Angus Stone on the Healing Power of Songwriting

The musician, aka Dope Lemon, describes his new record, “Rose Pink Cadillac” as a labour of love.

Article by Christopher Riley

Stone, who records as Dope Lemon, released his new album “Rose Pink Cadillac”, today. Courtesy of Angus Stone.

The pandemic period has tended to impact artists in one of two ways. For some, the isolation has been catastrophic, drying up the well of inspiration and preventing them from creating. For others, it has been the opposite: a welcome break from the distractions of the outside world, leading to a triumphant surge of productivity.

For Angus Stone, the musician who records as Dope Lemon, it was the latter. In August, Stone reunited with his sister Julia for “Life Is Strange”, a soundtrack album that is the duo’s first joint project in four years. Today, he follows it up with “Rose Pink Cadillac”, a 10-song outing of dreamy psychedelic surf rock that serves as his third album as Dope Lemon and another reason he remains regarded as one of the country’s most creative songwriters.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Stone has managed to stay inspired over the past year when you consider the 35-year-old spent the time on a beautiful 48-hectare farm inland from Byron Bay that he now calls home. He’s sitting on the deck when I call him to discuss “Rose Pink Cadillac”, he says he is “overlooking a field with horses and cows”, which certainly beats the shed I have rather hastily turned into a makeshift office.

“It’s an old barn,” Stone explains. “I converted it into a studio with this beautiful sunken fire pit where we chew over ideas and drink whisky.” It’s here that Stone wrote and recorded “Rose Pink Cadillac” and where he has remained during what he calls the “anarchy portion” of recent history. With him overlooking a scene of rural bliss — and me a blank wall — we discuss how songwriting has helped him to survive the past year, the process of translating his poetry into French for the album and why there are even bigger things in store for 2022.

Stone is regarded as one of the country’s most creative songwriters. Courtesy of Angus Stone.

What was it like making an album during a year of lockdowns?

“It meant less distractions and made things more quiet. We spent our 20s touring around the world and then in the last five years we’re sort of at that point where we can take bigger breaks and chill, and then when it came to this, it was just like, Well, this is a whole new thing. It’s a new style of life and flow that I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid. Which was being at home and just waking up and not having a thousand interviews, not having to roll to the next city and hit all the spots. It’s been very grounding in that stillness that I haven’t really got to enjoy for so long. It’s been wonderful, actually.”

Can you describe the album and what it means to you?

“I think with everything that’s going on and the world kicking up dust the way it did, when I was in the studio, seeing all this happening, my natural reaction was to put an emphasis on love and sharing that through music. And I like to call this my love album. I guess the songs they all change, you know — you roll out of bed, throw on some clothes and whatever mood you’re in will affect the way you write. But the catalyst for this record was love.”

Was it challenging capturing that sense of love with everything else that has been going on?

“Songwriting, for me, has been this way to wander off into the wilderness of this Disney world that you can create by the stretch of your imagination. I might be going through the worst day of my life but I can float off into a daydream and write one of the most magical songs I’ve ever written about love and the beauty of the world. I feel very lucky that I’m able to do that. While we were making this record it looked like people were tearing each other apart and society was just imploding. It was just disastrous to watch. But when I’m walking in the studio, I like to drift off into these magical places. I’m really stoked that with this craft, it’s something that I’ve been able to disappear with at times. I think that’s what music is for me. It’s special like that.”

You’ve spoken before about how this album was the perfect mix of “hard work and pure joy”. How did you manage to maintain that balance between the two?

“The bottom line is it must always be a labour of love. As soon as it starts to become a chore, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, be it financial or trying to meet someone else’s needs. And it’s easy to get caught up with that stuff in this world. I’ve always been hyper-aware of my intentions when it comes to what I do in my craft. Over time you start to realise it has to be from the heart, but it also has to be bloody hard work and long hours before it all makes sense. It’s like proof of concept: you have to prove these things that are rolling around in your head for their existence to become tangible. I think that’s what songwriting means. And when you arrive there and it’s in front of you, it’s like, I knew it was there!”

