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INTERVIEW – Amy Findlay, Stonefield – February 2014

| 15 February 2014 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Amy Findlay, Stonefield
Victorian retro-rockers Stonefield head back to WA for gigs in Bunbury Feb 13th, Dunsborough Feb 14th and at Capitol in Perth on Saturday February 15th. SHANE PINNEGAR caught up with singer/drummer and eldest sibling in the all-sister band, Amy Findlay.

Stonefield - Amy Findlay, centre

Stonefield – Amy Findlay, 2nd from the left

Perth plays an important part in the Stonefield story, with their first visit in 2010 for the One Movement Festival resulting in a spot on the bill at legendary UK music festival Glastonbury. Amy says the experience was special for her and sisters Hannah, Sarah and Holly.

“Yeah. It was amazing. I think that was probably about our second time playing interstate as a band, playing at One Movement. That was very surreal and crazy. Playing at Glastonbury was also surreal and crazy – it was amazing, so much fun.

“The festival is just so huge we could have just stood in the middle of the crowd and had thousands of people listening to us because there is just people everywhere. It was really good. We had a really good response, and the crowd was really warming. We had heaps of fun.”

The sisters are looking forward to making the trek West again.

“Definitely. We always liked coming over to WA,” she says enthusiastically, “unfortunately it’s not quite as easy as just heading up to Sydney or whatever – it’s a bit more of a distance, it’s a bit more expensive and stuff, but we always love it when we do come over and we always have a really good show. Yeah, we’re really looking forward to it.”

The band have been surging forward for the past 4 years, but it’s in the last 12 months that things have really taken off, with the release of their debut self-titled album, a surging, riff-laden beast that comes from the blues, but reverberates with psych-rock and even gospel touches. Findlay is justifiably proud of the opus.

“It kind of just makes you feel like you’re the real deal, getting a full album out there.” She states with an endearing lack of pretence, “I dunno… we just feel really accomplished, and it was a big learning curve for us. We learned so much about being in the studio and production stuff and songwriting and everything. Even that aspect of it, we had a little more time to just knuckle down and write. Because before that we were just touring constantly, so it was nice to just have a bit of dedicated time for writing.

“It was just heaps of fun,” she continues, “and it’s been really fun doing it and seeing the response. Our album tour has been kind of like – we started when [the album] first came out, and as the shows went on it was really interesting seeing people knowing the songs more and more and starting to sing along. So yeah, we’re looking forward to seeing what the reaction is like when we’re in WA.”

The album crashed into the ARIA charts at #21, and the talented singer & drummer is pretty glad that people are still out there buying CDs despite the industry saying the medium is dead.

“Yeah, for sure. I think we’re really lucky, being a rock band,” Findlay says, “in that a lot of our fans are sort of the kind of people that do still buy records, whereas I think it’s a lot harder for pop artists who tend to get the odd single being downloaded as opposed to an entire album. It is really nice to know that people do still want that whole thing, ‘cos it’s so special – it’s so nice to hold [a CD] in your hands and see the artwork and read the lyrics and kind of have the whole thing, it’s really good.

“The other thing that was really exciting for us about recording a whole album,” she elaborates, “[was] because an EP just feels so short and it feels like you can’t take a listener on a journey, so it was really cool to be able to do that and have different sounding songs and not just trying to get all your best songs in a 4-track EP or a 5-track EP. It’s a little bit more relaxed having that whole journey aspect to it.”

Stonefield 02

Findley and her sisters are no ordinary suburban girls. Raised in Darraweit Guim in rural Victoria, the girls just happened to all pick up different instruments that – q’uelle surprise – formed a band.

Findlay laughs out loud at the memory. “Yeah, it does kind of seem a bit funny when I do actually stop and think about it – but it’s normal to us. We don’t really think about that too much. It just kind of happened, it wasn’t really planned.” She laughs again.

“We all love music and we’re really, really similar in a lot of ways. We hang out a lot outside of the band we like pretty much all the same stuff. It works pretty nicely that we all like the same kind of music and we all picked different instruments, not purposely decided, [just] I think that nobody wanted to be the same as the others. And yeah, it works good.”

It sure does, though their retro rock has been compared, frustratingly, to others such as Wolfmother.

“Yeah there’s been a few people that been like, ‘the female version of Wolfmother and blah blah blah’,” Findlay says, “Yeah there has been a little bit of that. I’d like to think we have an individual sound – just because both our bands are influenced by probably a lot of the same bands, it doesn’t mean that we necessarily found the same. There’s millions of bands that are influenced by bands from the ’70s. Yeah, I think that it is completely different: same sort of influences or whatever, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we sound the exact same.”

