A Journey Inside the Mind of Stonefield’s Amy Findlay

Issue One August 2019
Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Nik Gernert

Amy Findlay isn’t just Stonefield’s drummer she’s their vocalist too. Which is why, I think, that when she sings, she belts it out, a hard rock howl echoing over some rolling otherworldly expanse. (Picture it as the kind depicted on one of their records’ covers.)

The freedom to play and sing this way hasn’t always been something Amy and her sisters held within their grasp. Stonefield’s career in music started in a head-spinning daze of hype, major labels, and high rolling record producers. While this pushed the band’s music to a large audience, Amy has her reservations whether the group really had the opportunity to grow and evolve as organically as they otherwise might have.

Fortunately, things have changed. Currently vibrating closer to the Do-It-Yourself attitude of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and their label Flightless, Stonefield are free to create as they please, to pursue the eerie and mysterious dimensions of their sound. Their fourth record Bent reflects this. The Stonefield you hear on this album is no longer the group once vamped as The Next Big Thing (and good riddance to the whole idea). These musicians aren’t out to please anybody who doesn’t want to be here and in doing so are a step closer to the elemental energies of four people playing together in a band. Wasn’t that what this whole rock ‘n’ roll business was supposed to be about in the first place?

As for the band, more than a few things are coming together. It’s a good feeling. As Amy herself would put it, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Recorded during the band’s 2019 European tour, here are several of her thoughts.   

HM: Your new record Bent is being released via King Gizzard’s record label Flightless. How did that come about? 

AF: We met the Gizzard guys about seven years ago now. They played a show with us when we were doing… Hmm, what tour was it? It might have been the ‘Black Water Rising’ tour. Frickin’ years ago! It was a long time ago. We became friends with them all.

We, at the time, were signed to a different label, Wunderkind which was supposed to be through Warner [Records] but then changed over to Mushroom [Records]. So I guess we came from a very different world to those guys in terms of the industry side of it. They were always very D.I.Y. which was something that we admired a lot, seeing them be able to do just whatever they wanted without having to convince anyone or have anyone else on their side.

And it just kind of happened over time. We evolved and we wanted to eventually change the people we were working with, change our musical direction a little bit and do things the way we wanted to do it. We actually released our last record [Far From Earth] through [Flightless] but we had finished recording the whole thing and did it all ourselves without – well we were actually still signed to [Wunderkind] but it kind of just worked out that we really weren’t on the same page. And then Flightless were like, “Yeah, cool! Let’s put it out!” So it all worked out really well for us.

HM: You also recorded Bent at Flightless and King Gizzard headquarters…

AF: Yeah, it’s in Brunswick East. We did it when we got back from our January tour in the states. We did it fairly quickly. Those guys have always got a lot of stuff going on, so we did it with Stu [McKenzie] and Joe [Walker]. They squeezed us in between the million other things they’ve got happening. We just sort of prepared ourselves as much as we could to just kind of go in there and record it as live as possible.

It took us about five days in total. Most of it was at night. But yeah, it was good. It was a really different experience to anything that we’ve done before. It was so quick and easy. We just went in there and did it! [Stu and Joe] didn’t really have too much to say other than, “Yeah, sounds sick! Keep going.

HM: Looking at Stonefield’s four albums your sound seems to have been this interesting evolution towards a rawer and more live sound. Is that something you’ve consciously been trying to build toward?

AF: Definitely. Our sound has evolved so much. Thinking back to our first album [Stonefield] we feel like we were just so young and naïve. It’s kind of been interesting because I feel that, in a way, we’ve sort of worked backwards.

[For] our first album we had this producer come in from the UK and did heaps of days in the studio in pre-production. It was also so proper, [a] big-label all-hands-on-deck kind of thing. And I think that experience, as much as it was great, threw us off a little bit because these were our first ever songs. We hadn’t really written any songs before that – we’d done a couple of EPs. It’s weird [having to] grow as a person and as a musician from the get-go rather than being around in a band for years-and-years playing covers then all of a sudden [going], “Sh*t I’ve got to write an album.

It’s definitely evolved. We are at our rawest point now, which is definitely good. It’s what we always did want to do. But yeah, it’s kind of [about] catching the raw energy of your live set. It used to be difficult for us, but this is the first time we’ve actually achieved that and it’s just from like, not stressing over anything and just doing it. Getting it done the way that we do it and not focusing on a guitar sound for hours.

It’s just like, “What we do live is cool. We like that sound so let’s just do that.” So yeah, it’s no stuffing around. And I think that’s the best we’ve ever done.

