DOPE LEMON – ein Mann & sein Cadillac

Dope Lemon entzückten uns zuletzt mit Smooth Big Cat, einem Album das wie schon der Vorgänger Honey Bones ganz anders klingt als die Indie-Folk Klänge des Stone Geschwisterduos. Angus Stone ist mit seinem Kätzchen inzwischen – irgendwo zwischen Clint Eastwood Western und sonniger Küstenlandschaft – mit pinkem Cadillac unterwegs, während am Himmel über seiner Farm im australischen Byron Bay psychedelische Regenbogen schimmern.
Fragen über Fragen an Angus, der uns via Zoom Einblick in sein Zitronenuniversum gewährte!

Hey Angus, thanks for taking the time to speak today. How are you going?
Hey Sophia, very well, very well, how about yourself? How has your day been?

I’m well thanks, it’s been a good day. Thanks for asking. It must be afternoon for you in OZ, what’s been your favourite part of the day?
I went and visited my friend. We hung up on the hill with their two dogs and watched the sun go down and had a glass of wine. How about yours?

Sounds wonderful. Oh I’m in Bristol so I’ve only been awake for an hour or so and all I did so far was have a coffee and walk the dog. Not very adventurous just yet..
That sounds magic.

Let’s jump right into all those questions I’ve got here for you?

How would you describe Dope Lemon’s musical journey from Honey Bones to Smooth Big Cat to Rose Pink Cadillac?
I think.. your moods change obviously from day to day and also every time you walk into a studio and into a recording environment. Depending on what’s going on and where you’re at and how far you are into the process as the piece as a whole with the record that you’re making. But I’d say it’s a progression. It’s really just one song at a time and you are sort of stumbling your way through and it’s only at the end and these stages now, when I get asked questions about the record, when I start to piece it all together. I’m a believer of not having too much of a path and too much of a plan. I like to stay in where I am and in that moment and I find that the unknown is more magical I guess, than knowing where you’re headed.

And if you manage to trust the process you can allow magic to happen more than when you create a plan and then try and stick to it and force yourself into whatever form you’ve set out to create in the beginning.
Absolutely. You could just see it all as a night out really. Hit the town and wherever the white rabbit hops off into the horizon and whether you choose to follow or not. It’s cool if you do or you don’t, it’s just going with how you feel in that moment. And that’s where you end up with these records – and you piece it together later.

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It’s all about the animal kingdom in your house. Smooth big cats and white rabbits hopping about, brilliant. Are you always writing then? Is that part of your daily routine/ practice/ life, you name it?
Haha yes, totally. It has been this year. I wrote three albums this year which has actually been a lot of work. But it’s something that I really enjoyed and I didn’t feel any pressure to do it, I just wanted to see a positive in everything that was going on with Covid kicking up all the dust. You can either mope around and see it being all negative or you can do what you love doing, whatever it is. And that’s what I love doing and I’m here to do for now. It’s been really good this year, I enjoyed not being on the road and writing.

Nice, surrendering to what’s happening in a way too. Which also creates a choice to do something rather than letting yourself be dragged down by the heaviness of the pandemic.
Yeah, it’s sort of an easy way out. Though that’s saying it from one perspective. Individually we’re all in different situations and there are people that are really struggling. You’ve really gotta send love their way. And I guess bringing it back to the record, it’s sharing the stories of love, personal and observations and things that I’ve observed on my time here on the planet. This is a love album and I think it’s a good time for the world to receive it.

Pretty great time to spread some love for sure, that’s beautiful. You’ve mentioned the three albums you worked on this year. When you work on a new piece, do you know if it’ll be for Dope Lemon or Angus & Julia Stone? Do you create a certain space, nearly like walking into a different office in the morning?
With Julia we have, well I was talking to a friend about it just today actually. A lot of siblings and family members in general usually don’t really stick around to form relationships. Well some do, but the majority come together for Christmas and have a couple of days and then want to get out of there because they can’t deal with each other. Julia and I have a pretty strong history and we stuck it out throughout probably ten years on the road touring during our twenties. With that comes a lot of love and respect and awareness of each others space and just how to be kind and let people share what they need to. If it works it works and if it doesn’t it doesn’t, but making sure that everyone gets a fair go. It wasn’t always roses you know, that took a while for us to figure out. Working with Julia has been really good for me and my growing up and being aware of other people’s energies and situations. I think when I bring that into the Dope Lemon side of things, a lot of it is just me. Which is cool, I’ve got a really clear idea of what I want. But I’ve just started to do more collaborations on this record. I had this poem for a while and always wanted to translate it into French. I called my French friend up in town and she came over and we drank some whiskey and figured it out. It was interesting with the language barrier sometimes. Things don’t translate the way that .. some words together just don’t translate. She’d look at me and just didn’t know how this would be said in French and said look, those words they just don’t go together. It was a cool process of figuring out how to make it work. It had a double positive in the way that it was already poetic but then going even deeper when you translate it into another language.

