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Angus & Julia Stone: “We Had No Intention Of Getting Back Together”

Written by Alice Bopf on May 28, 2014

Julia Stone is thrilled at the prospect of introducing fans to the newest chapter in Angus & Julia Stone’s history. Off the back of a six-month-long recording stint in the US, the newly reacquainted sibling singer-songwriters are set for shows at home and abroad, and have a brand-new repertoire which might surprise seasoned fans.

The road which led to the pair’s revival as a double act is one Julia says was paved with trepidation and excitement — particularly since it was a route they never imagined travelling twice. “We had no intention of getting back together,” says Julia. “At all.”

There’s humour in her voice, as though she’s still in disbelief at how things worked out. “We really felt that we’d done our time together, and it was time for a change, and we both felt really inspired to be apart and have that space, and it was really fun, actually. Then we got an email from Rick.”

Rick is, of course, Rick Rubin, famed producer, founder of Def Jam Records, American Records, and former co-president of Columbia Records. He’s a man of many talents, though a noted savant when it comes to hip-hop and hard rock production.

Rubin wouldn’t be your obvious first choice when listing candidates to helm an album from these folksy songwriters, but the industry heavyweight’s unsolicited email was the catalyst which reunited the pair on both musical and personal fronts.

“I guess it took a long time for us to come around to the thought,” says Julia. “I mean, Rick is such a legend, he’s made so many records that we love, so he was probably one of the few people who could have made us even consider it.”

Faced with a rare professional opportunity, the Stone siblings discussed the prospect over the phone, but it wasn’t until Julia saw Angus’ solo performance, and he hers, that they both realised what they were missing out on.

“I felt really amazed by Angus. He’s such a special creature and I love him so much. We joined to sing these old songs, songs we hadn’t sung in a few years, and we got off stage and were like, ‘Let’s do this, let’s make a record!’”

“And then once everything was finalised we were like ‘Alright… So what on earth are we going to write about?’”

Listen: Angus and Julia Stone – Heart Beats Slow

The tentative feelings persisted, but their time apart proved fruitful. Solo tours and releases, developments in individual sounds, and collaborating with other artists allowed new approaches to familiar territory, and a greater level of openness when it came to sharing the stage.

“In the past we’d just fight about it, we didn’t want to have to adjust or compromise,” Julia says. “We’d both matured a lot. Now, as with any artist, there’s more respect, you have an openness to listen to ideas, you listen. We started to actually work together, and it was exciting. We’d never done it before. It was a real shift in our relationship.”

They entered the studio with positivity, spurred on by intrigue. If it wasn’t already obvious, Rubin was a long-time fan. “He said he really liked our songwriting, he just wanted to bring a different sound to the songs,” Julia says. And if they weren’t already sold on the prospect, at that moment they were.

“Angus and I saw this as an opportunity to make the record we never made but always wanted to,” she continues. “We’d made these records that we loved, but we never felt like, ‘Yeah, we got it’. It felt as though what we did live was stronger than what we were recording. We hadn’t figured out a way of capturing that.”

“The older albums have their own charms,” she concedes, however. “I mean, today I was having a coffee in Bondi, and it seems as though our older music is really like the coffee shop kind of music. [laughs]

A Book Like This was playing, and it was pretty touching actually. It’s a great snapshot of where we were then, finding beauty in the simplicity of the songwriting… In a way, this [new] record is similar. There’s no bells or whistles, we’re just a lot more confident performers. Rick paired us with some really big players, so we had to raise the bar.”

Watch: Angus & Julia Stone – Wasted

And where did that bar end up? “He did use the word ‘groovy’ a lot,” Stone says. “He wanted to give our sound a bit more groove. His way of doing that was choosing a rhythm section that was predominantly hip-hop.”

The master producer’s encyclopaedic music knowledge came in handy too. “We would jam in the studio and then Rick would pick a song from his archive… feel what they were trying to achieve, and then we’d go back in and try things a bit differently.”

The end result is Angus & Julia Stone’s self-titled album, their third, set to hit shelves in August. First single Heart Beats Slow is a welcome return, and reflects not only the new influences of Rubin but the air of energy and rejuvenation so clear in Julia’s voice when she speaks.

The duo are scheduled to give the songs their first live airing at Splendour In The Grass, the mention of which has Julia giggling like it’s their first festival performance. In light of the past couple of years, that’s how it must feel.

“I don’t want to create great anticipation or anything but I do know that it means a lot to us. This whole journey has been an emotional one. It’s a wild experience. As in life, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Angus & Julia Stone’s new single ‘Heart Beats Slow’ is available now. Their self-titled third album is also available for pre-order. The pair will appear at Splendour In The Grass this July — full details here.

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