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The Sessions

Angus & Julia Stone

Friends of Mr Rick Rubin, and darlings of the Australian music industry, the stylish folk duo from Sydney kicks off our live music series

MR PORTER is hitting the road again – bringing you performances by some of our favourite artists, in some the world’s best recording studios. And who better to book for a Session than Sydney folk siblings Angus & Julia Stone – currently touring their self-titled third LP, which landed last summer, and went straight to the top of the Australian charts?

To add some soul to the proceedings, we asked Mr and Ms Stone to perform in a studio that holds particular significance to them. After all, these are the settings where a bands’ creativity really succeeds or fails, and where genres are ultimately forged. The rock’n’roll of the 1960s and 1970s was arguably inconceivable without Abbey Road or Trident Studios. And who can forget California’s Sunset Sound Recorders, which played host to both The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin in their prime? Studio One in Jamaica gave birth to an entire way of life. Doff your Rasta hat to founder Mr Clement Dodd the next time you’re listening to some Mr Bob Marley.

  • The west London studio, Metropolis, where MR PORTER shot our Sessions video has also hosted the likes of Van Morrison and Public Enemy

Having chosen Metropolis – Europe’s number one independent recording studio – as our Session location, we found ourselves talking to the pair in a room recently graced by the likes of Van Morrison and Public Enemy, sat next to a piano once played by Queen’s Mr Freddie Mercury. “Metropolis is the first studio we ever worked in when we moved to London, probably about eight years ago,” says Ms Stone, who, at age 30 – older than her brother’s 28 – tends to take the lead in conversation. “We made an EP here called Heart Full of Wine [released February 2007]”.

“I remember being upstairs and Nick Cave came out,” adds Mr Stone. “He had this pink suit on. I remember him walking past and, just when I was about to take a shot at pool, he made this huge noise to put me off… ‘Rarrrrr!’”

Located in west London, Metropolis is a far cry from the studio in Malibu where, last April, the pair made their most recent and critically acclaimed LP to date – under the guidance of super-producer Mr Rick Rubin. Released on Virgin EMI, and the album from which “Heart Beats Slow” is taken, the process reunited the siblings after they decided to concentrate on solo projects following the success of 2010's LP Down the Way – which brought them five ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) awards, including Single of the Year for “Big Jet Plane” (the sugar-sweet melody of which has garnered more than 21 million hits on YouTube). “Working with Rick was a nice step into the world of luxurious studios,” says Ms Stone. “Shangri La is very beautiful – it looks over the Malibu ocean. It’s a huge mansion-style place with lots of open space and windows.”

While bowled over by the producer’s pad, they weren’t so enamoured when he initially approached them. In fact – despite his larger-than-life reputation (and that beard) – they hadn’t even heard of the Def Jam founder. It’s something they are a little embarrassed about now, but it seems appropriate: indicative of the down-to-earth, unassuming nature that makes the duo so appealing. “The truth is we didn’t grow up being informed about producers. And we hadn’t worked with producers in the past – it seemed out of the blue. Then a mate of ours showed us his discography…” says Ms Stone.

Mr Rubin has described the album as “extraordinary” and the siblings as “truly unique musicians… authentic and pure people who do things from the heart. I’ve never worked with anyone like them before.” Using his expert credentials, he has managed to harness their individual singing and writing talents – which somehow appear raw yet commercial at the same time – and elevate the pair to new collective heights. For what could have been a difficult third album, especially following a mini hiatus, the record is notable for its complexity and depth – when compared to 2007’s debut A Book Like This, for example. “What’s different about this record – we actually wrote together for the first time,” says Ms Stone. “This time around we sang most of the tracks in the same vocal booth.”

  • The artwork for the duo’s self-titled third album Angus & Julia Stone

So, how do they both feel about touring and recording together again? “It’s pretty rare for siblings to hang out for so long,” says Mr Stone. “We have our days, but I feel as if Julia is more of a friend – and someone that shares a passion for writing and sharing music with people. And she’s my sister as well. Which is cool.”