Angus Stone

INTERVIEW: Angus Stone Talks Dope Lemon, “Grand Theft Auto” & The Power Of Mongolian Throat Singing

Few artists have flown the Aussie music flag higher over the past few years than Angus Stone. For the better part of a decade, the singer has captured the attention of the world with his laid-back folk collaboration with sister Julia Stoneas well as releasing a collection of records with side projects including his own solo work, As Lady Of The Sunshine and most recently in the form of Dope Lemon. It’s the latter group that has recently captured the attention of music fans and critiques around the world, with the group releasing their debut LP Honey Bones and instantly selling out a national headline tour.

Following the success of Honey Bones, Stone has kept the project in forward-motion, releasing the new Hounds Tooth EP last Friday. Awash with Mongolian throat singing, Brazilian Jazz and all the blissed out bluegrass jams you would expect, the EP maintains the same air of casual easiness as its predecessor whilst expanding, slowly and steadily, on the band’s musical horizons.

We took some time to chat with Angus earlier this week about where he see’s the group going in the next few months, as well as how playing Grand Theft Auto influenced some of the sounds on the new EP.

What are you up to today?

Just in the studio. It’s just started to rain which is good. Julia and I have been doing a few tracks and just chipping away at some new songs. I’ve also just finished up the Dope Lemon EP which got released on Friday.

That project has been going for over a year now. How do you feel it has developed?

Yeah, it’s always a little bit fun when it comes to reflecting. I didn’t have any expectations and didn’t know what to think, but I was really proud of all the songs that we produced for Honey Bones. It’s been really successful, and you never know what the reaction will be or if people will connect with the music when you start a new project.

Triple J have been really good to get behind it and play it to Australia, and the fans have been really positive. I’m really grateful for the crew that are digging it out there. It’s also great touring Dope Lemon as a band because we are all old mates so we are just stoked to be on the road and playing shows.

Reading about how your snowboarding accident affected your schedule last year, did that stalling of creativity change your attitude towards everything much?

I think things happen for a reason. Things can be a blessing, and when things go down you just have to think why that is. With that incident, it allowed me to reflect a bit on where I was at, so I took it in my stride before the Honey Bones tour.

It was nice because when I got out of hospital I was just pumped to be playing music and sharing what that record was. It’s just great now that Hound’s Tooth is out because we can do it all again.

Do you mean you are getting ready to record more new music, or just tour again?

We’re always jamming and we record everything so it’s hard to say what it is, but it’s always been pretty good with Dope Lemon. We have a really good synergy between all the musicians and everyone is really skilled in their own right. When we come together it’s just fun. We have some beers and cool shit happens.

That sounds the same with how the first record came together. Did the success of Honey Bones put any pressure on the jams that have happened since?

I’ve never really been one for buying into the pressure of the industry. I’m being really honest about that, when I approach the studio and writing it’s always really relaxed and has to have feel. You’re all in or you’re not here at all, and I stand by that with the way that I approach music and putting songs together and lyrics. It has to be true.

Talk us through this Brazilian band that you teamed up with for Home Soon

It’s a pretty nuts story. I was playing Grand Theft Auto and you know how you jump in the car and the radio turns on? That song was playing in one of the cars and I was sitting on the couch and just humming the tune, and I thought “This is such a fucking cool track. I have to find out who this is.” So I called up the head of Sony and asked if they could find out who this band is because I wanna sing this song. They tracked down this band from the 50’s and got the track. The band was all cool with it so I jumped in the studio and just sang over it. They wanted to know what my interest in it was and stuff, but it was really cool.

There’s also some Mongolian throat singing on the title track of the new EP. Where did you pick this up and what about that appeals to you?

I also had a hint of it on Honey Bones on a song called Fuck Things Up, but I’ve just been doing it for awhile. It’s this really amazing polyphonic vibration that runs through your skull when you’re doing it. You’re channelling this really powerful trippy energy. I don’t know how to explain it hey. It’s really rich, and for that song, it just sounded really learing, like a Viking sort of menace. The throat singing just naturally came along with it. When I went in to do the vocals I just sat there and started doing it.

Are you planning to use Dope Lemon as an outlet to explore world music a bit more, given you have throat singing and Brazilian jazz on this new EP?

I’ve always thought that if something happens stylistically on the day in the room, you just go with it. It’s like conversation. If someone wants to talk a certain topic you just go with it. I feel like the way that I write, I just follow that and I let it guide me. I’m just along for the ride really. Every guitar has a different voice, but it’s the same style of music so you just have to let it unfold in the way it will and that’s when you get the real magic.

Dope Lemon has been touring a heap with headline tours and festivals, and now there is another run of festivals about to hit. When you started this project was the plan always to tour it hard or was there a point where you realised you wanted to get behind Dope Lemon in a live sense?

I think it was during the first recording session that we had, I was sitting there and everything felt really good, and playing live is where we come together and feel good with the project. Touring for us is awesome because we are just stoked to be on the road. Give us a show and we’ll play it.

At the moment I’m at that stage in my life where I just enjoy playing and going out with the boys and having a good time is awesome.

Do you feel the same towards your work with Julia and your solo stuff?

What Julia and I do is really special, and I’m looking forward to getting back together with her for sure. We’ll do something together at the end of the year and that will be really cool. I think you just have to mix it up. A good change of work is healthy for your head, and it feels good at the moment so we’ll just keep doing it.

Dope Lemon Upcoming Tour Dates

Sunday, March 5- Day By The Bay, Koombana Bay-Bunbury

Friday, March 10- WOMAdelaide, Botanic Park- Adelaide

Saturday, March 18- Party In The Park, Pittwater Park- Northern Beaches

Thursday, March 24- The Hills Are Alive, South Gippsland- Victoria

Image: Popwire