One of the album standouts is lead single Put Your Curse On Me, which features a full gospel choir on backing vocals. It’s a vocal tour de force and, given the lyrics, one that transforms the song into a seductively grinding voodoo anthem straight out of New orleans. Findlay says that when they started recording, the choir wasn’t earmarked for that tune.

“It wasn’t,” she declares. “We knew that we wanted to use a gospel choir on some songs but we hadn’t really worked out which songs it would be best suited for and we didn’t think Put Your Curse On Me, until we went into the rehearsal studio with our producer Ian and he suggested it, and we really liked the idea of it being not your typical song that you would use it on. Like, having a gospel choir sing the lyrics, ‘Put Your Curse On Me’. I think it works really well and it kind of gave the song a whole new life and a whole new meaning, like it just kind of created that whole voodoo vibe which was really cool for us and so much fun for us to record. That’s probably one of my favourite sounds in the world, a gospel choir. It was really, really cool to have those guys working with us.”

“It’s really exciting,” Findlay says of the creative process whereby a song becomes something bigger than it was intended to be at the production stage, “because you kind of write the song and you rehearse it and it seems [like] you’ve kind of done everything that you can do to make it the best it can be and then when something like that happens it just completely surprises you and makes you really excited about it all over again. It was really cool.”

Stonefield 03

One thing that’s less cool is Triple J radio’s reluctance to play rock music nowadays, despite that being what the station was built on in the 90’s. Stonefield owe much to the station, having been included in their Unearthed program in 2010, and nominated for a J Award the same year. In 2013 they were one of the few rock acts to receive regular airplay from the nation’s ‘Youth Network’. Despite this, the band performed averagely in the station’s Hottest 100 countdown of the year, with their singles Put Your Curse On Me and Love You Deserve only rating at 161 and 198 respectively.

That’s no reflection on quality – Triple J just aren’t fostering a new generation of rock fans.

“I don’t know… I think Triple J definitely has a lot to do with it.” She says, obviously conflicted. “There’s, as you probably know, been this big debate thing at the moment about Triple J and they’re not playing enough rock music and then [bands] sort of just having to start writing [songs] to kind of work with Triple J so they still play them and that kind of thing.

“It is completely unfortunate that it’s like the only way that you can get onto festivals and get your music out there in a big way is having Triple J’s support. It does kind of suck, but it’s just the way it is. I don’t think it’s really their fault.

“But I don’t know… I think that music goes in cycles and I really did think that last year rock was going to come back in a big way – like, when Wolfmother and Jet were huge and it was a [great] time for rock and I really did think that it was going to come around again. I don’t think it’s got there yet – it’s all sort of electro at the moment, you know with Flume and all that sort of thing. [That’s] just the flavour of the moment. I think our time will come again, everything works in cycles and I think it’s all about timing.”

Stonefield 05

At 24, Amy is the eldest Findlay sister, 8 years ahead of the baby of the family, Holly, who has only just turned 16. She says that gap doesn’t mean differing musical tastes, but they’re not entirely on the same page.

“Not really musical tastes, more just personality,” she laughs, “Musically, when we’re playing gigs and stuff you kind of forget the age difference, it’s just … We all kind of feel equal in that department and I guess the only really downfall the difference in age has is in practicing or writing. There’s times where… she is a teenager and she acts like a teenager, and it can be frustrating to kind of be on the same level as her. But usually she kind of pulls it together and she’s pretty mature when it comes to a lot of things, so it’s pretty easy.”

Getting pub gigs used to be a problem, says Amy, with Holly still underage, but “since the venue[s are] knowing that there is kind of like a guaranteed audience [for us] completely changes it. It’s pretty unfair.

“When we first started playing & nobody knew who we were it was really hard for us to get gigs at pubs and music venues in the city. But since having the airplay and a few more people knowing about our band, it’s become a lot easier and it’s actually funny that some venues that turned us away in the early days, now want us to play at their venues.

“It’s usually pretty good – like, Holly is pretty well behaved, she never drinks or anything like that. It’s all pretty cool and we’re all there looking after her. There’s only a couple of venues that are a little bit strict. But really I mean [only] a couple out of the many, many that we’ve played and really, it’s just [that after you] play the gig and then you kind of have to leave or wait in the band room. You’re not allowed obviously out where all the alcohol is but usually it’s pretty groovy.”

Stonefield 04

Findlay agrees that as the eldest, it falls to her to be “Mum” on tour.

“We had mostly Mum, sometimes Dad, coming with us for a long time until recently,” she says, “when it was just kind of getting too expensive because we wanted to improve the show, bring a lighting guy and whatever. It was getting pretty expensive, and yeah, Mum and Dad trust that we look after Holly and do all the right things. I definitely do kind of take on the motherly role and make sure that she’s not making us late and whatever – but it’s not too hard.”