How did the collaborations come about?

“With the song “High Rollin’”, I always had a dream of wanting to translate my poetry into French. I had this poem about falling in love on this island with palm trees swaying and all this other nonsense. I called up a friend who speaks French and I showed it to her. The beauty of translation is that sometimes you get a double positive. You get these really curious things happening and then with certain lines she’d just look at me and be like, “We wouldn’t say this, it doesn’t exist.” And it’s like, “OK, so can we do it?” Working through that process was really interesting. We had to learn all the phonetics and how to actually say the words. Then we found this amazing singer-songwriter, Louise Verneuil, from Paris, who sang on the song.

Then there’s the collaboration with Winston Surfshirt. At the time, I was always hearing his songs coming on the radio and I was like, He’s so cool, he’s got such a great flow. And so I got his number, called him up and he was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” We connected and it was really, really cool. We flipped the song back and forth and it worked out really, really naturally.”

Why did you decide to give away an actual rose pink Cadillac with the album?

“The word ‘fan’ doesn’t really do our listener justice. For those people who have tuned in and listened to the evolution of the sound of Dope Lemon, buying the rose pink Cadillac and doing this competition was our way to give back to these people that have followed us for so long. The head of [the label] called me up and was like, “We should just buy this Cadillac and come out with a bang for this record because it’s epic.” It’s such a cool thing for the listeners and for one person to have that joy of winning this epic unicorn of a car.”

What’s in store for 2022?

“I’ve got a real surprise coming up. When I finished this record, I went straight back into another one. I’m on the final stretch of that. But this is going to be a whole new world and I’m very excited about where that goes. It might even be a whole new thing. I don’t know yet. I just had this flow and I felt like I just wanted to keep going. So that’s next year. Something cool will come out and we’re going to create something very epic around it.”

Dope Lemon’s “Rose Pink Cadillac” is out January 7.

The “Faux French” Duo Taking Over Australia’s Music Scene

Lara Goodridge and Abby Dobson perform in a language most of their audience doesn’t understand. But for these two Francophiles, it makes perfect sense.

Article by Lucy E Cousins

Lara Goodridge (left) and Abby Dobson are reimagining the art of the chanson. Photography by Henry K.

It all started about 10 years ago with a book of naughty French songs and a meet-cute in Paris. The Australian singer Abby Dobson (of the platinum- selling band Leonardo’s Bride) had been living in the French capital for six months when she ran into a fellow Australian, the violinist and singer Lara Goodridge (of FourPlay String Quartet), outside a cafe one sunny morning. Goodridge had released Dobson’s first solo album on her label, Craving Records, but until that point, they never realised they shared a love of all things French.

“We just met for a coffee and I was holding a book of slightly risqué early French songs I’d just bought, which we laughed over,” says Goodridge. “I’d always been a huge fan of Abby’s voice and music, but we had a relationship that was much more about the machinations of putting an album out rather than performing together in any capacity.” However, by the end of that coffee, the two agreed to meet up and sing a few French songs, purely for the joy of it. “It was absolutely a passion project at that point,” says Goodridge. “But we got together for one rehearsal and I remember Abby saying, ‘Oh my God, this is what I want to do when I grow up.’”

In the decade since, their group, Baby et Lulu, has not only been nominated for an ARIA Award, it has become a staple of radio playlists and the festival circuit, and has sold out music venues around Australia. In September, Baby et Lulu will release “Album Trois”, followed by an Australian tour, starting in October — pandemic-pending, of course.

and Baby et Lulu’s Australian tour starts on October 1, pandemic pending. Photography by Henry K.

You sing in French, when did you first fall in love with the French language?

