Indie folk siblings Angus and Julia Stone dropped into Disorder Towers for tea (Angus), coffee (Julia) and a photo shoot (as you can see).
The on-again, off-again pair is back with a fourth album, Snow, begun on the slopes of Zermatt, Switzerland. It’s the first they’ve entirely written both in the same room, and they produced themselves in Angus’ cottage studio, Belafonté, in Byron Bay, a small coastal town 500 miles north of Sydney. Brother and sister were born in Australia’s best-known city. Angus and Julia Stone announced themselves in 2007 with album A Book Like This, and hit wider acclaim with 2010’s Down The Way and its break-out single Big Jet Plane. Both record as solo artists and individual careers took over until producer Rick Rubin reunited them for 2014’s Angus and Julia Stone. According to Angus, a fourth album “wasn’t on the cards”, but coming together last year for a festival in snowy Switzerland gave them inspiration, not to mention a title and song name. The result is pretty great, their best work even, more fused together, beautiful interplay. "Running from the start, here we are again," sings Julia on the song Snow. "Running from the start, here we go again," retorts Angus.
DISORDER: How is it being back in London?
ANGUS STONE: Every time we come back to London it’s great. London is a melting pot of art and people that love having an ale… when it’s summer it’s beautiful.
JULIA STONE: I love London. There are a lot of memories here. Driving from the airport it feels… in a funny way, like coming home. Because for those first two years of us touring and making music together, London was home. For Australian bands, coming and living in another country, away from the music world there, you establish yourself as an international band. In Australia it’s a very small country to tour. You only really have two big cities to play and two small ones and two tiny ones. So you can tour very quickly around Australia and build up a following there, but it can be very limited in how much you can actually tour and play. So we started doing that here more than there. And that was really good for us, because there’s just endless places to play in the UK. We played all the Scottish Highlands… we played all through Scotland, tiny towns, and it was so cool. Us in a £600 Tarago [people carrier] and the band pretty extensively touring the UK… woke us up a bit from the Aussie beach psyche.
A: We got invited to play a festival in Switzerland a while back [April 2016]. It’s a festival in Zermatt. We hadn’t played together for a while. And we went over there, played this little beautiful festival in a tent, overlooking the Matterhorn. And the townspeople asked us to hang out for a week. Snowboarding. Skiing. We heli-boarded. During that time Julia and I sat down and discussed the idea of making another record together.
J: Snow for Australians is pretty magical. The first experience I had we went on a school trip down to Jindabyne, which is the only place you really get snow. I remember breaking off from the group and walking into the forest. All the trees have icicles on the leaves and everything is brand new, covered in this fresh coat of paint. And just sitting in there, in the quiet, feeling absolutely mesmerised. Any experience I’ve had in the snow is just like that. It just happens that [the Zermatt] experience was before we started to record our first tracks. And the first or second song we wrote was Snow. And it established a feeling of, this is how we’re going to write this record together. Back and forth.
You’re confident at snowsports?
J: I almost died. I thought I’d fully blown out my knee at one point because I went down so badly on a black run. Just because we’re so uuhh [anything goes]. One day we went to the top of the mountain and this blizzard comes in like crazy, and just covers the mountain. We felt like the original explorers in the days when you find a new country. Angus snowboarded off, and disappeared. I couldn’t see him, couldn’t even see where the lines were. It’s not often in life, where you fear for your life, just routine turbulence on a plane. This is a moment where you feel so good, because you survived something real.
The album has a song called Sylvester Stallone. Was he in Zermatt?
A: [Laughs.] I’m sure he was there. He’s been there somewhere. In spirit. That was just a play on words. That story of Sylvester Stallone was a couple escaping the world to go fall in love. They meet on the beach and they’re drinking and they’re playing, he’s slurring his speech, it’s like Sylvester Stallone. It was a little bit of fun.
Do you have advice for acts trying to find their groove?
J: Play as much as you can. That’s what we did, played any gig we could do. Open mic nights. Acoustic nights. Whatever came along we would slog it out and put our gear on the bus. Success was just a gradual change. By the time we knew we were boiling alive we were already dead [laughs].
A: I feel like we’ve come full circle with this project. When we were younger, like kids, the first EP we made was in our dad’s garage, with friends who knew how to record, and we did it on our own. We didn’t know what producing was. And I guess we were just doing it ourselves. And now, this time round, gone through all the big studios and working with these guys like [legendary producer of the Beastie Boys] Rick Rubin – let’s just do it, get back to basics.
The early songs you wrote separately but now you compose together?
A: We decided to do that with Rick, but we only did it on a few songs. So, we put aside a proper amount of time and we were in the same room, writing together, properly. And I think that’s the difference with this record, you can really feel that. You’re still writing the song, but sometimes you get stuck on something, and because you’re both there you start talking about what the landmarks are in the song, the symbology. That’s the times where it’s cool; you make a cup of tea and just sort of sit around and talk about the song, and how it makes certain lyrics stand out, what’s important about it.
J: There's a lot of this on there, where Angus would find the story in the verse and I would find it in the chorus and we find a way through because of each other. We have very different styles of writing but they seem to work together. In a way, it’s the differences that make it sound the way it does.
How do you approach gigs?
J: You find a feeling, like an energy to go out on stage. Sometimes you can be so tired that the moment before you go out this feeling comes over you like, huh something cool’s about to happen. Our music is so directly connected to emotions of ours that we’ve been through or stories that we’ve been part of, that you don’t need to go anywhere else. It’s more about whether you have that capacity every night to connect to that feeling.
A: [Ironically] This tour I’m going to bust out of a big fucking lemon. And I’m not going to be able to get out, that’s part of the show, there’s gonna be this big membrane that traps me…[laughs]. Nah, we’re just excited to play, especially London… and all the UK.
What about a genre change, an Angus & Julia Stone disco album…?
A: Yeah sure man, I’m not afraid of any of that stuff. If it feels like we’re in that headspace, it’s definitely something we can do.
Photography: Yoshitaka Kono
Stylist: Rebekah Roy
Hair & Make-up: Evan Huang using Mac & Carol Joy
Fashion Assistant: Lauren Mann