INTERVIEW: Stonefield (AUS), February 2011

I was a very big and very vocal early supporter of Stonefield. I dug what they were about, I loved their energy and I found them to be really exciting. Derivative? Sure, but sometimes that’s what you want – a bit of familiarity and some energy in it. We’ve since fallen out of love – I found both their debut album and headlining show at the Annandale last year to be quite disappointing. Maybe it was only fun when we were younger? Whatever the case, Amy was a quietly reserved and very sweet young lady to interview – probably the youngest person I’ve interviewed apart from maybe Adrian from Northlane? I think so. So yeah, this is from a much brighter time for the Findlay kids – for my money, anyway.

– DJY, October 2014

***

Amy Findlay is hanging out at her cousin’s house in regional Victoria – “Just relaxing, taking a break,” she says. Probably what most girls her age would be doing on a Monday afternoon during school holidays. With that said, it is here where the similarities between her and other girls ends. Give this girl a microphone, a drum set and a couple of siblings and she’ll show you Stonefield – one of the younger collective voices heard in Australian music right now, but easily one of the most exciting.

Having blitzed the competition of triple j’s Unearthed High contest under their former name of Iotah, the band scored high rotation on the station with tracks like Through the Clover and Foreign Lover, both of which were re-recorded for the band’s debut EP. For such a young band, it seems like it has all come to Stonefield quite naturally – and Findlay herself is quick to validate this hypothesis.

“We’ve always been interested in music,” says Amy, the eldest of the four sisters that make up the group. “Because we grew up in a country town, there wasn’t very much available in terms of music lessons – so we took dance lessons and singing lessons and things like that. Luckily for us, about five and a half years ago, a music teacher actually moved in next door to us! We all started playing around the same time – and, as soon as we could, started playing together as a band; ’cause we figured ‘why not?’”

Why not, indeed. Following a rapidly-growing interest in Iotah – now Stonefield after not wanting to be confused with Sydney performer iOTA – the band recorded the bulk of the Through the Clover EP at Atlantic Studios in the south of Melbourne. “That was really fun,” recalls Findlay. “The studio was really cool, too. There was heaps of old equipment – a Hammond organ, Leslie speakers, stuff like that.” The only track from Through the Clover not to be recorded at Atlantic was the title track itself, the stomping rocker with which you are most likely to be familiar with out of the band’s work. That track was recorded in triple j’s very own studio as a part of the aforementioned Unearthed High competition. Findlay also holds fond memories of this session, too – “It was amazing!” she says. “The studio was just incredible; and to work with Greg Wales was such a fun experience.”

With its glass-shattering lead vocals and crashing major chords, there is a very good reason Through the Clover is the band’s most popular song. Surely the group knew they were onto something during the songwriting process of that little number? Findlay is a little bashful, but eventually put this forward: “Y’know when you’re playing or writing a song, and you’d be smiling because you feel so good about it? That’s kind of what happened with that song.” Fair enough and all, but there’s just gotta be more to it than that! Perhaps the answer lies within the songwriting process, which Amy herself is happy to explain.

“Generally, it starts whenever one of us has an idea – whether it’s lyrics or a melody or whatever,” she says. “We just muck around with it, try a whole heap of different stuff and just jam. It’s the best way to get our ideas out there.” Hey, it’s worked so far, why mess with it? “Definitely,” says Amy with a giggle.

Outside of the studio, the band – rounded out by Hannah on guitar, Sarah on keyboards and the youngest, Holly, on bass – have also been honing their live chops. Of late, their biggest gig has been opening the Pyramid Rock festival, the annual Phillip Island festival. “We were pretty scared that there wasn’t going to be anyone there,” admits Amy. “But because a lot of people camped the night before, I think they were ready to see the first band. So there was a good turnout, and it was lots of fun. It was probably the biggest stage we’ve ever played on, too, so it was cool and challenging for us to try and fill that space.”

It won’t be the last time the girls of Stonefield will be filling big spaces – March sees the band taking to the Pushover festival alongside acts such as Children Collide and Violent Soho; while later this year the band will make their first ever trip overseas to perform at the Great Escape festival in May and what many perceive to be the best festival in the world, the Glastonbury Festival, in June. “That’s probably the biggest thing that’s happening this year,” says Amy with a nervous quiver in her tone. She might sound daunted by the big things ahead for Stonefield, but with a talent like theirs you can be sure they’ve got little to worry about.

INTERVIEW: La Roux (UK), February 2010

Hey, kids! Remember La Roux? …anyone? …really? None of you? Bulletproof? That shit was EVERYWHERE. End of the 2000s was a great time for synth-pop. Apparently there’s going to be a second album? Yeah, right. I bet it comes out the same day as the new Avalanches album. This was towards the end of the extensive touring for that incredible debut, and something called the Bacardi Express was happening; headlined by La Roux. I think Art vs. Science were on it, too? Bluejuice? Yves Klein Blue? Cassette Kids? I think that was it. Ahh, just checked. No Bluejuice. Miami Horror were there, too. HA! Remember those guys? 

