Amy, Hannah, Sarah and Holly Findlay are Stonefield, a four-sister combo who revel in a particularly gnarly breed of time-travelling psychedelic rock. Having dominated stages around the world with their warped tones, the quadrangle of throwback rock ‘n’ rollers are now back in Australia putting the finishing touches on a new release cycle.
Recently announced as the newest signing to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s eminent independent label Flightless, Stonefield are swimming in praise for the latest two singles Delusion and Far From Earth (also the name of their upcoming album), both particularly meaty takes on what was already a righteous sound.
Amongst all the noise, I caught up with the Stonefield team at Young Henrys. Amy and Sarah both sat down for the chat.
Taking hints from Black Mountain’s Stephen McBean and now Flightless Records, it’s no surprise that Stonefield are ready to unleash their hardest, most mangled album yet.
HAPPY: The hot topic right now is Delusion, a heavier one and the first single from your upcoming album. Would you say it’s been a slow journey to that beefier sound since you started out?
AMY: On our last record we had a couple of heavier songs, but probably not quite as heavy as Delusion. I don’t know…
SARAH: We’ve always had elements…
AMY: Yeah we’ve always had heavy elements, but…
SARAH: It’s always been in our blood.
AMY: We kind of went all out on this one song I guess. But I don’t know, we never really thought of Delusion being a single, it’s definitely not a typical single. The chorus doesn’t have a very full melody, and the end kind of trails off into this little thing. But it’s fun.
HAPPY: It’s a jam. What do you credit that shift to, is it growing up, is it new influence, is it some feelings you’ve had while playing live?
AMY: Probably a combination of things. Definitely playing live has something to do with it, playing heavy songs is probably the most fun. Also this album is… we didn’t really overthink it, we just wrote a bunch of songs and we recorded when we were in LA, in between a couple of tours. So that probably had a bit to do with our sound as well. We didn’t really muck around, we just did what we did and that came out.
HAPPY: Is the album in line with the single?
AMY: It’s still quite mixed, but it’s definitely got more of a lo-fi, like crunchier sound. So there’s definitely still the psychedelic songs, more ‘60s-ish I guess… but it’s all a lot crunchier.
HAPPY: Crunchier, I like that. I wanted to ask if there was any new gear you’ve come across? As you say, Delusion is on a bit of another level…
AMY: The studio that we recorded in was a really cool, big open warehouse, right in the middle of downtown LA. So we were in the dream district, it was really quite strange. But it was this really nice open space, there was heaps of light and it was just filled with gear. I think we definitely used a lot more synth sounds on this, a lot of the tubular bells sounds and stuff.
AMY: The producer that we used helped a lot with the sound, he’s a real gear nerd.
HAPPY: Who was the producer?
AMY: We worked with Stephen McBean from Black Mountain. He’s great, he just helped us achieve what we were envisioning for it, really easily. He was just so on the same page, he was spot on with all his ideas and the sounds he was pulling.
HAPPY: I didn’t know he did production work. But that’s a great fit.
AMY: Yeah, I guess he’s got Pink Mountaintops, his other thing, and he’s got a few side projects, so he’s always recording his own stuff as well.
HAPPY: Do you bounce around where you record?
AMY: Yeah, we’re always going to a different studio, trying to change it up. But I wouldn’t mind going there again, it worked well so we’ll see.
HAPPY: And how does the band work together at the moment? I’m assuming you guys don’t still live together.
SARAH: Well two of us live at home, two of us live out of home, and we just always write in our shed at home.
AMY: We’re always back at home, we may as well live there. It’s just easy to practice any time of the day you want, you don’t have to pay for a rehearsal studio and you don’t have to pack up, you just leave it there.
HAPPY: That’s the dream. You’ve also signed to Flightless, which is super exciting. Did that start up when you were on tour with King Gizz?
AMY: Not really, we finished the album and sent it to Eric, and he liked it. It was as easy as that!
HAPPY: How it should be! But damn, you just knocked out my two next questions…
SARAH: Sorry about that.
