In Conversation With Angus & Julia Stone

“The ocean can shift from being incredibly calm to wildly violent. It’s humbling, and you learn to just go with whatever comes your way,” Julia from Angus & Julia Stone prefaces their newest album ‘Cape Forestier’ and its continuous referral to the ocean. The Australian brother-sister duo again elevates their immense talents and the soft but powerfully striking delivery of new singles like ‘Losing You,’ ‘No Boat No Aeroplane,’ and ‘The Wedding Song.’ 

As they return from Paris to perform as special guests at one of Niall Horan’s Sydney shows, Angus and Julia are reminded of the magic their hit single, ‘Big Jet Plane,’ holds for people worldwide and as the doorway to the Angus & Julia Stone discography. Similar to the new project ‘Cape Forestier,’ the duo diverts back to their roots with heightened acoustics and wisdom-painted lyricism. 

Kicking off a new tour, Living Room Sessions, Angus and Julia will start a few days after Cape Forester’s release with a first stop in Barcelona. Coming from the down-under territory, the question stands: Where do they live now? Where are they settled? Julia replies: “We’re essentially based wherever our tour takes us. As for our homes, I live in Tasmania, and Angus resides in New South Wales.”

The decision and commitment to making music together came up at a gradual pace. Angus and Julia supported each other’s music, but the turning point came when Angus started playing shows more regularly; Julia explains: “It was mostly his songs at first. Then, one evening, he suggested I perform my own songs with him adding harmonies, something we were already familiar with from home, though I hadn’t performed them publicly before. So we started mixing a few of his songs with some of mine at our shows. Eventually, this led to a record label offering us a deal to record together, which was surprisingly the first time we actually considered establishing a more formal musical project.”

Thinking back to their humble beginnings, Julia reminisces about the irreplaceable excitement and gratifying reality of being able to support themselves while living their dream: “When we started, we were just so excited by everything. We were up for playing any show, anywhere. We didn’t care if there were two people in the room or a couple of hundred. We just couldn’t believe that we were making music and surviving from doing it,” she laughs. 

Without glamourising the early days, Julia shares a story of when they moved over to London: “We didn’t have a lot of support, but we had enough to get by, and we really stretched it, you know? When we first moved to London, we bought a £500 car, and it was sort of, I mean, at one point held together with gaff tape because we’d have had people smash the windows out after our shows. And we didn’t have the money to fix the windows, so we drove on the freeways through the UK with cardboard and gaffer tape holding the window shut”.

Despite the tough times, Julia remembers it was always about the music that held them together: “I’m sure I’m romanticising the memories, and there were times that were difficult, but there was an energy of just always wanting to create, and I think that’s always been with us and it still is with us now. We’ve just always loved writing and making music, and we couldn’t believe how lucky we were that people were kind of showing up, wanting to help us, wanting to listen to us, wanting to create with us.”

Julia describes it as a steady journey,’ which step-by-step developed from busking on the streets to open mics, to half-hour sets to recording an EP: “Our career took a significant step when our mom loaned us some money to make and print our first EP. This allowed us to pay for the recording and print about a thousand copies, which we sold at shows.”

With this EP, Angus and Julia landed their first record deal, which enabled them to move to London for six months; Julia elaborates: “That period was transformative because Fran Healy from Travis produced our first album, A Book Like This. Fran was incredibly supportive; he introduced us to many wonderful people, gave us valuable advice, and played a crucial role in crafting a beautiful record with us.”

She adds: “Over the course of six years, we progressed from playing to crowds of about 50 or 100 people to 800-seater venues. Then we released ‘Down the Way,’ which had our song “Big Jet Plane,” which at the time, especially in France, started to gain attention after we played it on a television show and it was featured in a film. But even this wasn’t a sudden explosion—it was a culmination of many small steps and the support of people who believed in our project throughout the years.”

Throughout the years, Angus and Julia lived all around the world, like London, LA, Paris, Berlin, and Egypt, at different times and for different reasons: to record an album, play a show, or fall in love. But these memories from their travels inspire music to this day: “We have gained brief impressions of all the places, but more importantly, the people we’ve met there have left us with memories that influence who we are today and how we write. We draw inspiration from these memories for our new songs all the time. We’ve been so lucky to be on this adventure that takes us all over the world,” she says.

Moving from place to place also meant meeting new people, like-minded souls, and even legends like Rick Rubin, who shed light on the value of being present: “Rick is an extraordinary person in many ways, especially in his ability to be fully present and attentive. From working with him, I’ve learned the importance of listening. Rick listens with his entire being, not just to music, but to the underlying messages in conversations. This deep level of attention gives the other person the access to articulate the core of their experiences more profoundly. Experiencing this kind of attention is truly special. It has taught me the value of being present. From a musical perspective, his knowledge is unbounded. He knows so much music and shares songs at the right moments that help to inspire a particular type of creativity. It was really cool to experience that.”