Abby Dobson: “When I was young, French seemed to be this magical portal language that opened up worlds and deliciousness. When I got older, I liked to get drunk and speak French. I used to travel to Paris whenever I could — that was the place I would go whenever I had any coins in my pocket.”

Lara Goodridge: “I fell in love with French as a kid, watching black-and- white movies on TV, like the old Yves Montand, Leslie Caron, Édith Piaf and Jeanne Moreau films. That was the beginning of it for me.”

How did Baby et Lulu become the success it is today?

LG: “It grew so organically in the beginning. The very first show we did was at The Vanguard in Sydney’s Newtown, which we only advertised on Facebook. It sold out, so then we thought, ‘Oh, well, let’s do a second show.’ ”

AD: “It wasn’t that viable at the start; I was living in Melbourne and Lara was in Sydney. But people loved it. We didn’t realise there were so many Francophiles in Sydney — we thought it was this silly thing that was just our personal joy. We had no idea if anyone else would be interested.”

What is it like to sing in a language that the majority of the Australian audience doesn’t speak or understand?

LG: “I think there’s something beautiful about the fact that most people who don’t understand French are really just connecting to some dream and some romantic feeling they have. We usually tell people what the song is about and people can connect to that, but as singers, we also have a different connection to the songs. I find that I’m a bit more open, a bit more confident in French, because I’m stepping through this portal and I don’t feel quite as vulnerable as I do in English.”

AD: “It’s funny because we both write songs in English as well as French, and I labour over the lyrics quite a bit. But once I perform them, it really is just about the vibration of the sounds and words, and the intention behind it all, even in English.”

Your latest album features classic songs that were written up to 80 years ago. Is there a period of history you’re particularly drawn to?

LG: “We always choose songs that span different time periods and we carefully curate those we perform for what feels right for us as a duo. There are songs we love that didn’t work for us and others that really came to life when we sang them as a duo.”

AD: “From the beginning, Lara and I tended to have a very innate understanding of what was a Baby et Lulu song and what wasn’t.”

Some of the songs on this latest album were written during the darkest days of World War II. How do you connect with those?

LG: “I always feel the era that a song comes from. So, the Maurice Chevalier song, “Paris sera toujours Paris”, which is the next single, I definitely feel that it’s a war song. And when we’re singing a Françoise Hardy song or a Brigitte Bardot song, the music without a doubt inhabits the time in which it was written.”

AD: “I also feel like I’m entering an era when we dress up. Before a gig, we step into, not so much an alter ego, but an “old version” of ourselves. Lots of things we do are evocative of an era, but at the same time, I like that we can turn it on its head. We’re not locked into any kind of paradigm and that’s kind of fun for the audience as well.”

How has the pandemic and the restrictions affected both your creativity and mental health?

AD: “We had a huge tour booked. We’d put a lot of work into the schedule and then it all just fell over like dominoes. My creativity was really quite affected by it.”

LG: “We were going to put out “Album Trois” last year, too, so that was disappointing. But as far as creativity, we’ve been designing merchandise.”

You have never toured in France. Why is that?

AD: “We would love to do it. Lots of French people come to our shows, which initially terrified us no end. But they keep coming back and they often say, ‘You should take this to France, no-one is doing this there anymore.’ However, it’s really expensive. Even touring Australia with a six-piece band is expensive.”

LG: “I think the only way we could do it is to pick up musicians over there. It’s still in our sights — we haven’t given up the dream yet.”

Baby et Lulu's Third Album, "Album Trois" is out September 3.

Baby et Lulu’s Fast French Favourites

Favourite French Food:
LG: “A freshly baked quiche épinards chèvre (spinach and goat cheese quiche)”

AD: “Tarte Tropézienne. It’s the local gateau from St Tropez. I spent an incredible couple of weeks near there in 2010. Created by Polish confectioner Alexandre Micka in 1955, it was named by actress Brigitte Bardot while she was there filming ‘And God Created Woman’.”

