Stonefield on the power of music in connecting people and why sexism should not be a thing in this day and age Stonefield are an Australian band made up of four sisters from Darraweit Gum, a town of 200 people in rural Victoria. A little while back we caught up with Stonefield and talked about what it’s like being in a band with your sisters, Stonefield’s involvement with Aardvark (an organisation that uses music to improve the lives of young people living with illness or disability), and sexism in the Australian music industry.
Aware: Where did the name Stonefield come from?
Amy: It’s pretty cheesy – pretty much because we live in a field of stones. We’re from a really small town in the Macedon ranges in Victoria and when Mum and Dad bought the property we live on there was nothing there, but it was covered in rock and then dad built the house out of all the rock in the paddock. And yeah, because we’re sisters and home is where the band is from it felt appropriate.
Aware: As sisters you all grew up together, did that make your music tastes really similar or did they vary? And if so does that end up in you bringing in different aspects to your writing and recording?
Amy: We all have very similar music tastes and very similar everything really.
Sarah: There’s not really any bands that one of us likes that the other one is like ‘ugh,’ we all just like the same things basically, which is kind of weird.
Amy: When we were younger these two (Sarah and Holly) went through a stage of liking quite heavy, emo-punky music which Hannah and I never really got into. But we generally listen to all the same bands and like the same thing.
Aware: Do you ever find the large age gap between all of you to be a complication when you’re working together or do you find that it’s not really an issue because you’re all sisters?
Sarah: It’s good because Holly brings in the youth to the band and then Amy, being the old fart over here, is more knowledgeable and exposed to different bands. But they do tend to clash a bit because of the age difference.
Amy: The age gap between Holly and I is 8 years and I get frustrated because her as a teenager is very different to the three of us as teenagers, and Holly’s grown up very different to us – she’s grown up in a touring band doing distance education. Being a teenager has changed since I was a teenager and it’s easy to overlook how much of an impact social media and all those kind of influences have on the way that teenagers think and act. Holly acts a lot more mature than other people her age because of the lifestyle we’ve had so then when she acts like a brat I forget that.
Holly: I think it’s also because we have such strong personalities and if she likes something I don’t then we’ll fight about it.
Aware: The Youth Health Conference you played at focuses on a range of different issues – mental health, gender, sexuality, vulnerable youth and a range of other things. Is there a particular side of youth health that you find to stick out to you more as a band, and does that tie your into upbringing and experiences with that issue or is it from seeing it unfold around you?
Amy: I think mental health is definitely the biggest issue. We do tend to see a lot of that sort of thing and we’re involved in a few different things including a group called Aardvark who work with children living through chronic illnesses. That ranges from anything from cancer to mental health issues and even through doing workshops with those guys, it seems like even if they have a physical health problem, so much of it is the mental side of it which they end up talking about and the whole purpose of the project is getting them talking about that and making themselves feel a bit better by doing so. I think that people tend to open up to us a bit because they can hear things in our songs. A girl that went to school with Holly has since been really opening up to us and I think that’s because she feels like she can really connect to us through our songs.
Aware: Do you think that Australian society is on the right path with addressing chronic illness, and issues that the Aardvark program targets?
Sarah: I think it’s getting so much better
Hannah: There’s a lot more acknowledgement of mental health
Amy: I think a lot of it is actually because of social media helping to spread the word – you see so much stuff about mental health on Facebook.
Sarah: I feel like it’s both though, I think social media is creating these issues but it’s also helping increase awareness of it as well.
Amy: It’s definitely a contributing factor to mental health but it’s also a very strong tool to reach out to young people and make them aware of it.
Aware: Do you see music as a platform which has more influence over other forms to actually talk about issues and get people to open up to you?
Amy: I think so, and also the fact that we are young and are the youth of today as well makes it easier to connect with young people.
Hannah: I also think that music is such a strong powerful thing that can make you feel so much and if people listen to our music or if they’ve got that connection with the music that helps us have a connection with them.
Aware: Last year in an interview with the 100% ROCK MAGAZINE you said that last year before a show in Newcastle you were doing a soundcheck, and a few guys in the pub made inappropriate sexual comments about what you were wearing which made you uncomfortable to wear anything too revealing that night at the show. Have you had any incidents where someone has ever made an inappropriate comment that’s made you feel uncomfortable about what you’re wearing, and do you think that comments like these aren’t actually considered to be a big deal?