I was really happy with this feature at the time. It was one of the more high-profile chats I’d done at the time; and Elly was quite nice – if a little secretive. I wonder if Tom Ballard was on the money with his assessment of Cover My Eyes

– DJY, April 2014

***

Poor Elly Jackson. It seems Australia can’t seem to get her at any good time. Our original scheduled interview time is delayed, and on the phone from London when we finally do come into contact, she notes that she’s a bit tired. “I’ve just woken up, in fact,” she informs.

Even before this, her first visit to Australia with the act she is the voice of, La Roux, was plagued with exhaustion and illness, resulting in late timetable swaps for their appearance at the Parklife festival and cancelled shows.

“That was sort of the beginning of my illness, unfortunately,” she says with a certain sense of worry in her voice. “I think it was just one too many flights and not enough early nights. I let it all get on top of me and then I got ill – and then, of course, there was no time to prepare myself, as we were to begin another tour straight after that one. So it was all just a build-up of things, unfortunately.”

In spite of this distressing Jackson, La Roux still put on some exceptional shows when they finally made it to the main stage. Her vocals a pitch-perfect sight to behold, the crowd adored every second of her Sydney appearance at the festival. Jackson is also very quick to note how much she enjoyed her first visit to the country, ignoring her illness.

“I loved it,” she enthuses when asked about the tour. “I had an amazing time – we were told that La Roux was doing well out there, but I didn’t have any idea to what extent. So playing to forty thousand people each night was always a surprise!”

Indeed, Australia has been good to Jackson and La Roux – even a recent example comes from two of their debut self-titled record’s major singles ( In For The Kill and Bulletproof ) taking out enviable top spots in Triple J’s annual Hottest 100.

On the topic of the station, it’s also interesting to note the interpretation of Cover My Eyes from the record in the eyes of openly gay Triple J presenter Tom Ballard. “As far as I’m concerned, this is an anthem for every gay man who’s fallen in love with a straight friend,” he wrote on the Hottest 100 page.

How does Elly herself feel about having her music interpreted like this – presumably quite different to how she originally intended it to be? She thinks for a moment, before noting: “I always like that.”

Jackson continues: “There was another instance where I was reading what people were saying on the MySpace, and there was this one boy who said that In for the Kill was the track that made him come out to his parents. He made it about doing something really courageous, in coming out. It is a song about courage, but you can take from it what you will. I mean, I know exactly what it means to me, but I think it’s really important that people get their own perspective on things like that. That’s why we make music – just when you hear something in your own take on it and you think, ‘I really like that.’”

It’s been nearly a year since the self-titled album dropped, which has seen critics divided but sales suggesting that of a pop juggernaut. Even after considerable success, however, Elly herself is still somewhat uncertain about the entire thing.

“I haven’t listened to it for months,” she confesses when asked about the record – a statement that is a little surprising, but ultimately makes sense. “I think now, that I’m playing these songs every night, I’ve grown used to them in their live environment.”

Jackson, too, remains a little iffy in regards to the finished product of the self-titled record. “We’ve gone over so many times if the bonus tracks should have been the album tracks, or if the album tracks should have been the bonus tracks, or what should have been left off entirely,” she muses. “I don’t think you can ever be truly satisfied with your own record – your first record, at least.”

By “we”, Elly refers to the man behind the instruments and production of the album – the other half of La Roux, Ben Langmaid. If you were unaware of Langmaid’s involvement in La Roux, perhaps thinking La Roux was Jackson’s moniker or alias, it’s understandable – aside from the music itself, he is practically a ghost. He refuses to be a part of photo shoots and videos, and declined to be a part of the live band when it came to putting the songs on the road.

Jackson knows, however, that the music of La Roux is far more important than its aesthetic – even with her wild hairstyle often the centre of attention.

“He’s just not interested in any of that stuff,” she says of Langmaid, with a certain degree of acceptance in her tone. “His focus is really just working on what he feels are good songs. He spends a lot of time in the studio, and I can’t really help that or hold it against him.”

In Langmaid’s absence on tour, Jackson enlisted the help of keyboardists Michael Norris and Mickey O’Brien, with electronic drummer William Bowermann (formerly of I Was A Cub Scout) completing the line-up. These aren’t session musicians, mind – they’ve quickly become some of Elly’s closest friends.

“Some of the funnest and most hilarious times of my life have been with my band,” she says with a giggle. “They are such amazing people – I missed them all so much when I was away from them on holiday. They’re like my family now. I don’t know what I’d do without them – even if La Roux all ended tomorrow, I know we’d still all see each other every second day.”

The four are making their way back to Australia in March, headlining the Bacardi Express tour alongside some of Australia’s strongest up-and-comers, including fellow Hottest 100 sensations Art VS. Science, Yves Klein Blue, Cassette Kids and Miami Horror. “We will be getting to tour with all the people that are involved, which very, very rarely happens any more, if at all,” Jackson comments enthusiastically. “It’s going to be a really nice way to see the coast of Australia!”