The Sirens of Stoner Rock
Australian psych-rockers Stonefield on touring and a new album
Words and photos by Katie Sikora
It was unusually cold when I stepped off the street into Santos Bar. The smoke machine had already created a thick and humid fog that was twisting around the stage as the four sisters — Amy, Hannah, Sarah, and Holly — that make up Australian psych/stoner rock band Stonefield took their final checks and exited the stage.
I was expecting a crowd but as I scanned the room, I sensed these were more than Bourbon Street stragglers. These were fans. When their eyes weren’t glued to the empty stage, they were checking their phones minute to minute to see how much closer they had inched to start time. This is the Spotify era at work, connecting artists with listeners on the literal opposite side of globe, although that says very little of the nine years that the Findlay women have put into being on the road as touring artists (as well as the four years before that while forming the band). If you’re running the numbers in your head, yes, they were all very young when they formed Stonefield. Even Amy, the oldest, was only 15 years old at the time.
Amy took the stage again first to get into position at the drum kit followed by Hannah on guitar, Sarah behind the keys, and Holly on bass. They wore matching loosely-fitting pant suits and Cobain-like hair hung in their faces. While their stage personas are lightly evocative of many rock stars of yore, theirs is still distinct. They have seen it done before but this is them doing it their way. Amy rolled up the pant on her kick drum leg and while the smoke wrapped even tighter around the band, Stonefield came to life. Grunge, rock, metal, psychadelic — they draw audiences in like a siren song but with a melancholy indicative of the societal conversations going on around the world. The crowd cheered and raised their crappy beers in the air. The show had begun.
Katie: What was most challenging (or rewarding) about experiencing larger acclaim at such an early age?
Amy: There are several challenges that come with having success early on in your career. A major factor is that when you are young, you are naive, easily influenced and you think that everyone older has been in the industry for years and therefore must know better than you. You end up questioning yourself way more than you should.
Another interesting thing is that you are growing, evolving, and learning right in front of everyone to observe. Touring in a band is a strange and pretty abnormal lifestyle. There are a lot of things that my younger sisters missed out on — school, parties, graduations. but being able to tour the world playing music is pretty amazing. I think we have seen and done enough for anyone to be happy with over a whole lifetime.
Are the four of you close? What was the catalyst for coming together musically?
We have definitely always been very close, stuck together and shared a lot of interests other than music. We are actually quite dependent on one another, which is both positive and negative. But I think the reason being is both our upbringing and growing up out in the country. We were often entertaining ourselves by putting on shows, rolling down hills and throwing cow shit at each other. It was very natural to start the band. We didn’t ever actually say let’s start a band. It just happened.
What drew you to create this music specifically?
The music we grew up listening to definitely plays a big part in the music that we create. It’s what comes out naturally for us and what we love playing live. Our new album is definitely the heaviest and most raw record we have made and it’s been so much fun to play live.
What was your process in terms of creating your new album? How did Bent come to be and was this process different from your previous albums?
Our process is to generally to just get in our shed and jam. When we are home we like to try and stick to a schedule and give ourselves a bit of structure. We take quite a while to write new music and we often go through a lot of material before sticking with something. We then pick a studio and producer we want to work with and go for it.
The difference with Bent is that we had no time home to write so we did a lot of it while on the road which was completely new for us. We have avoided it in the past because touring can be tiring enough as it is without the added challenge of finding rehearsal rooms and backline in whatever random town you happen to be in. Being in a new place every day (including a polar vortex) definitely contributed to the overall mood shift from our last record to this one. The recording process was very quick and easy when we got home at the Flightless studio. We smashed it out in about 5 days [with Joe Walker and Stu Mackenzie from King Gizzard at their studio in Melbourne], did very minimal overdubs and only a few takes per song. We stuck to the instruments we play live and didn’t mess around with sounds too much. I think it captured our live raw energy better than we have in the past.
Is there an over-arching messages in your lyrics? Songs like Shutdown and Woman have a very clear message about equal treatment (or lack thereof) but I am curious about the album as a whole and what else it represents for you as feminism is never just skin-deep.
During the writing process we suddenly realised there was a theme without us creating one intentionally. We have never before been the type of band to preach our opinions upon people and would rather let our music speak for itself and these songs are certainly the first time that we have felt that extra emotional connection because all of the topics we touch on have been such a big part of our life and experiences as a band. I guess it was just the right time to put that anger and sadness [of being a woman on the road] into our music. We were finally at a point of being able to look back, reflect and finally feel strong and confident about who we are, what we want and making that clear to everyone around us. The album and the messages within it are absolutely for everyone.
What are your most excited for about this upcoming tour? Are you nervous, ready, anxious, already exhausted?
We are definitely excited to play at Levitation again with some great bands, but also excited to see new fans come to our show after the Gizzard tour. It’s always exciting to see the community building around your band. This is quite a short run for us since we are used to doing much bigger stints. It’s a great way to finish our touring off for the year before spending most of the Aussie Summer at home doing a few one-off shows and writing. The ultimate dream is to be able to live comfortably from playing music and not have to do casual jobs on the side. We would love to be headlining bigger rooms, playing more festivals and visiting countries that we have yet to get to. And we would really love to see more young women both playing and going to rock shows and for this type of music to have a big revival.
What are your lives really like? What do you want to the world to know about you?
We tour a lot, work weird casual jobs in between, and do as writing as much as we can. We definitely go through ups and downs as most artists do and have moments where we question if it’s all worth it. Then find yourself on the biggest high after a great show or writing a good piece of music. I guess people should just know that we are good people, we love what we do, we work fucking hard, and it means a lot to have peoples support. It’s a weird but wonderful life.
Listen to Stonefield’s Bent here.