THINGS OF STONE AND WOOD Paying it (full) forward

Since forming 30 years ago, Things of Stone and Wood have managed to have two top 10 albums, a top four radio hit with Wildflowers, tour Australia and the world, and win ARIA and APRA songwriting awards. At the forefront of the folk and roots scene, their innovative usage of acoustic instruments helped pave the way for the next wave of artists such as John Butler, The Waifs and Angus & Julia Stone. Now they are back with a tour celebrating three decades together and they’re set to play all of their hits, plus new material from their forthcoming album, The Final Forest. It’s their first release in over a decade with shows on Sunday, March 15 at Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle and Monday, March 16 at Bar 1, Hillarys. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to lead singer and songwriter Greg Arnold about their legacy in Australia’s folk scene, revisiting the classics, and his surprising new career path playing AFL in Switzerland.

It’s great to have you back in the West for your 30th anniversary tour, what has been your main memory touring WA over the years?

Flying across the state in a light plane at night to make it to a show in Margaret River, playing to our biggest ever crowd at the Mandurah foreshore, so many great shows in WA, but I cannot forget our first trip in 1992 when I saw people singing our lyrics back at us after hearing the song on the radio. I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that people could sing along without having seen the band live. 96fm was the first radio station to “add” us to a playlist with Share this Wine and for me, back then, that was mind blowing.

I guess you’re likely to be revisiting some songs you haven’t played in a while, are there any where you feel, “what was I thinking when I wrote this?”

I do encounter a few of them yes, but fortunately have removed any that make me a bit squeamish from the set. I remember at our 20th reunion just trying to sing one lyric and thinking “I am just not that person anymore” – it wasn’t a shocker… it was just so… young.

And are there any that strangely still feel relevant to you all these years later?

I always hoped Wildflowers would seem like a crazy loony left rant by now. Sadly, it’s more relevant than ever. I would infinitely prefer to have an irrelevant song.

Your music feels quite different from what a lot of other Australian bands were doing at the time. What were you listening to back then that you feel inspired your sound?

Mikey and I had been in an 80s synth goth-pop band and I was just so sick of all of the technology so I started playing and listening to lots of 70s (Van Morrison, Cat Stevens) and acoustic folky bands (Waterboys, World Party, Suzanne Vega) but the direct and honest sound of the Hunters and Paul Kelly were on pretty heavy rotation at the time too.

I hear you have new music on the way and we might get a taste of that on these upcoming shows too. How do you feel the band and the music has changed since the last time you recorded?

In some ways it feels like we’re back recording in the early 90s because James Black is producing and he always has a super strong “band” focus. Also, he has such a great discipline around every single performance and every lyric, it’s great, and after 20 years of producing myself it’s fun to be a petulant singer-songwriter again. I get to throw hissy fits and sulk in my trailer… I’ve still got it.

A bit of side note here, but is it true you play full forward for an AFL team in Switzerland? What’s the AFL league like over there and how are the team’s prospects looking for 2020?

Yes, it is true and a huge shout out to local West Australian star, Geneva and Swiss national coach Tommy Ross who made the inspired decision to take a punt on the world’s slowest, oldest and shortest full forward. It’s all about the surprise factor. Prospects are good, the mighty Geneva Jets are looking primed for another great season.

So what’s next for yourself and the band? Any more new music or shows we can look forward to in 2020 and beyond?

I’m really excited about the first Things of Stone and Wood album in 17 years! The Final Forest out in October. I’m really proud of the songs and frankly, I love being a part of this incredible band. For me personally, I’m writing a novel about the Whitlam years (government not band) and doing an accompanying soundtrack album which is heaps of fun and just quietly, (well not that quietly I guess) hoping for back to back premierships with the Jets!

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