HAPPY: Moving on… so you are a family band which is quite rare today. When you’re on tour, do any of you fall into family roles?
HAPPY: Like is someone the caretaker?
SARAH: Amy’s the boss. She takes charge, the rest of us are just chill.
AMY: Well I crew manage the band, we have another manager in the states. So I do a lot of the organising, all the organising…
HAPPY: All the interviews…
AMY: Apparently! I don’t know, Hannah’s really good with recording and stuff, she’s generally in charge of setting up and recording our demos. Holly’s the classic youngest child, she’s a brat. Sarah’s just in the middle, she’s the one that keeps us laughing all the time.
HAPPY: Seems like you make it work pretty well, but have you ever felt like being in a family has held you down?
AMY: I don’t think so. We’ve definitely had fights, a lot, but they’re just sister-ish fights. I don’t know, it does get hard at times because you’re like ‘you’re driving me nuts, I want to get away from you’ but there’s no escape because we do everything together. I think that touring’s a very hard thing to do, you’re in each other’s faces.
SARAH: But it’s Cat In The Hat vibes, it’s acceptable because you’re all sisters.
AMY: Like, I can’t even imagine touring with other people, because you’re in each other’s faces. Fighting with your sisters is a lot easier not to take to heart, and to just get over it, than it is with friends.
HAPPY: I guess you’re way past that.
AMY: Exactly, I just feel like it would be really awkward with… not family.
HAPPY: Now you’ve got this massive throwback vibe in your music, in the way you dress, in everything. What is it about that period, the ‘60s or ‘70s, that appeals to you most?
AMY: Well yeah, we love the fashion, which is good for us because it seems to be quite in at the moment. The style is music, I just feel like it never gets old, you can never get sick of it. I don’t know, it’s just what we’ve grown up with, so it’s what we love.
HAPPY: Sounds like there’s an emotional draw to it too, rather than just aesthetic?
AMY: Yeah, definitely. It’s what we grew up listening to, running around outside or riding our bikes as kids.
HAPPY: Is that what your songs end up being about?
AMY: Running around as kids?
HAPPY: Not necessarily… I mean what you do together.
AMY: I don’t know, our songs are about different things. I think I don’t generally think too much about what lyrics I’m writing, it just comes out and I realise what it’s about after writing it.
SARAH: We mostly write the music first, don’t we?
SARAH: Amy mostly does the lyrics, as well. But we fit it to the vibe of the song.
HAPPY: A lot of people do see you mostly as a jam band, but I ask all this because psych music has a huge escapism element to it that a lot of people really latch on to.
AMY: Yeah, we tend to write a lot about dreams.
HAPPY: Dreams? That’s the ultimate escape, isn’t it?
AMY: Yep, there you go. A lot about dreams… sometimes I have to stop myself from doing it, actually.
HAPPY: Do you think we’re in a particularly exciting period for throwback music?
AMY: Seems to be, there’s definitely quite the scene for it. Like Flightless obviously, most of their bands are inspired by that time. I mean Tame Impala, they’re massive, but it still feels like it’s just a scene, it’s not really mainstream.
HAPPY: I wouldn’t necessarily call Tame old-school psych, but yourselves and Gizz definitely. I don’t know, it’s like we’re on a 50 year cycle or something. In 10 years we’ll be doing the ’80s thing again.
AMY: Yeah exactly!
HAPPY: Can’t wait. So you’ve got a new single out, you’ve signed to Flightless, you’re doing Aussie shows, and it’s all because you have an album in the works… do you have a title?
AMY: Yes, Far From Earth.
HAPPY: Sounds very…
HAPPY: Yeah, awesome. And you said it won’t necessarily follow one sound…
AMY: It’s kind of hard to explain, it’s… cosmic overall. Cosmic would definitely be the word to describe it.
HAPPY: That’s a pretty good tagline. I reckon you’ll sell a couple of records.
HAPPY: Well we’re all looking forwards to it.