Favourite French City:
LG: “Arles (south of France). It is so pretty with ancient ruins (albeit Roman), little alleyways. It is like a petit Paris.”

AD: “Paris! because Paris! Everything about it is delicious and beautiful and has been art directed! And now, even the subways don’t smell like piss!”

Favourite Parisian Café:
LG: “Any cafe around Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It’s a bustling, pretty area with little alleys and cobblestone streets, lined with great cafes and ‘resto’s’. Try a fresh baguette with some fromage, and a salad with heart of palm and artichoke.”

AD: “Diggity in the 11th arrondissement. Their menu changes all the time. It is all delicious!”

Favourite Fashion Designer:
LG: “There’s a lovely label called Sessun, which you can buy in Australia in some small shops. It’s classic and simple, yet pretty and feminine. There’s also a very classic Breton label called Armor Lux selling a lot of stripey clothing, like the Bretons wear. J’adore!”

AD: “Isabel Marant”

Favourite French Word:
LG: “A great little word for kiss is ‘bisou’, and it’s pretty sweet to say… and do.”

AD: “Je t’aime (I love you).”

Favourite Band/ Singer:
LG: “Camille. She is a stunning singer, a beautiful songwriter and an original voice in the global music world. Using layers and loops and body percussion, she is electric to watch and absolutely captivating.”

AD: “Daft Punk”

Favourite French Song:
LG: “Dis, quand reviendras-tu? by Barbara.”
AD: “Playground Love, by Air.”

 

“Album Trois” is out 3rd of September, and Baby et Lulu’s Australian tour starts on the 1st of October. For more information, visit www.babyetlulu.com.au

Do female musicians have to be solo artists to succeed?

All-female bands remain unbelievably rare; a fact that Australian band Erthlings says is a shame.

Article by Kate Hennessy

Sampa the Great. Photographed by Michaela Dutkova

Around the time that #MeToo cracked open fissures in the music industry that had festered for decades, an old story started to re-circulate. A record label talent scout, so the story goes, finds a female musician he wants to sign. He plays her to the label boss who agrees it’s great. Then knocks it back. When the talent scout asks why, the boss replies: “We’ve already got a woman on the label.”

You want to believe it’s a baseless urban myth. But still, today, a handful of women’s names are used to brush off the truth that non-male musicians remain under-represented. When this fact is raised, as it routinely is, it’s met with: “But what about Taylor Swift? Tash Sultana? Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, G Flip, Tones & I, Sampa The Great?”

GFlip (Jo Duck)

Yet, as Lissa Evans of Sydney band Erthlings points out – all these women are solo artists. The 18-year-old drummer had no idea, she says, how rare all-female bands were before they were signed to Future Classic.

She’d been in her band with Taylor Shutes (bass) and Jessame Stepto (guitar) since she was eight years old. To them, it was normal. All of it: the youth, the all-girl factor, the friendship. Then came the interest – and the articles. “[All the articles] started with ‘all-female 13-year-old band’,” says Stepto. It went on for some time, says Shutes. “We were still being called 13 when we were 15… We were a bit worried it would detract from our actual music!”

The members of Erthlings have finished school now and are planning their future in a year when even local touring is fraught. They don’t know what’s next – but they do know they’re happy doing it together.

Erthlings (Cybele Malinowski)

At festivals such as Splendour in The Grass and Groovin the Moo they’d spent a lot of time backstage “staring” at acts such as Billie Eilish and G Flip.

“We saw other artists, by themselves, and realised having each other is not only more fun but gives us more confidence,” says Evans. “If we mess up or feel nervous, one of us will say ‘it’s fine; everyone messes up’.” Stepto agrees. “We always have someone in the band who’s gonna back us up.”

Not to diminish the popularity or potency of solo woman acts – or indeed the seminal ‘girl in the band’ – however, there’s an obvious black hole when it comes to all-female bands making headlines in Australia and overseas. As Erthlings know from experience – all-female bands are still, sadly, a rarity.