What is the song about and what is the premise behind the video?
"From the Stalls" is just that question that we all have -- at least I presume that everyone has this question. But in my experience, with friends and family, it's about looking at what we're here for. I think, personally, [it's about] telling everybody what you're here for. I think it's an interesting question that artists get when you're asked why you write music or what the song is about. And quite often, I don't really know [Laughs]. I don't really know why I'm doing this. This is what I have to do or this is what I'm doing. I guess that's sort of what the idea behind that song is. It's that sense of confusion and trying to find the answers when maybe there aren't any answers for it. You just do what you do.
The shooting of [the video] was fun for us. We were on holiday in south Australia. We come from a big fishing town. And outside of that area, there are landscapes where there are beaches where it feels like you're the only person there. There's crystal-clear waters. We've been all over the world playing music, then we go back to places like this, and it's really... there's nothing like it. It's pristine, wild nature. And shooting this video has that experience to it. It was very wild, and there were complications, too, because we're doing it all very off the cuff. There wasn't stuff that was planned. We just got in a boat and shot [at] sunset. And we're in a tiny dingy in the middle of the ocean, where there are huge great white sharks. And knowing that there was [a shark] seen two days ago... you're in the elements of nature. It was a lot of fun, but it was challenging at times.
While the album isn't too old, are you working on new Angus and Julia Stone material?
We're talking about writing together. We have a month off in September, so I might head up to [Angus'] farm and do work up there. But Angus has been working on some side projects with some mates up near where he lives. It sounds amazing as well. We're always writing stuff, but the two of us together -- I don't know. That will be a matter of what happens when we actually start to write, if we're where we want to be and what comes out of it.
You and Angus sound great as a duo but also as solo artists. Do you find it challenging at times to balance all the different projects you're working on?
Yeah, I think it's always the timing of it is right. You get a feeling about a certain project or a passion or certain desire to release something. And whatever that is, whether it's Angus and me together or one of our solo things, it definitely becomes an obvious situation, and you can't do anything but want to create that music or play that music live. And we've been really good about going with that feeling and are happy for each other no matter what the format is -- us together or doing solo projects. I don't know, it's worked out for us so far. We can try to be as honest to each other about where we're at or what we want. And you know, the nice thing about working with Angus is that everything is on the table. Nothing is bulls---. If we're going to work together, we're going to work together. If we're not, we're not. There's no hard feelings. And at the end of the day, we're always in together. That's kind of nice, and it helps us creatively because we can work on all different projects. Whichever one rises to the surface, we'll kind of follow that road.