Interesting how you describe that. It’s a blessing and a curse a bit isn’t it? It can also be so magical if you don’t understand absolutely anything because you then tap into the energy of the song is.
That’s right. I really enjoyed the phonetic side of it. Obviously I don’t know what im saying half of the time when im singing that song, but it was a really cool process and it’s been a dream of mine to learn another language and I guess that’s one foot in the door to figure it out.

It’s a step by step process..
I actually spoke to your sister not too long ago, who said something along the lines of that when working on Sixty Summers she felt seen and discovered her own musical identity. Is that something you resonate with on your own Dope Lemon journey?
Yes it does. I feel like this project unlocked an exploration, an endeavouring side of where I can take my imagination. And discovering that has been really enjoyable; there’s no limit to where you can go with it. The beauty of this project for me is that it’s limitless in that way. It’s a really cool thing not being afraid.

With the Dope Lemon project you’ve been stepping away from the indie-folk sound that’s typified your work for years. Was it the not being afraid that helped you find your sound?
I think it’s that and also who you surround yourself with. Possibly at times unknowingly, the people you bring into your circle bring a certain element out in yourself that you love to be able to share within a group. I’d say it works the same way with the people you form friendships with and build along the way. And stepping into this new world of Dope Lemon has been really enjoyable.. I miss touring and I miss being over in Europe and in the UK. It feels like something has been missing, being with your bandmate and drinking beers around the world and meeting new people or hearing their experiences of how the songs have entered into their lives. To get that energy and magic back through those moments that those people were feeling that you had when you first wrote the song. It’s sorts of things that keep you, maybe not keep you going back and doing it again but it’s definitely something that effects you. I’m really looking forward to being back over there come march.

Does it nearly create a whole new layer of a song when you bring it on tour and get to feel the reaction of people?
Yes that’s right, the song evolves and gets a new meaning when someone is sharing really meaningful memories they have with the songs. When you play live or bump into someone in the street, some of those stories are just crazy stuff that blows your mind. And that night you walk up on stage and you sing a song these stories are coming to you and the song has a new weight to it.

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You mentioned your surroundings earlier. Would the album sound different had it not been recorded on your farm in Byron?
I think sometimes your environment has everything and then nothing to do with what’s going on. I think it comes down to really how far you can stretch your imagination. Sometimes you feel like you’re sitting in a small dungeon with the engineer when you record. You sing about this fantasia world of love and discover of all these things with these characters and you open your eyes and you’re just sitting in this little room and there’s nothing going on. But at the same time it’s really nice to have a beer out on the deck and there’s horses and you can look out onto the fields and watch the sun go down. So yeah, it definitely plays a part in the way that you take breath and know that that’s there.

Sounds like a pretty alright setup to record and to live. Ending the day with a beer with the ponies. Great.
Haha yeah it’s cool. I feel pretty lucky, it’s such a dream come true. I always wanted to have my own studio at my house just to not have to think about time and to just get lost in the magic of it all.

Is that a reaction to all the touring and being on the road all the time?
With hard work comes the reward phase of life. We sacrificed a lot of time and now we still get to do what we love doing but there’s things that come a bit easier now. You reap what you sow and it’s the long game. It’s thinking about the future but also not thinking about it, just doing what you do will create something cool for you down the track. You just attract good energy when people are seeing you doing what you love. It’s just one of those things; positive energy is magnetic to more positive energy.

Wise words, what a beautiful way of looking at things. Who are your closest collaborators when you work on Dope Lemon? What’s your process with them?
I have different people around the world who I send the songs to. For the last record I played all the instruments and was on a mission to play and produce and mix the whole thing myself. But this time around I got a guitarist in Germany, Ben Edgar. He’s incredible and really tasteful. I lie down a track and it’ll be complete in a way up to a certain point or I’ll ask him to see what he comes up with. It’s different for every song. He’s amazing and then I have two keyboard layers in New York, Thomas Bartlett and John Hanson, who I send the tracks to. And then a drummer Lee Fisher in Melbourne and other guys around the world that I send stuff to. It’s one of those things that’s so cool these days. It’s not old school like it used to be, where the label would give the artist five million dollars and they’d go and blow a million in the first week or whatever. This crazy burning money and time thing. Now it’s so versatile and you can have the most basic setup and still be doing what they were doing back then for nothing. The beauty of where the world is now is that you don’t need the Rolls Royce or Ferrari setup. Anyone can have the greatest things at their fingertips. It just comes down to having the will and gusto to wanna create something beautiful for the world.

That sounds amazing! Right, one last question before we’re running out of time. Apart from the obvious whiskey in hand. Describe the sort of scenario you imagine people listening to the record for the first time?
I guess with everything that’s going on at the moment and a lot of people not having that way out of their situation. If this could be a place for them to go on an adventure.. with your imagination and letting it run free, close your eyes and let it take you to the places that you want to go.

Dope Lemon Tour:
16.03.22 Düsseldorf – Zakk
17.03.22 Berlin – Huxleys
19.03.22 Hamburg – Uebel & Gefährlich
20.03.22 Frankfurt – Batschkapp

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Sophia Kahlenberg

Sophia, 29. Fotografin. Dann kam das Schreiben. Verspürt starkes Herzklopfen beim Wort ‚Australien‘. Aber Berlin ist auch ok.

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