HM: You’ve been in a band, a rock band for 13 years. And it seems that even from the outset you had a firm idea of what you wanted to play and how you wanted to play it…

AF: Yeah.

HM: It’s a big commitment, not only being dedicated to a certain sound but also to playing with a certain group of people…

AF:  From the get-go, we’ve always been a rock band. That’s always what we’ve wanted to do and [we] wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve never thought, “Oh, I’d like to write a solo album.” (Actually, we have joked about that.)

[Laughs] No, yeah, we’ve stuck to that and not ever seriously thought about changing. Thinking back to all, you know, those years and all those songs that are [currently] hits on triple j – there’s a lot of y’know electronic music and whatever. And yeah, it’s hard being in a rock band. In all this time that [rock] has been at the absolute forefront of what’s in… I think we just missed that rock ‘n’ roll riot when Wolfmother and all those bands were big.

HM: But obviously you’ve toured all over the world and can see that there is another kind of audience for rock. It might not be the huge audience that it once was here in Australia but there are these large pockets of people who are still very much in love with it. You think that sound has finally had its day and then you see someone like King Gizzard starting to get really big in the states after they had released all those albums back in 2017…

AF: Yeah. Definitely. In Australia, it was easier when we first started off because we had that whole sort of triple j hype, which is definitely a specific kind of audience. But then I think that if you are sticking to being a rock band you are really relying on that fan base that just loves rock music. So I guess that we always feel like there is some sort of audience in Australia but we definitely got to the point where we were like, “Okay. Australia is a big country, but the population isn’t big enough to sustain a career playing this music and just staying here.

It’s not enough. So that’s why we really started to focus on going overseas because there are so many more people that love that music to play to and kind of you know, broaden our audiences. It’s been really interesting playing in the states and in Europe as well. While it’s still not a mainstream genre of music, there’s just so many more people in the rest of the world. You can go to all these different cities, drive a few hours each day and be in a whole different city with a big group of people that love that music.

So it definitely has – I don’t know I guess it’s like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You can see that, yes, you can sustain doing what you love. And there is an audience that’s big enough for it.

Watching Gizzard achieving what they’ve done, it’s definitely inspiring. I feel like they are kind of like an exception. What they’ve done is pretty amazing and every band would love to have that. But it is great to see that so many people are into the music. That’s probably going to help shift things a little bit.

HM: Circling back to this idea that you’re committed to this certain kind of music, you might even go as far as to say that you love it. I’m interested in where that comes from if you could put a finger on it. Is there something about rock that you’ve always connected with or thought, “That’s what I want to do, there’s no other way!

AF:  I think it’s just because that’s literally what we grew up on. Rock ‘n’ roll was our childhood and all of our memories ever. And I think it’s just such a fun genre to play live.

And it’s also quite broad. I feel like that within rock there’s a lot of different ways that you can push it, like doing the wholes stoner [rock] thing or dreamy, shoegazey kind of stuff. You can kind of explore it and there’s a lot of places to go.

Which is something that I feel like we’ve been doing a little bit as well. I never really feel restricted or anything like that. It’s just what comes out of us. I don’t know, I hadn’t really about it too much. That’s just what we do.

HM: Some people have called Stonefield ‘psychedelic’. Does that word hold any special meaning for you or is the music just something that happens when you get together and play instruments?

AF: I guess it’s just what happens really. But definitely with the last record, we were like, “Let’s make something a bit heavier and more eerie.

HM: You have a new album out, you’re currently touring Europe and then after that, you will be coming home to play a string of dates in Australia. How are you feeling about this whole Stonefield thing and where the band might be heading in future?

AF: Everything is feeling really positive at the moment which is really good. Being in a band you have so many ups and downs. It changes every day. You can go from feeling really crap, sitting in the van all day just thinking about things too much and [asking yourself] what you’re doing with your life to then going and playing a really amazing show and feeling this amazing energy in the room. It completely changes your mood. You’re like, “Ah! This is the best life ever and I love what I’m doing!

So it is, yeah, it’s totally up and down. But as I said, at the moment I feel like we are on a really good thing. The response over here [in Europe] has been great. We feel really good about the new album. We’re excited to play those shows in Australia. It feels like it’s been a long time so that’s going to be really nice. And then after that, we’re doing a support tour with King Gizzard in the states, which is going to be huge as well because those iconic venues that they’re playing, places like the Greek Theatre in LA. It’s going to be really good.

And after that just more touring off the back of all of that. And yeah, working on new music in between all that touring. There’s definitely lots on the cards. It’s all kind of going upward, so, yeah, it’s good. It’s cool.

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