Wes Anderson can’t hold a candle to the Fantastic Mr and Mrs Stonefox

The last year has seen Melbourne three-piece Stonefox leapfrog the gap between relative obscurity to hotly tipped. Following their first track release All I Want (self-produced and recorded on a laptop in vocalist Jenna Russo’s shed), the band have spent their time playing live shows and recording – this time in a studio. A year on from their first single, Stonefox have now released their debut EP Surface, a luscious five track release shimmering between indie pop and chilled out electro.

Stonefox Surface EP

With haunting vocals, chilled out synths, indie guitars and enough ambience to put a meditation workshop to shame, Stonefox are kicking goals with Surface.

Stonefox’s ambient, female-fronted sound has been already been compared to the likes of Daughter, The XX and London Grammar. And though now appreciative of the compliment, amazingly the band themselves weren’t aware of those acts before the comparisons started coming in. No doubt Russo’s relaxed yet haunting vocals will resonate with fans, but Stonefox are by no means a carbon copy band; in Surface they have carved out something fresh in it’s sparingness.

Formed in 2014, Stonefox came together under the various influences of Russo and guitarist/synth player Tim Carroll. With indie rock on Russo’s side; The Killers, Postal Service as well as her brother’s play what Carroll describes as “Moody art rock”. Plus and an ingrained love of 60’s folk from Carroll, and in his words the end result “Meshed into a smooth, mellow pop sound with an electronic feel”.

Listen carefully and you can still pick out moments where those different influences shine through. A simple acoustic guitar and a sweet lo-fi vocal on opening track Heart leads into a folk-inspired choral vocal, but teases at a build as the track progresses with an upbeat indie guitar line. Following tracks This City and Ghost push through bigger sounds; beats with a dance floor feel from drummer Monica Spasaro, and a racing guitar really pick up the pace. Anthemic choruses hint at some indie rock leanings, balanced with neat touches like the last word from the percussion on This City.

It’s those touches that really make Surface impressive, coupled with a discipline of sound and performance that keeps it from flying off into unknown territory. Every build is strictly brought back and a momentary shout is almost cut short before getting out of hand, conveying a sense of tightly wound emotion. Producer Simon Moro (Ta-ku, Vance Joy) encouraged the band to play with their surroundings, blending raw sounds with the synthetic. The end result is beautifully considered without being soulless or overproduced, a platform for what Carroll deems Russo’s “Heart broken lyricism and emotional undertones”.

Despite this stripped back approach, both This City and Ghost feel like big tracks – synths and structured beats hint at club anthems, and are crying out for a remix (just sayin…). Inclusive choruses calling out “We don’t wanna go home, we don’t wanna know” are reminiscent of the crowd pulling energy of US pop-punkers Paramore. This is also true of the open hearted All I Want (the same laptop recording, remixed and mastered by Moro for the EP), dropping back to a simpler moment that would find us reaching for a lighter to wave in the air. Though it’s probably more likely to be a smartphone torch – healthy safety and all that.

Fifth and final track Arrow was also the single release off the EP, and this is most likely where Stonefox have picked up comparisons to The XX. Single note electric guitar and a male/female vocal interplay, all backed by glitchy beats on drum pads, Arrow has a real, powerful simplicity. And this is also where Stonefox finally give themselves license to really go for it, after a few teases the drums kick in with a military roll that actually launches into a pulsing, albeit short lived, climax.

Despite the temptation to liken Stonefox to a fair few bands off the back of their debut release, Surface has also solidified their identity. And though it may pull on a number of influences, the end result is something pretty fresh and exciting.