Amy: There’s lots of things to talk about with that, we see that all the time as four girls in a band. It is a really big problem and it’s so bad that it is still a problem in this day and age. You’d think that it would be a lot better by 2015.
Hannah: It’s annoying that you feel uncomfortable to wear some sorts of things just because people can’t keep their comments and dirty thoughts to themselves.
Holly: It used to make us feel a lot more uncomfortable and it still does but we’ve kind of learned to ignore that stuff.
Sarah: We used to make a conscious effort to wear jeans and shirts because we didn’t feel comfortable wearing shorts on stage.
Hannah: And we so badly just wanted it to be about the music and not a novelty about us being girls in a band.
Amy: But then it gets to a point where even though you’re still thinking about that you don’t want to be having to think about that all the time – you should be able to wear whatever you want and not think about ‘are these shorts too short?” We were actually just talking about Mess N Noise, which is an online music magazine. They’re very well known for people getting on there and sharing their opinion, and a lot of the time it’s negative because everyone that uses it kind of thinks that they’re very knowledgeable about things – it’s just one of those websites. We played at One Movement Festival in Perth which was when we were asked to play at Glastonbury, and that was, I guess, our buzz period and being four young sisters there was a lot of conversation about ‘are they getting all this attention just because they’re girls.’ I did an interview with someone from Mess N Noise and it was just a normal interview. They posted that online and then all these people commenting started saying ‘it’s just because they’re girls.’ In response to all these comments the person that wrote the article wrote an open letter to Stonefield, our band, and posted it online and it was all a bit confusing really because he was saying that he likes and supports the band but ‘sorry to say it girls but all these people that were in the front row watching you at One Movement were just there because of your looks.’ So it was this huge ridiculous article which was just contradicting itself and it’s ridiculous that it’s even a thing. And you play a gig and while you’re in the middle of a song someone’s yelling out ‘get your tits out’ or something like that. It’s just disrespectful, inappropriate and such a shame.
Hannah: And it’s not like when girls see a guy play, we don’t say ‘get your dick out.’ (Everyone laughs) You just don’t do that. Why do some guys think that it’s fine to say that to girls?
Aware: Do you think that it’s normalised in Australian society, and in our generation too?
Amy: Some people are more aware that it’s not good, but sometimes when you go to little country towns and it’s like that’s normal for guys to say things to girls like that.
Sarah: It’s like guys have never seen girls before, the way they act.
Hannah: And that goes back to us not wearing certain clothes because we thought that’s just normal, guys aren’t going to think that this is an issue here and it’s sort of like, why has that turned around on us to have to do something about that?
Aware: What would you say that Australian society needs to know about this issue and should realise about attitudes to women, and in particular to women in the music industry?
Amy: I think that people need to understand that it is a big problem, I think it’s brushed off and I think that guys don’t understand how hard it is for girls in this industry and I’m sure every industry. Obviously this is the only industry that we know, and we know that there is a huge problem with sexism and even just not being taken seriously. I think you don’t realise what it’s like to be a girl unless you are one in the industry, and I don’t think that guys realise how big of a problem it is. Even if they’re an understanding person and aren’t sexist at all.
Hannah: As an example, this hotel was recommended to us from Amy’s boyfriend who also plays in a band in Sydney and we’re like awesome, they seem to be really friendly to musicians and they’ll do us a good deal. We get there and it’s fine, the rooms are clean and good. But then we were walking up to the room with our sound guy and another guy who was walking down was like, ‘four chicks and one guy, sick.’ Just comments like that which don’t make you feel safe being in an environment like that because of the way guys act. But that never crossed Michael’s (Amy’s boyfriend) mind because they don’t see that. People are definitely becoming more aware and it’s becoming more of a conversation that people are talking about which is the first step to making change.
Aware: As a band that started off a while ago in the back shed of your house in a town of 200 people, did you ever feel that your age was an obstacle to what you could achieve?
Amy: We didn’t see it as so much of a roadblock but it was an obstacle. It meant that we would work a lot harder than other bands might and we were ready to prove ourselves. It still makes us work really hard to be respected but it shouldn’t be that way and it’s sort of a double whammy for us – when we first started Holly was 7 so we’ve got the whole young thing going on.
Hannah: I think the hard thing is making it not a novelty and making it about the music.