Angus & Julia Stone are set to release Snow, their first album in three years, this Friday, September 15th.
After taking a break from music, producer Rick Rubin convinced the pair to return to the studio and the three worked closely together to create their self-titled debut back in 2014. This type of collaboration proved to be a first for Angus & Julia, as they’d always written songs separately. But this time around was different.
They recorded their newest record Snow on Angus’s farm in Australia surrounded by kangaroos, koalas, horses and more. One can sense the peaceful and limitless feeling of nature’s presence on the album. Just like the title indicates, Snow has a gentle yet enveloping sound that washes over the listener. At times bluesy, at times whimsical, and at times reflective, Snow is a perfect record to curl up to as the seasons begin to change and the days begin to shorten.
What’s your favorite song on Snow?
Julia Stone: I love the track “Nothing Else.” We were sitting out on the veranda as the sun was going down. I was playing the chords of the song and singing the chorus “nothing else to do here,” and Angus started playing on his Cigar Box bass. We found cool interlocking parts and then it grew out of that. It has a really peaceful feeling to it. Just like how it came to life.
What was it like working with Rick Rubin on the last record? Any particular moment that stands out?
JS: I remember many great moments with Rick. One of the last ones was after the record had been mixed and we were doing driving mixes. Rick was driving and I was lying on the back seat of his car. Angus was sitting up front, looking out to the ocean.
Rick was flying up the Pacific coast highway towards Santa Barbara, all the windows open and the music blaring. He was moving his head to the music, and I remember looking at him, then at Angus and feeling so happy. Such awesome people.
What were the biggest take aways from that album and how did you apply those lessons on Snow?
JS: Rick is such a viber. He was really good at knowing when we had the take, and not overcooking a song. For instance, on “Death Defying,” we did a run through take of the song. I was just jamming it out when everyone was taking a break. I didn’t realize I was being recorded and the boys came in half way through and started playing. We finished the song and Rick said, “we’ve got it!” I thought he was joking. But he was right. We got it in the run through. It’s good to not over do things. A great philosophy for music: if it sounds good, it is good.
Angus has a farm in Australia, what’s a typical day like on the property? (Do you have animals or grow vegetables?)
JS: Angus has horses that roam free and cows, lots of cows, two dogs, and then all the native crew: koalas, snakes, spiders, kangaroos. The mornings are the best. There are kangaroos everywhere. We had a big brown snake in the studio one day — came in for a listen.
What was it about that environment that informed the latest record?
JS: Being in wide open spaces has an affect on how we feel/think. We’ve always managed to find ourselves (most of the time) in studios that are connected to nature. Shangri La with Rick was beautiful. You wake up and look out to the ocean. The studio has big open windows with natural light pouring through all the rooms.
When we made Down the Way a lot of it was recorded at a cottage on the water down in Cornwall, England. So this time, we wanted that same feeling, but at home. The studio is an old cottage that’s been converted, so we’d cook food and sit out on the veranda between sessions, watch the sun set over the land. We had no time restrictions as to how long we took or what time of day we would work ‘cause it’s Angus’s home. So in some way, that becomes a part of the music. I can’t say exactly how, but it’s in there.
Can you share a memory from growing up about Angus helping you in some way?
JS: My boyfriend and I were in Bolivia after I’d finished school. Angus came over with mum to join us for a trek into the amazon. It was a lot of fun. I had bought an acoustic guitar at the markets and we took that into the jungle. One day whilst we were lazing about, Angus picked up the guitar and started playing. He sang a beautiful song. I asked him who it was he was singing, and he told me he wrote it. He was in year 10 at school at the time. I’d just finished school. I’d never heard him sing like that before. It was so moving and beautiful.
I wanted to write like that. He taught me a few songs, and then I went on to backpack and travel with that guitar for the next 10 months, where I started to write the first songs we ended up recording on Chocolates and Cigarettes a year later. He’s always been an inspiration to me. The way he sings, writes — I’ve learned a lot from being around him. He’s a special human.
You both have traveled extensively, how has this informed your music?
JS: The places we’ve been and the experiences we’ve had in those places are all a part of the music. The whole album started because of an incredible time we had together in Zermatt, Switzerland, floating through the heavens of the mountains of snow. We have lived in so many different places and fallen in love with cities, people and places. It’s all a part of our memories and heart, which then becomes a part of the songs we write and sing.
If you could get on a plane and go anywhere right now, where would it be?
JS: Mexico City without a doubt. After shooting the “Chateau” video there a couple of months ago, I could easily see myself living there. It is an incredible city. We had a party after the shoot and ended up in a club where they had a band playing salsa music until the early hours of the morning. We drank Mescal and danced. So many great memories over that week there — the music, the people, the food.