Amy credits her parents unflagging support and encouragement for Stonefield’s unbridled enthusiasm.

“They’re so, so supportive,” she says with love, “you couldn’t ask for better parents. They’re always just encouraging and always said to us that you want to do what makes you happy and something that you enjoy, ‘cos I guess Dad… he’s a fitter & turner so he’s worked in factories a lot of his life and he really, really wishes that he would have kept up guitar when he was younger, because he would LOVE to be doing what we’re doing now. I think that just sort of makes him encourage us more and more to keep at it and continue doing what we love.”

Amy accepts that despite her parent’s support, the music industry isn’t in a particularly healthy place right now and this may not be the wisest career to embark upon.

“It’s definitely… ahhhh, let’s say, not the most financially secure career,” she laughs warmly. “But it’s a lot of fun and I think at this point we’re doing pretty well and obviously, I think you always have to have a backup plan. It’s pretty unpredictable so you never know what’s going to happen.

“That’s why we’re really making sure that Holly finishes year 12. She’s doing distance education and just splitting each year over 2 years to make it a bit easier. But we know that it’s always important to be able to feed yourself and have a roof over your head. I think that if you just keep at it and keep doing it as much as you can, and make sure that the main thing is that it’s for fun, then [it’ll be okay].”

Stonefield are a formidable beast live, their strident rock pulsating with riffs and grooves like the best 60’s and 70’s rockers. For a portion of every gig Amy lets their fifth member Manny Bourakis take over the drum duties and takes centre stage to let rip as frontwoman for a clutch of songs.

“I definitely love being able to get out front,” she enthuses. “Singing is like my number one instrument. I really, really love having the freedom to communicate with the audience, and to get up close and move around. I still love playing drums for part of the show so it’s good that I get to go both.

“At first it was kind of a little bit weird to not have that barrier in front of me but now I love it. It’s so good to have that freedom and I realize how much easier it is to last longer on tour and play for however many nights in a row and not get as tired. Obviously drumming and singing is quite tiring. I think it’s sort of the perfect amount of both and I’m really enjoying it.”

Last month Stonefield released their latest video clip for new single Love You Deserve. Shot on their parent’s farm it features two racing cars playing dodgems in a paddock and, ultimately, a dangerous game of chicken, Findlay says the clip was “really, really fun to make.” Did the girls do the stunt driving then, or hand that over to professionals?

“Well we’ve been telling everyone that we have,” laughs Findlay, mischeviously. “But… I’m just going to say, ‘Yes we did’…”

There’s no denying the Findlay sisters are all attractive girls, a fact which attracts attention at the best of times – but also of the unwanted kind. Amy says they’ve dealt with it pretty well so far.

“Yeaaaaahhhh, it’s not TOO bad,” she starts, “obviously there is there odd dickhead that says the inappropriate comment. But I think that we just kind of distance ourselves from that as much as we can. We play the show, talk to our fans and whatever and then kind of leave and do our own thing. We try not to get ourselves into trouble.

“There has been times when – for instance, we were sound checking late at a venue and we hadn’t changed yet. We wear shorts and t-shirts and whatever and – I think it was in Newcastle – and there were these guys in the pub calling out things – like inappropriate sexual comments – while we were trying to sound check. That kind of turned us off from wearing anything that might be considered too sexual and revealing, just because [that situation was] uncomfortable and annoying, [but] most of the time it’s not too bad.”

No doubt having Holly around limits the all-night-partying which could inadvertently result in similar uncomfortable or intimidating situations.

“Yeah, for sure,” agrees Amy. “We’re quite, sort of, tame! We don’t really party every night like a lot of bands do. We never really party when we’ve got a gig the next day. I especially don’t like to, just because of my voice.

“Yeah, we’re pretty tame,” she laughs, “…pretty boring!”

Maybe so, but they more than make up for that on stage, which UK audiences may be lucky enough to rediscover first hand later in the year.

“We’’re aiming to go overseas in May and play at the Great Escape [Festival in Brighton],” explains Amy about their plans for the rest of the year. “We’re kind of just planning that and making sure it’s all possible and trying to see what other gigs we can get on to over there and yeah, hopefully that’s all going to go ahead, but you never really know. As I was saying before it’s very unpredictable but yeah at this stage [we’re] going to Great Escape!”

Don’t miss Stonefield when they next play near you.
Prince Of Wales Hotel, Bunbury – Thursday February 13th
Clancy’s, Dunsborough – Friday February 14th
Capitol, Perth – Saturday February 15th


Category: Interviews

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