Dope Lemon: An Interview with Angus Stone
Every now and then, you'll hear a new song that'll make you instantly stop what you're doing, and disconnect from everything around you.
It might be a melody so smooth, it gives you that feeling when a bunch of food is rolled out at a party that you weren't expecting. Or a lyric so beautiful in its simplicity that you wonder why you've never heard it before. You'll whip out your phone and cross your fingers you get a name to attach to this moment. If you're lucky, you'll identify this gem and get to share it with people you care about. If you're really lucky, the song will be accompanied up by a collection of tracks so diverse yet perfectly tied together you can't help but listen to it over and over again.
The latter was my experience with one of the best releases of recent years, Honey Bones by Dope Lemon. The album itself was a welcome surprise, but learning that one of Australia's greatest modern day songwriters was the driving force behind it wasn't. Angus Stone has been responsible for a lot of moments like that all over the globe, but this is definitely one of his greatest contributions to the music world. I got the chance to chat with him about this refreshing new project and how it all came together in his little home studio on a colourful farm in Byron Bay.
What was the inspiration for the new project, Dope Lemon?
To be honest, I just had a bit of free time on the farm with some really gifted friends. They're all really talented at what they do with their instruments so we basically just walked into the room and pressed record and jammed. We were just drinking beers and having a laugh. We didn't know but whilst we were doing that, we were putting together a record. 3 weeks we were in there, then we sorta shot out the end with a band name and an album.
Were they all staying on the farm with you while you were making the album?
Yeah, when we were recording they were all just on holidays staying with us on the property. Then afterwards they all went home and I just sort of went back through all the recordings we made, picking the moments and stitching the songs together. Then I released the record. After that I invited them all back up to stay and now pretty much everyone lives here. Everyone's got their own little shack on the farm, like a little commune haha. We'll just shoot a text out, say 2 o'clock start rehearsal, how does that sound? Everyone comes around, we get a case of beer and we just sort of start nutting out the songs. I just walked away from it now actually. Taking a break out in the paddock.
I heard that you named the home studio after Steve Zissous boat in the Life Aquatic, The Belafonte?
Yeah it's a bit of a research vessel for us, The Lemon. What's really cool about the Belafonte is we had to put an isolation glass wall in. So while we were doing that, we cut a hole so you could see through from the control room to where we were jamming. They were cutting the glass and I was kinda like, why don't we turn it into a fish tank. So now we've got this fish tank separating the band and the control room that you look through. It's really fucking cool.
What's the centrepiece of the studio? Say the place is going up in flames and you can only save one bit of gear. What would you be going for?
I'd have to say.... Probably an old bottle of Japanese scotch I've got. Either that or my dad's first electric from when he was a kid that he gave me. A 1968 Telecaster. I'd probably go one of the two. If I had two hands I'd try to grab both.
For me, one of the highlights of the album is the production. Is that something you can see yourself moving towards in the future?
I'd be very happy with doing something like that. Eventually, I want to bring in some young crew. If I go out to the pub or something and I see a band that you know, need help. I'd love to sit down with them and talk about songwriting, styles and all sorts of stuff. Help some kids out there that are stoked on music and wanna make something of it.
Is that why you chose Byron as a base?
Yeah, that's it hey. There are so many bands coming up in this town and bands passing through that you get to meet. There are some really cool sounds coming out and I'm always really keen to be on the ground and see what's happening. It's so important as a musician or a performer being amongst it. It's been really good for me to have that time to do that, for sure.
Are there any acts in particular that you've seen lately that have blown you away?
I just saw a two piece called Chesta Hedron. They were passing through town. Pretty low key instrumental. I don't really like matching them up with other bands because everyone's so unique but they're kinda Black Keys-y, but a real sort of stoner, droney sound. You've gotta be good if you're a two-piece. You don't have that cloud to sit on, you know.
I saw some footage of you snowboarding through some awesome little town and next thing you're in the hospital. What happened there?
Yeah just snowboarding man, it's so gnarly. You've gotta be careful hey. I fucked my leg up pretty bad and I had to have an operation. It was funny because I released the record and then I went to the hospital for a month. People didn't really know what was going on cause usually bands go out there and push their record pretty hard.
It seemed to work in your favour. A bit of a low key release, letting the songs do the talking.
That's it man. I like that. A lot of records that I've fallen in love with there wasn't a push from it. Someone passed it on and if it's good enough it sits with you and you end up just stoking out on it. It doesn't matter who it is. It comes down to whether it holds its own as a record. I've always believed in that. But yeah it was just the way that it happened. I guess it was one of those cool things.
Are you looking forward to playing these more intimate shows? Your more recent tours have been pretty huge.
When Julia and I play shows, they're big theatres with a certain level of luxury. I guess with this sort of project it's going back to the start again. Playing smaller sized venues. I'm really keen on that, to crunch out some jams and hang out again. Get loose. It's kind of reinventing being on the road again. I'm really excited for it.