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Stonefield

It’s probably safe to say that the Australian music landscape has finally come to terms with the fact Stonefield are the real deal. It was hard at first as the four sisters from the regional Victorian town Darraweit Guim seemed unreal – unreal in the sense of too good to be true. Questions came thick and fast when they arrived on the scene as triple j Unearthed High winners, Iotah. Surely they can’t play as well as they do? Surely they can’t embody the spirit and heart of the ‘70s so freaking well when that time and place is so far from what they should know? Surely someone has built them from snow and is operating them from label headquarters like droid rock maestros? But it’s all true.

Amy, Hannah, Sarah and Holly Findlay have proved themselves many times over as awesome musicians in the studio and a captivating live act on stage and despite all of that, the most impressive thing has got to be their warm, down-to-earth and stoic attitude. They could’ve given in and taken the easy road at any point, they could’ve allowed themselves to be shaped into some stylised and sexualized manufactured band, but they’ve stayed true to themselves and will forever reap the rewards that choice has afforded them.

 

Hannah Findlay is with her sisters signing albums at label HQ. Their self-titled debut album is almost released (it’s easy to forget they only have two EPs to their name) and Findlay starts off by confirming what her sister Amy said last year would be the plan  – the album was done completely their way. “I think we’re just really, really lucky that our whole team is just really supportive of what we want to do and they nurture the way that we want to do it,” Findlay explains.

 

While the album is immediately recognizable as a Stonefield album, the band has definitely progressed. It’s more nuanced, they’ve evolved beyond being simply riff-based and their harmonic depth is almost transcendental. While they claim Creedance Clearwater Revival were a big influence during the writing of this album, influences nudge in from bands as diverse as Procol Harum and Pink Floyd. The key to this album is that you can tell none of that was planned. As the listener you can’t help but go searching for the familiar but the band are at all times just being Stonefield. “I think it all kind of happened quite naturally,” she says. “I think we were growing as writers and so we learned a lot of new skills and that means you’re not just copying other people’s ways. I think we also went a lot deeper with this album and we just put a lot more thought into what we did.”

 

It’s easy to fall into traps as a musician – drummers repeat fills, guitarists fall back on tried and tested intervals and keys – and yet despite their apparent inexperience, Stonefield pushed through that all too common scenario. “To be honest, we never really put any thought into that sort of thing, it all just flows out naturally,” she says. So just a couple of bottles of vodka and they’re away? “Ha ha, no not quite,” she says with a giggle that finally gives away her youth. “But once we’ve finished a song or once we’ve finished jamming on something we all kind of know if it sounds too similar to something else we’ve done. I think with all of us in the room we’re able to pick apart each piece and that really helps.”

 

Siblings spend a lifetime fighting and making up and while bands like Oasis and Kings Of Leon have created an image that a family that plays together will, well, kill each other, Hannah Findlay suggests their kinship is the key to their development as musicians and harmony as a group. “I’m not sure what it would be like being in a band with people that weren’t your sisters, but for us it’s just so easy to say what you think and then you just all move on,” she says. “We say it and then that’s it. I feel like if it was a friend it might be a bit more awkward and create a lot more tension. As sisters we just get over it.”

 

When former Band Of Skulls producer Ian Davenport was enlisted as producer for the album, Stonefield were more than ready. Their year-long preparation meant for an efficient recording session. “Once we knew what songs we wanted to do – I think we had it down to about 20 – we tried to put as many finishing touches on them before we went into pre-production with our producer so once we were there it was just a case of doing last minute kinda tinkering,” she says. “Once we got in there it was just about getting the best performance. [The recording] wasn’t as full on as past experiences we’ve had; it was less hands on and more about just helping us to get the vibe of each song in each take and just adding subtle things. In past experiences it was like they were adding heaps of extra parts to everything but this time we wanted to make it really raw and to make it about the energy and vibe of the music.”

 

There are definitely a lot more layers to the tracks on the new album but that came about through the writing process and not over-production. “I think it’s just our songwriting developing that means that as time goes on we just started naturally doing a lot more with each song and experimenting. We also had a lot more time so we were able to put ourselves in the shed and try so many more things,” she explains.

 

Stonefield’s mix of innocent charm and don’t fuck with me strength is an admirable combination. The best part is that you get the impression they have no idea how impressive they are. “I just feel like we’ve always [had strength] as people,” she says. “Also our uncles were always into bands and they were always like ‘watch out, you can’t trust everybody’. There are a lot of good people but I think we’ve always kept ourselves aware of the reality and thankfully we haven’t had too many bad experiences at all. We’ve been really lucky.”

 

There was a time when the girls couldn’t help but feel like they needed to prove themselves. After all, it’s pretty intimidating walking into a rural pub rock gig as four young ladies and knowing the sound guy (and probably half the pub) is thinking you’re a novelty act. Amy Findlay once said that they used to play the best sound checks possible just to show they were for real. “Oh there was definitely a lot of that,” she laughs. “Now I think we’re not only a lot more professional when we go in there; I also think we’re also just trying to play the absolute best set we can play. But no, I don’t think we feel we have to prove ourselves in sound check anymore.”

 

“I think that has all finally gone away because we’ve actually stuck around,” she continues. “We’re bringing out this album and we’ve toured a lot so I think people are realizing that we’re in this for good. I think as well once people had seen us live they realized we were actually playing the music and we weren’t just going into the studio and doing these tricks to pretend we can play.”

 

Aside from their album tour Stonefield have the inconceivably massive honour of playing with Fleetwood Mac and for all the band are cool, calm and collected, Hannah Findlay admits that even she can turn into a fan girl on the odd occasion. “We grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and they’re our idols; I actually cannot believe that we’re playing with them,” she says. “I feel like in the end everybody is just human so I don’t really get nervous. Oh but with Foo Fighters, I unfortunately didn’t get to meet Dave Grohl, but I was like ‘Whoa, oh my God. What if I get to meet them?’ I was pretty excited.”

 

Things have already been overwhelming for Stonefield after two massively successful EPs so the pressure of a debut album following that amount of hype would be enough to break a lot of artists. Not the sisters from Darraweit Guim though, curse their zen-like nature and coping abilities. “We really are pretty relaxed and excited,” she says. “We had a lot of time between the last EP and this album to do a lot of things and to think about everything we’ve done. All of that has sunken in so we’re ready to go out there and enjoy all of this.”

 

BY KRISSI WEISS

STONEFIELD’s self-titled, debut album will be out through Wunderkind/Illusive on October 11. The girls will play the Phoebe Festival this weekend which runs over two days: Friday October 4 and Saturday October 5. They will also play Meredith Festival (December 13, 14 & 15). They will also be hitting the Corner stage as part of their national tour on Saturday October 26.