Rolling with Angus & Julia Stone

Just over nine years ago, Australian sibling duo Angus & Julia Stone made their San Diego debut at UC San Diego’s Loft. It also happened to be their first-ever North American performance, and the pair more than delivered on the promise of such an auspicious occasion.

In the near-decade since, the Stones have kept that mojo rolling across the globe. From multi-platinum album sales and more than 5 million streaming listeners monthly, to completely sold-out tours and placement in film and television, Angus & Julia continue to watch their fan base expand worldwide.      

The siblings released their fourth studio album, Snow, in September. It’s the first since Rick Rubin produced their 2014 self-titled album, and marks an evolution in their creative process, with the pair co-writing every song on the record.

They also produced and engineered it themselves in Angus’s Byron Bay cottage studio.

PACIFIC caught up with Julia somewhere between Washington D.C. and Chicago to preview the Stones’ upcoming sold-out show at the Observatory in North Park on Tuesday night.

PACIFIC: You guys spend a lot of time on the road. But it must be nice to have a new collection of songs to infuse into the set.

Julia Stone: Absolutely. At the end of a tour, when you’ve been playing the same songs for a year and a half, it does become a little bit strange. But playing new songs is always exciting. There’s something so different about it.

From process to location, Snow was created in a lot of different ways for you. How was the experience?

When we turned up to the studio we had a few lyric and melody ideas. But overall, it was about seeing what happened once we got there. We were on tour for a couple of years for the last record and didn’t write much on the road. Angus worked on a solo project called Dope Lemon. We turned up at the farm to make Snow with not much of an idea of what was going to happen other than we were going to make another record together.

We just wanted to create a relaxed space for that. Angus had this beautiful cottage that he lived in when he first bought his property. Well, I shouldn’t call it beautiful. It was a sort-of run-down, ’70s, weatherboard shack. But it was the perfect shell for building a studio.

We had just come off the back of playing a show in Switzerland. We got a bunch of gear from our sound engineer in Melbourne, we drove it up, and within a week we were there with all the boys, living in tents, or out of the backs of cars, just to see what would happen.

We had a few weeks of just playing music, and then incrementally, over the next year, we got together to hang out. It was a nice atmosphere. It was one of those experiences of just being in a place where we both felt pretty comfortable and had a lot of time and freedom to experiment.

And it has to create a different sound than going back and mining old song ideas you have collected.

To be honest, we’ve always been like that in terms of songwriting. I think it’s pretty rare for us to revisit songs that were written five or six years ago. And that’s not because the songs became irrelevant. I think there’s always been more excitement for what we’re creating currently and that’s where we feel most alive when making records.

It’s tricky. We made this record after we made (2010’s) Down The Way. And we toured for about two and a half years after we made that one. We were really tight as a band and had been doing a lot of jams in sound check and had all of these extra songs. And we recorded, live to tape, all of them. We essentially made a whole record and Angus and I were really excited about it.

We started talking about putting it out and made a video clip for the first song. And then, we decided we were just too tired to do another cycle right then and the record got put on a hard drive. And it’s still sitting there. I don’t know if it’ll ever be released. It’s a beautiful record, but it’s from that time. And I think we just have a desire to keep creating and evolving.

Do you remember your very first North American date here at the Loft in San Diego?

I do remember that show! That first U.S. tour was big for us. At that time, we were such different people in the way that we worked together. It was very much about writing on our own, telling our stories, and then bringing them to the studio to share and collaborate in the final stages of the songwriting process. And that says a lot about how our relationship has evolved as people, and as family, to get to a point where we can sit in a room and write together.

It took us a long time to be able to do that. I think back to our first EP, Chocolates and Cigarettes, which was made in our dad’s living room. And now we’re back in Angus’ living room. I get excited looking at the change and growth in people. We’re still here and we haven’t killed each other (laughs).

Any reason it took so many years to write collaboratively?

The way that I’d explain that, and I hope it’s a good way, is that, for us, our lives merged in ways that we never could have predicted, or maybe even wanted. We started as kids in our 20s, living in London, very poor, and playing open mic nights. All of a sudden we were business partners, and we were signing record deals, and our identities as people got bound up in this thing called Angus and Julia.

It was an amazing experience. We kept saying how good it was on a lot of levels. But I think, for us, that time alone just writing songs gave us a real sense of independence and freedom from each other. Looking back, I think it was just our way of saying, “we can do all those other things together, but this is my space.” And that was important to us.

Do you know if it will continue on the next one? Or is that not even on the table yet?

There are definitely no plans. We’re just taking it a day at a time. And we have such an amazing group of people around us and that makes a huge difference. It’s really nice to be just enjoying the moments as they arrive.

Angus & Julia Stone

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 5

Where: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave., North Park

Cost: Sold out

Online: observatorysd.com

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