Things of Stone and Wood

Things of Stone and Wood

Before the Australian folk revolution of the mid noughties that led to the unearthing of talents like John Butler, The Waifs and Angus and Julia Stone, there was a band making indie folk acoustic music cool. Now in 2014, the band is celebrating 25 years together. It seems like a bit of shock to Greg Arnold, lead singer and guitarist for the group, to be celebrating the milestone, however it is still cause for celebration. Speaking from his new home in Geneva, Switzerland, Arnold is excited to get back to Australia to play this upcoming run of shows.
“I am currently experiencing a very long summer which is nice. We are here for my wife’s work and the whole family has moved over here,” Arnold says. Although it is a bit of a lifestyle change, Arnold is playing music and writing songs with friends and for the Red Cross, which his partner Helen works for.
Celebrating 25 years of anything is a big milestone and the last twelve months for TOSAW have been one of the best times in the band, as Arnold says, “We all knew for sometime that I would be moving over to Switzerland. So at the end of the last run of shows there was a bit of an emotional weight attached to the whole thing. 25 years wow! I’m so blessed to be a part of it. They are an incredible band of musicians and it’s great to have the original line up back out on the road again.”
Like many bands before them, Things of Stone and Wood were born out of other musical projects. At that point, Arnold was heavily considering throwing in the towel on his music career and focussing on his academic work, but as soon as that happened, the creative juices started flowing again and a whole stack of new tunes were born.
“Michael and I were playing in another band and after that all finished up, we started having a few jam sessions with a few beers and singing songs. We decided then and there to form Things of Stone and Wood. At that point we were gearing up to play for Helen’s 21st birthday. Hearing the sound that we produced as a band, everything that I had been working towards, just clicked in that moment,” Arnold says.
Although the idea of being together as a band for 25 years never really dawned on anyone, Arnold knew that there was some special chemistry there and it was a worth pursuing. Going into the recording of the first album James Black, from Rockwiz band fame, was enlisted as the producer for The Yearning and Arnold feels there couldn’t have been a better person behind the scenes.
“Working with James was great,” he says. “He really was an unofficial member of the band. He was the producer, manager and he really looked out for us. If you want any testament to how good he was for the band back in those days, listen to how much praise he gets to this day in 2014. That’s not a common experience for bands speaking about their managers.” A passionate lover for the dynamic of the band, it was a right time, right place scenario for Black to step into the frame.
In a time of Nirvana and grunge and alternative music ruling the airwaves, it seems like it would be a gamble to give being an acoustic rock band a go. That said, Arnold doesn’t feel that it played any part on the band’s impact in the music scene. “Grunge was looking back at ’70s rock when it was a little heavier and REM had a big hit with ‘Losing My Religion’, it was an interesting time to be a band. We had lots of gigs going for us in Melbourne at the time and we had a residency at the Pat Prince Hotel and lots of people were coming to our gigs,” he says.
It was around that time, Arnold penned the band’s classic and most commercially successful song ‘Happy Birthday Helen’. Talking about the origins of the song, Arnold feels that it has its own travelling lifestyle to it. “That was the second single for us and I think it’s a bit of a burden when you have your biggest hit so early on in your career. What an experience though! Once we started playing it, you could see how happy the song made people. We didn’t realise about how big it was going to be and I don’t feel any resentment about writing it nowadays,” Arnold says.
During one of the most successful periods of the band, Things of Stone and Wood were playing a lot of support slots for major touring acts. Three of the best memories that Arnold has of the time were playing with Paul Kelly, Midnight Oil and Luka Bloom: “Paul Kelly was a massive influence on that first record and to tour around with him and The Oils was a pinch yourself moment. The Oils are one of the fiery and most energetic acts I’ve ever seen. We’d do our support slots and pack up our amps so we could get to the front and rock out to their set. We got to play all around Australia with them and a gig in London. Playing gigs with your heroes is a great moment and something that you definitely cherish forever.”
Like many songwriters before him, Arnold was heavily influenced by The Beatles and, talking about their influence, I am quick to find out that Arnold prefers McCartney just a little more. “’Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Let It Be’, Paul McCartney is pretty good at writing a tune or two. That’s for sure. As you get older and older, I think that Revolver is just one of those albums that gets better and better.”
Returning to Australia for a run of shows in December, Things Of Stone and Wood are headed down the coast, which excites Arnold immensely. “‘Happy Birthday Helen’ is all about travelling down that coastline and we can’t wait to get down there. We might consider doing another album after this tour, but we’ll tackle that hurdle when we come to it. For the meantime, come out and celebrate with us Forte readers, there might even be cake!”
When&Where: Aireys Pub, Aireys Inlet – December 6, Ararat Performing Arts Centre, Ararat – December 11 & Northcote Social Club, Melbourne – December 12
By Tex Miller