FINDING CREATIVE FREEDOM WITH DOPE LEMON
We had the good fortune of running into renowned Australian musician Angus Stone of Dope Lemon two years ago, at our stall at Byron Bay Surf Festival. Striking up a conversation ended in us giving him the first ever prototype of a dual motor Vallkree to take for a coupla’ spins on his sprawling, hilly ranch. No better testing ground for 1000 watts of power, we thought.
Fast forward two years and not only have we launched the limited edition Dope Lemon X Vallkree dual motor ebike, which features in his music video for Howl With Me; Stone has just released a third album, Rose Pink Cadillac. Its namesake record is already a national favourite, coming in at #27 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2021.
This comes to us as no surprise, really. An album devoted to exploring that high school sweetheart kinda love, Stone’s magical tunes are the perfect dreamy soundscape to accompany a cruise on one of our freedom machines.
In January, after the filming of Howl With Me, we jumped on the chance to sit down for a quick chinwag with Stone, reflecting on the spaces and places he has been in that have had an impact on the making of his latest records and given him the feeling of creative freedom.
What does freedom mean to you?
AS: There are so many different levels of freedom for me personally.
On a creative level, what comes to mind is freedom with time in being able to have the space to create and not have to be on anyone’s watch or clock.
Since I was young I got thrown into these big studios where the creative flow could be really hindered by the fact that instead of watching time flow, it was more about watching money tick around the clock.
Being in the studio was certainly the catalyst, where everything starts and grows after you’ve written all your stuff down. But, a dream of mine became having my own space and my own property, creating within that little world that is the studio, having the equipment and not having to think about anything else but what it is you’re trying to say with music. It’s such a weight off my shoulders.
With this new record, it was cool because I had a little cottage down in the paddock, which is where I made the past records. For this record that’s just been released, I had this big old barn on the ranch. I got in there with some lads and we put these beautiful mahogany herringbone floors and Riverstone rock walls with a big open copper fireplace, a sunken fire pit where we all sat around. The studio sits next to it and it was really magic to have the maiden voyage for this new record in that space.
My idea of freedom is to be able to have those spaces to let the magic flow out.
Are you saying that the space is the magic behind the music that comes out of it?
AS: You could jump in a van and have a little inverter that has an interface and a microphone and you could still make magic and write an album. It depends where your head’s at. The grand jury of how you see your space being.
Is freedom something you have to work towards, to be able to have that creative freedom of having this magical space that you’ve dreamt of? Or is it something that comes naturally?
AS: For me, I’ve had to earn these luxuries that surround what it is that we’ve created at this level. I think that also goes into touring. There’s a certain freedom now. We used to travel around and it was quite difficult because you’d have to share a really small car in Europe and drive long distances and share the drive. Everyone was just so exhausted all the time getting to different shows then going on stage then having to play. It was a lot of hard work. Now we have the tour bus and beds and bar so it’s definitely more luxurious.
We like the sound of both. The shitty old car and the luxe bus!
AS: That’s the thing! It all comes down to where you are. There’s so many beautiful things within both worlds and sometimes you sacrifice almost an intimacy when you get to this stage of doing things.
But to be honest, I don’t want to slump around in a small car and be exhausted all the time so I’m happy to be where I am now and not be in old motels. When it comes to doing it for so long, those things are fun at the beginning and they get pretty old.
That’s not to say, it all comes down to where you are. That might be your thing. People might love that style of existing and being more humble and grounding. I guess when you talk about freedoms, it’s so open ended.
Stripping back everything that you’ve got and thinking about freedom in your daily life on the ranch, in this space where you’ve spent the better part of two years, what have you done day to day to feel free? Has it been a challenge or something you’ve embraced and loved?
AS: It’s interesting. When I walk in the studio, I usually throw away the keys and the outside world becomes… you’re working huge days and you’re waking up super late and going back into a huge night till the morning.. and you do that for six months and you come out and go “where am I? What’s going on?”
I did three of them back to back. I made three albums and in between I had very little time and I was happy to do that. The world of being in the studio for me is where I shine.
I knew what was going on in the world and outside, but to be honest it didn’t really change what I set aside my time to do. I know so many people went through so much hardship and the world was just anarchy, especially at the beginning it looked so terrible. I don’t want to say ‘it was fine’ but I think being in the studio I do almost have to throw away the key, I want to try to keep it quiet and closed to very few people so I can dive into these worlds of making records. The fewer distractions you have, the better the album’s going to be. I guess that’s where I was the last couple of years.
There’s the cliche that creatives and artists find freedom in self expression. Would you say that’s true? You lock yourself in your studio and you find your freedom there?
AS: It’s like that Oscar Wilde quote: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Sometimes your environment has everything to do with the way you create, then sometimes it’s got nothing to do with it. You could be in a dark dungeon and still create a Disney love song. It comes down to your internal ability to see light and love. I think your escape is only within the walls and how far you can allow your heart to reach out, to discover your imagination.
You wanted this album to be your ‘love record’ so, let’s talk about love and freedom. On one side, you sing of a romantic, intoxicating love: “We’re high rolling to another world” - High Rollin.
On the flip side, you sing of this prison: “Every time she talks, she breaks my heart. My heart, it aches for you, girl… I’m a fool for her again” - Lovesick Brain. How do you associate the two concepts?
AS: It changes with every song or every story I’m telling. Love is a complex, ever-turning wheel. There isn’t a finite reality, there’s no dummy manual.
I feel that what I was trying to encapsulate in this record is that twilight honeymoon phase of love, where everything you do together is better. That high school sweetheart, falling into each other’s universes and just going where your heart wants to go with this person.
This is from me and my personal experiences, as well as from stories that people are telling me of what they are going through. It might even be what I see on the street, a moment between two people. That will plant a seed in my head and I will build off that.
What would you say to someone searching for their own version of freedom?
AS: Get that Dope Lemon x Vallkree bike and ride off into the sunset!
I was talking to a friend and his dad said to him, you can either be eating fish and chips and surfing everyday or you can get a mortgage and chase ‘the dragon’ for your kids to be able to have a better future. It depends what you are seeing as you’re going out, what you’re passing on to your kids.
And that could just be a message. You don’t have to pass on anything. You can live this life the way you want to live it.
Could it be that simple?
AS: I think so. Not thinking too much and waking up and being “I want to do this today” and just doing that. But obviously, life isn’t always that simple. Things come up and they can definitely take away what seems so simple at the time. And within that, finding the moments that you get and having time to yourself and exploring, being adventurous when you can.
At the end I think it comes down to showing love and being able to receive love, and see it within yourself. Do that to the best of your ability and the world will be a better place.