The track ‘Big Jet Plane,’ from their 2010 EP ‘Down The Way,’ constantly blows people away and lures new listeners into the world of Angus and Julia Stone. Julia reveals what the song represents: “”Big Jet Plane” has been an incredible song for us. It serves as a gateway for many to discover the rest of our music, and we’re truly grateful to have a song that resonates so strongly with people across the world. A friend once described it as a doorway into the house of our music, which is a perfect analogy. It’s especially valuable because we have such a substantial body of work, and having a song that is so accessible helps draw more listeners to explore our other songs”. 

The newest addition to the outstanding Angus & Julia Stone record line is ‘Cape Forestier,’ reminiscent of their 2007 debut album, ‘Heart Full Of Wine.’ Julia details how the first notes of ‘Cape Forestier’ came about: “Angus and I often meet up to share music and just spend time together. Recently, he completed building the Sugar Cane Mountain Studios, so I went to visit and check it out. While there, we spent time writing and hanging out, and it felt like something special was happening. It had been six years since our last proper tour together, and although we had produced a soundtrack record three years prior, it was created mostly remotely. This time, being together felt right.… It felt like being back in Dad’s living room, and so we started to make ‘Cape Forestier’ with a similar feeling to ‘Chocolates and Cigarettes’, our first ever recording in Dad’s living room.”

From start to finish, ‘Cape Forestier’ sounds cohesive, sonically comforting, and filled with the duo’s take on lust for life. With the majority written at the Sugar Cane Mountain Studios, there are parts from their tour in France six years ago, others last year in Berlin, and some in the US. Julia clarifies, though, that the timeline is tough to pinpoint: “It’s challenging to specify exactly where each song was written, as they often evolve and change throughout the process before they are finalised on the record. One of the songs was written at our home when we were kids. But the majority of the album was both written and recorded at Sugar Cane Mountain Studios.”

Across the 12 tracks, Angus and Julia offer their take on love and connection, capturing their current state of mind attached to songs from years ago; Julia explains: “For instance, one of the tracks, No Boat No Aeroplane was written when Angus was about 15 or 16 years old… However, the record, the sound, and the feel of the record capture this moment we’re in now in our lives and how we feel about our current place in the world. The sound of the album reflects our more accepting approach to dealing with the uncontrollable aspects of life.”

Julia refers to the writing process as ‘natural’ while recognising themes as they listen back to the album now that it’s finished: “One big theme we’ve recognised in hindsight is the ocean. It makes sense because our childhood was so connected to the ocean. To us, the ocean is not just a setting; it’s a powerful mythical symbol… It represents change, uncertainty, beauty—everything, really. The ocean can shift from being incredibly calm to wildly violent. It’s humbling, and you learn to just go with whatever comes your way.”

Listening to ‘Cape Forestier,’ there is a sense of calm throughout, a cathartic sensation for both the listener and Angus and Julia. For songs like ‘Down To The Sea,’ ‘I Want You,’ and ‘Somehow,’ my personal favorites, the setting of these recordings had to set the tone. Julia confirms by describing the aura of Sugar Cane Mountain Studios: “The studio is actually Angus’s, and it’s quite magical—it’s this incredible old 70s house that feels like a time capsule. Each room has different, vibrant wallpapers. The floors are covered with these amazing carpets that have patterns that sort of clash but also somehow perfectly match the walls. It’s just beautiful, and the whole feeling of the place makes it an incredible place to write music. It feels like there are songs waiting to be discovered in every nook—from the walls to the floors to the furniture. It’s the same as how instruments themselves have their own stories to tell, so does Sugarcane”. 

Regarding the inspiration behind ‘Cape Forestier,’ Julia beautifully portrays the endless opportunities to be stunned by the little things and mundane moments of everyday life: “When I’m working on a new record, I don’t really listen to much other music. I find that I’m quite saturated with the music we’re creating, and outside the studio, I actually prefer silence or seeking inspiration through other forms. After the initial recording phase for the album, my partner and I moved to Berlin for a few months. The city was so inspiring. The people, the club culture, the lifestyle, the galleries. I was doing a lot of wandering around this amazing city and thinking about things. I find just being in the world pretty inspiring. Often, the smaller details from a day end up being the best song lyrics.”

‘Cape Forestier’ is a current ethereal testament to Angus and Julia Stone at their best, with dynamic, visual soundscapes that will comfort the most disturbed and inspire those lacking. 

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Photographer: Daniel Mayne

Words: Karolina Kramplova