Angus & Julia Stone
“This album is extraordinary; Angus and Julia are truly unique musicians.” – Rick Rubin
“Psych-folk siblings mark their return with death-defying third chapter” – ROLLING STONE
“..this is a more polished, confident offering that plays on their different voices as well as their effortless harmonizing” – YEN MAG
Let’s cut to the chase. The captivating third and self-titled album from ANGUS & JULIA STONE is the best record the siblings have ever made. A record born of spontaneity, and totally unplanned.
“It took a while to get to a place where we thought it was a good idea,” admits Julia. “We were enjoying the time apart, enjoying our different directions. There was no conversation of, ‘When are we doing another Angus & Julia record?’ It never even came up.” So busy on their respective solo adventures over the last few years the pair never even saw each other – aside from unexpectedly bumping into each other on the street in Paris.
It took a legendary US producer to spark the flame. From Jay Z to the Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash to Red Hot Chili Peppers – Rick Rubin knows good music. Rubin heard Angus and Julia’s music playing at a friend’s party and quickly decided he had to get in contact. Julia received an email from one of the notorious producer and former Def Jam head’s associates, who visited the singer at one of her NYC solo shows, urging her to take a meeting. Weeks later in LA, Julia met up with Rubin. “At that point I was saying, ‘But my brother and I aren’t playing music together,” Julia recalls of the initial meeting. “Rick said, ‘Well, I’d really like to meet him too.’”
“This album is extraordinary,” says Rubin. “Angus and Julia are truly unique musicians. They are authentic and pure people who do things from the heart. I’ve never worked with anyone like them before.”
You know their history. Raised in Sydney’s northern beaches, after word-of-mouth heat and early EPs the brother and sister duo demanded attention with their 2007 debut, A Book Like This, produced in London by Travis’s Fran Healy.
Three years on and the result of endless tours through Europe, North America and Australia, Angus & Julia delivered the multi-platinum, ARIA-conquering Down The Way. Led by the gentle anthem “Big Jet Plane”, the band had it all: a #1 record, pole position in triple j’s Hottest 100, ARIA trophies for Single and Album Of The Year, invites to play festivals like Splendour In The Grass, Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and more. Years of touring internationally saw them selling out venues across Europe, playing to over 10,000 people at headline shows in Paris.
But their joint success had posed the question: could they do it alone? Angus & Julia had always been separate songwriters; initially, they’d never intended to be a duo. It was time to make a change.
And so, after wrapping tour commitments, in New York City and Los Angeles Julia recorded her commanding second solo effort, By The Horns. Angus kept busy creating his own critically acclaimed release, July 2012’s Broken Brights. Both albums hit their mark, each songwriter revelling in the freedom of a singular vision. There was, Julia admits, absolutely no plan to re-team.
Unconvinced they should break from their individual plans, it was after spending time with Rubin over a few months that thoughts about getting back together started to form.
“It wasn’t clear though. Rick felt good about, it but we were both unsure and hadn’t really come around to the idea,” says Julia. “Then we were both billed on the same festival and for the first time in a couple of years we played a song together. It felt so magical. We decided the moment we walked off stage that we would make this record with Rick.”
“We landed in LA and were looking at each other going, ‘What the fuck are we going to do?’” Angus jokes. “We had no idea how it would come together. We decided that we would only move forward with the record if it felt real and it felt like the right thing.. I think this is what made the record what it is.”
For the first time ever the pair wrote side by side. For two weeks they holed up in Palisades, in the dry heat of summer, jamming with musicians on new songs, and working through existing tracks Angus had demoed at home in NYC and songs Julia had written whilst living in Venice Beach. In September 2013 they walked into Rubin’s Shangri La Studios in Malibu.
“There’s Bob Dylan’s old ‘70s tour bus in the front yard,” Julia describes, “then you’ve got the feeling of all the bands who’ve recorded there… the scuff marks on the felt of the billiard table from the gang back when. Rick’s easy to work with, a very chilled-out dude. He attracts good people into his working environment, everyone there was joy. At the same time, we’ve never worked like that before – on such a big scale production. You turn around and your guitar’s been tuned, there’s someone there for amps, someone for coffee… we were overwhelmed at times. Sometimes it was like, ‘Nah, I’m good for another smoothie!’”
Velvet textures, dust-filled dreams, golden melodies. To say that this record is the band’s most grown up offering is no back-handed compliment. The album is pure Angus & Julia, but there’s a brand new potency here, a richness you can’t ignore, tracks are of spirit and statement. Angus & Julia’s creative union has resulted in their best work yet. It’s a record steeped in feeling and filled with a newfound freedom and confidence that’s palatable throughout.
From the lazy garage strummed “Other Things” to the stomping drive of “A Heartbreak”, the hypnotic, languid pull of “Main Street” to the west coast guitar of “Grizzly Bear”, the record moves from mood to mood, drawing you near. “Heart Beats Slow” is a kiss goodbye to a long time lover; “Little Whiskey” burns with Angus & Julia’s most electric energy yet.
Tracks like “Get Home”, recorded by Angus as demos in New York, made it to the final cut. For Rubin, it was all about capturing the moment.
“There’s definitely a swagger to the record,” Angus agrees on the band’s artistic throw forward. “We hadn’t ever really looked at each other’s songs the way we did on this record – there was a common ground we had found beneath us this time. Especially after being summoned out of the blue to create something together, I think we both felt the dust lift. We both felt empowered. The timing was unexpected but well placed.”
“We found a new way to make music together,” states Julia of the outcome. “I think we had enough space from each other to be able to really listen to this time and appreciate each other’s ideas, thoughts and feelings.”
By November 2013 the tracking was done, with mixing completed by Billy Bush in March 2014. Four years on from their last joint effort, Angus & Julia have delivered an album that defies expectations. Call it a coming of age or a re-invention, but the new self titled record is their most exciting, visceral listen yet.
Angus & Julia Stone – Self-Titled Album – Out August 1