Angus & Julia Stone: “We’re really proud that we’re here together, still making music”

The Australian siblings talk their long history of collaborations and what it means to play London’s Royal Albert Hall again

Angus & Julia Stone’s Cape Forestier is a fireside record if there ever was one, something to drop the needle on in the safety of your living room, when you’re ready to be told a story. For the brother and sister duo, this was exactly the intention – to bring their audience into their domestic world, and introduce them to the folky, musical childhood they enjoyed. Their aptly named Living Room Sessions tour promises to do the same, turning concert venues like London’s Royal Albert Hall into cosy, informal gatherings. “Our last European tour was much more of a festival set, and it was less intimate,” says Julia. “This is really exciting because it will be more storytelling.”

We caught up with the duo ahead of their UK tour dates to talk about the process of writing Cape Forestier and the enduring importance of family in both of their lives.

Angus & Julia Stone - Cape Forestier (Official Music Video)

How are you feeling ahead of the Royal Albert Hall show?

Julia: I think it was eight years ago that we last played at the Royal Albert Hall. That was an amazing the show.

Angus: Yeah, that was incredible. There’s an incredible photo that was taken on that night. It just looks like the room is this big colourful confetti of joy. It’s just the way the room is – it’s just dripping with history. I think what we’re searching for on this tour, because we’re calling it the living room sessions, is to bring people into our space as if it’s our home and to tell stories that we haven’t told before about the different songs. We want to create a space that feels like we’re sitting down in the living room and having a cup of tea and sharing what we write.

Is that what you guys think about when you think about home?

Julia: Yeah, a huge grand concert hall! No, I think the atmosphere in the Royal Albert Hall is so wonderful – it’s really hard to find venues that capture the acoustic sound really well. Old theatres have got a really beautiful natural reverb because I suppose they were designed for not having PAs, and for the sound to be able to just travel with the natural voice projection. To do all of our songs with a more stripped-back kind of living room sound, those venues are just perfect for it. You don’t have to push really hard to get the noise to travel.

It’s funny you say, “Does that remind you of home?” though, because, in a way, yes. I mean, Angus and I have probably spent equal time in our childhood home and in music venues in our life. It actually is like home, being in a music venue, because that’s where we’ve spent so much time. At one point we were doing over 200 shows a year. There is something really familiar about the feeling of sitting onstage and telling stories and singing songs.

Angus & Julia Stone - Losing You (Official Music Video)

People have pointed out that the acoustic sound of Cape Forestier feels quite nostalgic, and reminiscent of your earlier discography. Is that something you were conscious of in the writing of the album?

Angus: I think the way to keep any relationship thriving and feeling healthy is to have other avenues to be able to create. We were lucky in that way to be able to both go out into the world and have our different projects and explore and grow as humans and move throughout the world. When we come back together, it makes it really special. For this record, we got back together just to record one track and hang out, and it became the catalyst for the whole record because it just felt right. It’s cool how things happen like that. You get this really nice overflow of joy being back together, and things line up in a much, much more natural way when not forced. It feels like it’s meant to be.

Julia: There are times when we hang out and write music because it’s obviously just fun for us to do that. Angus and I have done that over the years many times where it doesn’t turn into an album. I think we’ve been lucky like that to really trust our instincts. To know when the feeling is there to kind of keep working. The idea of going back to our roots… it’s funny because there’s no conversation about what kind of album we’re making. I don’t think we’ve ever had a conversation like that over all the years of making music. But as it was unfolding it certainly had a particular sound. It’s more in hindsight, once the record is finished, that you can hear the through-line from where we started.

Angus & Julia Stone - No Boat No Aeroplane (Official Music Video)

Not at all to diminish the work that goes into your songwriting, but to hear you both talk, it makes it sound as if you get in a room and music just happens. What is your writing process like as a duo?

Julia: It’s always different for each song. For something like ‘County Sign’, we kind of just sit and we go backwards and forwards. I think the initial recording for that song was about 20 minutes long – Angus would sing a line and I would sing a line, and it’s very much intuitive. Visuals pop into your head and you say something and some of them make sense and some of them are much more like riddles. At the end of it, we go through and we hear where this song makes sense or feels like it resonates. Then, other times, Angus will have a fully complete song and he’ll bring it to the studio, and then I’m just really adding harmonies.

Other times, there’ll be a fully complete song written by one of us, and the other person says, “Do you mind if I have a try at a verse or a chorus? I have this idea in my head”. It starts off as being fully written by one person, and then it’ll turn into an amalgamation of the verse written by me and the chorus written by Angus, and they’re all different.

Sometimes we build tracks apart. For some of this record, Angus was on tour with Dope Lemon in the US, and I was in Berlin, and then we’d send parts back and forwards. I would create a guitar part and Angus would sing a few lyrics, and then he’d send it back to me and I’d sing stuff. It’s always time dependent. Location dependent. Mood dependent. Growing up with music around us, and it always being natural for people to express themselves through music in our family home, it made it feel like a really natural process. There’s very little self consciousness, I guess, when we get into a room to write songs.

Angus & Julia Stone - Down To The Sea (Official Music Video)

Do you feel as if your relationship as collaborators has changed your relationship as siblings at all?

Angus: We’ve been lucky enough to sing and to work with some really incredible artists and people in the industry, around the world, but when I’m sitting with Julia and we’re together… when you have that history, it’s sort of undeniable. It bolsters just the feeling of trust, and being able to fully just be yourself in everything you are. It allows you to go on tangents and go out on a limb for proving concepts. When it comes to songwriting, it’s quite a vulnerable state to be in. I think, with what Julia and I have created over the years through our long relationship, with what we do creatively, and also who we are as humans growing and moving throughout the world, it’s a really special thing to have. I think family is undeniably such a powerful thing.

What does this record mean to you at this point in your lives?

Julia: It’s something that we’re really proud of, because I think it represents the journey we’ve been on together. Everything is so uncertain in life and in the world, and to have made a record that feels really cohesive and really connected, both to each other as family and to our understanding of the world around us… it’s a moment of feeling really proud that we’re here together, still making music.

Cape Forestier is out now.

Angus & Julia Stone will play dates in Bristol, London and Dublin this May. Find tickets here.

Photo credit: Daniel Mayne – @danielmayne