Words By: Molly Schmidt
Back to the garden, back to the garden, back to the garden we will go.
Angus Stone reckons we all need to get back into the garden and plant some bloody vegies. He told me so, over the phone. I was holed up in the loft at the back of my house, and had previously set the mood by telling my housemates not to make a sound, and listening to Angus’s new Dope Lemon album all the way through. After a considerable amount of elevator music from his end, he answered the phone, and his voice was higher than I imagined, but I can confirm it was delightfully husky and folk-farm-boy sounding like I’m sure you’ve all dreamed it is too.
Angus Stone stole our hearts way back in 2006 when he first picked up his guitar and stood beside his sister, forming heartfelt, Australian folk duo Angus and Julia Stone. Since then he’s also branched off to produce dreamy but edgier music under the pseudonym Lady of the Sunshine, and a mellow, folk-rock album, Broken Brights, under his own name. But now things are getting zesty, as he teams up with old childhood friends and dons a new name, Dope Lemon. The Lemon are about to hit the road and tour our sunburnt country, bringing us an entirely new, very chilled out, coastal rock sound.
“It wasn’t a plan,” Stone says when I ask him how this fruity new project began. Turns out he simply invited some old mates to come stay on his farm property, near Byron Bay, for a bit. “We stepped into the studio and pressed record, we had a case of beer, and we just sort of played and laughed a lot while it was happening.”
“Three weeks later we canon-balled out with the record, and we had this name, Dope Lemon.”
Stone describes shooting a text to his mates, who were staying in little shacks all over his farm; “start at two, who’s bringing the case?” So the new album, Honey Bones, is the product of mates simply hanging out, and doing what they love.
The crew behind the Lemon are Stone’s old mates, including The Walking Who’s Johin Brown. Stone describes how they all used to ride their bikes around town when they were kids. “It’s cool that they’re old mates.”
The boys have been recording in an old cabin that Stone converted into a recording studio. They call it Belafonte, after a research vessel in one of Angus’s favourite films, The Life Aquatic. When I ask him if he has a favourite place to play, Stone considers this for a while.
“I really like getting the band playing outside. Especially at sundown, you get really nice, sublime sunsets.”
Some of the tracks were recorded in New York, whilst the others were captured right on the farm. Stone tells me his song Fuck Things Up is particularly powerful for him. “I was going through some stuff, and sometimes you don’t even really tell yourself what’s going on. And sometimes music is a way to share what you’re going through.”
That song is particularly special, because it was recorded on the spot – the tune we can feast our little ears on, is the first time it was ever played.
“It was amazing. We finished, and we were like, oh, that’s a song,” Stone says. “We were in my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn, and the sun was going down.
You know when you get that dust, sitting in the room that sort of floats really slowly, that real magic hour, well that song reminds me of that time, and it was really special.”
Stone says the new album is really the response of a bunch of musicians getting creative together, without a plan. “We didn’t really sit down and chat about the direction we want it to take. It’s really free in that way. I think there’s a lot of good stuff to be had, when you just sit down with a rough template of a song, come up with cool parts and just enjoy the music and being immersed in what’s going on in the room. That’s really cool.”
I didn’t think I could love Angus Stone anymore than I already did, until he said he was listening to a lot of J. J. Cale at the time of making the album. “Are you serious?” I shouted down the phone. I grew up listening to my Dad blast J. J. Cale, and I can sure as hell say Angus’ tunes are going to be my kids’ generation of Dad (or Mum) music.
“He’s so good hey,” says Stone. “It’s just his lyrics, and his intention, and the feels he puts out – he’s just got a way abut him. I’ve always been a big admirer of J. J.”
For those of you who don’t know J. J. Cale, I highly recommend blasting Call Me The Breeze this arvo, with a nice crisp beer to accompany.
Stone says Uptown Folks, the first Dope Lemon track to be released, is about dropping our phones, slapping our hands into gardening gloves and getting the hell back into the garden. “It’s about all the materialistic things we don’t need – the age old story. It’s about trying to acquire all this stuff to get a better job, to pay for this and that, but really it’s all in your backyard.”
“It’s basically just saying to get back to the garden, to where the good stuff is.”
The album comes complete with some banging album art, with a bit of a seventies feel. Stone tells me he was freaking out because the album release was creeping up and he didn’t have any album art. Luckily his mate, Matty (MYC Surfboards), who shapes and paints surfboards out of one of Stone’s sheds, said he could do it.
“A week later I came down to the shed and he’d drawn these lemon heads on top of his girlfriend’s photos – she’s a photographer. I walked in and I was like, dude, this is so fucking sweet,” says Stone.
To finish off, I ask him, just in case he ever appears on my doorstep one sunny afternoon, how he takes his tea.
“Oh, ahh, I’ll take whatever is in the can,” he laughs. “English breakfast? Yeah, that one. With two sugars.”
And that, world, is how Angus takes his tea.
Dope Lemon at the Astor Theatre on Friday the 21st of October.