Angus Stone and the Cinema of Song

Interview with Angus Stone

Angus Stone is a singer-songwriter whose name is most often seen split down the middle, the name of his sister Julia wedged in between. As Angus and Julia Stone, they have been writing and performing popular modern folk songs for over six years. They’ve been steadily growing their fanbase, finding success with hits like “Big Jet Plane”, but now, at a visible high point in their career, they’ve decided to see if they can stand as tall on their own.

When I heard Angus Stone was playing at the Electric Owl last Sunday, I assumed that he would be accompanied by his sister Julia.  However, soon enough I realized that I couldn’t find her name anywhere. No, this was going to be Angus Stone – one name, no big sister. I was excited.

It turns out that Angus just released a solo album, Broken Brights, earlier in the summer, and is touring in support of the record. I was full of questions, and luckily was able to sneak in a moment with Angus for a brief conversation about the new record.

 

Vancouver Weekly: What inspired you to record a solo album after all the success you’ve had recording with Julia?

Angus Stone: I guess it was something that just came about from thinking about change. Julia and I, we’ve been on the road writing and recording music for the last five or six years. I had these songs, and I had this idea of how I wanted to have this piece of art pushed in a certain direction, and when it finally came about, it was just perfect to put it under my name.

Vancouver Weekly: You actually released a solo album back in 2009.

AS: Yes, Smoking Gun.

Vancouver Weekly: Does it have any relationship with the new one you just released? Were the inspirations kind of the same?

AS: I think, yeah, the inspiration’s always just the passion for wanting to create stories. For me, the inspiration is to create enough lush, cinematic energy for it to become its own world. And when that happens, that, for me, that’s everything. That’s where my heart is.

Vancouver Weekly: Did you discover anything about yourself musically while writing this album that you might not have been able to explore in your other recordings?

AS: Time. You know? I discovered a lot about time.

Vancouver Weekly: Time, musically speaking?

AS: Just… time. Just in general. To take a step back and let something unfold and breathe and become ripe when it says it’s time. Like when the song tells you if a certain instrument should be lent to it, or a certain extra part is needed, I think if you just listen to it and let it have its own time to evolve… for me I’m discovering that every day. Socially, I’m just sort of watching the world. I think it’s a learning thing.

Vancouver Weekly: Speaking of instruments, are you the one who recorded all the instruments on Broken Brights, or did you collaborate with friends?

AS: Yeah, it’s a collaboration with friends who’ve come in. I’ve tried my hand at a lot of different instruments, but a lot of it’s just friends. Like these guys, Matt Johnson, Rob Calder…

Vancouver Weekly: Are they people you’ve worked with before?

AS: Yeah, we met these guys on the road in Europe actually with another band that we were supporting and we… poached.  [laughs]

Vancouver Weekly: For Broken Brights, were the songs recorded specifically for the album or were they written before and kind of put on the back-burner and re-purposed?

AS: I mean, I never really know. When a song’s recorded you don’t know where its destination is, you know? I think, at the time, you’ve got this yearning to get this story out, this music, and I don’t really look too far ahead to where it will go. I think in the end when you’ve got them all together you can start to see how it is and where it will go from there.

Vancouver Weekly: When you were writing the songs for this record, what did you do to differentiate it from the experience of listening to a typical Julia and Angus record?

AS: [pauses] Um… [laughs]

Vancouver Weekly: … if anything at all!

AS: I didn’t think about that! But I think for me, when I listen back to these songs, they’re very much like short films. Imagery has always been very strong for me lyrically, but I think I’ve taken a step closer to it; “it” being a theme. It’s very much like when you go into the cinema and you see a part of a movie you’ve seen before. Once a song starts for me, I definitely know the landscape of where it’s going to go. And, I mean, the story’s obviously untold until you hear it, but you can definitely step into it knowing what’s about to happen.

Vancouver Weekly: Moving forward, what are your thoughts on the future? Is the plan to focus more on your solo work, or to possibly get back and make more music with Julia? Or maybe do something else completely different?

AS: Julia and I have actually already recorded our next record. But it was kind of in that stage when we were recording that we sat down and were like… intuitively, this feels like it’s not what it used to be and maybe we should try something different. Try a bit of change. But when the time’s right and we’ve done our thing, we’ll definitely get back together and do a tour, release a record. It’s just letting this thing where my heart’s at, it’s just letting that run its course.

Vancouver Weekly: Did you feel like these songs could only have been done as a solo act?

AS: I think so.

Vancouver Weekly: Would they have worked with Julia?

AS: I mean, they definitely would have worked…

Vancouver Weekly: But they feel like your songs?

AS: Yeah, it’s in here you know? You can really feel that for this stuff, it was the right choice. It’s very much like a relationship, what you have with your writing. You can definitely choke it to death if you don’t be honest about where you want to go next.

 

Soon after I finished speaking with Angus, him and his friends picked up their guitars, and started to tell stories.

The cinema show began.  Luckily, the landscape was new to me.