Interview – Unveiling Musical Journeys: A Conversation with Julia Sound

armonizing Life: An Exclusive Interview with Julia Stone, Founder of The Sound Garden Retreat

by the partae

What inspired you to pursue a career in music production and composition, and how did Julia Sound come to fruition?

I became obsessed with music as a young kid, and learned the piano, and later also orchestral percussion. I segued into recording and mixing in my 20s, which naturally led to writing and producing . I spent years producing for other artists, and then when the pandemic hit, it seemed a good time to focus on my own art – Julia Sound is like the cumulative result of all of that.

Could you elaborate on why you chose to create “Julia Sound” as a project, and what sets it apart from your other musical endeavors?
I’d always loved electronic bands like Massive Attack, Chase & Status & Leftfield, who have the core band members but feature different vocalists on many songs, and I wanted to emulate that model. I had a ton of beats, snippets of tracks and ideas, and wanted to complete the songs, so I decided to reach out to different singers and rappers to see if they wanted to be a part of this collective. The project snowballed and now I have three full albums of material.

What led you to decide on making “Julia Sound” an instrumental album rather than incorporating vocals?
I love working with singers and rappers, in fact, I think that’s one of my strengths as a producer. However, for this album I wanted to get a little more experimental and also give myself the challenge of a fast turnaround on the tracks, and as such didn’t want to be thinking about lyrical themes. The result is an instrumental album, and the pieces are more of an improvised study in synths and beats than my other work. 

As a female musician, how do you perceive the role of women in the music industry, and how does that influence your work with Julia Sound?
I’ve been in the industry a long time, and for many years I was pretty much the only woman on the engineering and production side, in whichever studio and whichever city I was in. I’m really encouraged to see this has been changing over the last decade or so, with many more women entering the field from the technical side. I think it’s important all ‘voices’ and ideas are heard, and for so long, our industry has been the domain of men. I decided to make Julia Sound a 100% female (and non-binary) project to make space for this different sound and approach.

Can you share some of the key musical influences that have shaped the sound of Julia Sound, particularly those from 90’s and 00’s British electronica?
I think the 90’s and going into the 00’s was an incredible time for electronic music, and the scene in the UK was absolutely bursting with the creativity of brilliant electronic bands – Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Portishead, Massive Attack, Faithless to name a few. All these bands had tracks, albums and live shows that really resonated with me. Even if I listen to these albums less these days, they made an indelible impression on my musical tastes, so I think Julia Sound naturally leans into these influences.

How do you approach blending old synths with new plugins in your production process, and what do each contribute to the overall texture of the album?
I have a couple of old Roland synths (Juno 60 and JX3P) that I’d just got fixed, so they form the basis of some of these tracks. I also have a Korg Minilogue which is the key tone on ‘Quatre-Vingt-Quinze’. I tried not to get too prescriptive about what I used on each track, but I did find that blending a bunch of newer Native Instruments plugs, as well as Re-FX Vanguard with the analogue synths got me the results I was aiming for. 

In what ways does “Julia Sound” reflect your growth and evolution as a composer and producer since your earlier releases?
I think the project has given me the confidence to see myself as an artist and composer, whereas until then, I was more a producer for other people. It’s also given me the flexibility to put myself out there as a creator of music for visual media as well.

What inspired you to incorporate trip-hop elements into Julia Sound’s music, and how do you feel it enhances the listening experience?
As mentioned above, I think the trip-hop elements from some of my earlier musical influences naturally come out when I’m creating downtempo tracks. I also love listening to hip hop, so there’s crossover there from a beats perspective too.

Could you discuss the decision to introduce harder beats into “Julia Sound,” and how it adds to the overall aesthetic of the album?
I had leaned into some cool Native Instruments beats plug ins, with the Butch Vig drums forming the basis on a couple of the tracks. I wouldn’t have leaned into these tones on the first two albums, but they just seemed to fit this time round, probably because I was not focused on supporting any vocals and felt I had more freedom to increase the edge drum-wise as a result.

What significance do mellow synth pads, sound design, and smooth arpeggiators hold in creating the atmospheric moods of Julia Sound’s music?
I also listen to ambient music, and all these elements form the basis of that genre, so naturally become part of the melting pot of tones that I draw from.

What challenges did you encounter during the production of “Julia Sound,” and how did you navigate through them?
A goal I set for myself was to turn this album around super quickly, which in itself I guess could be considered challenging, because, as any music creator knows, the temptation is there to endlessly noodle and tweak. If I found myself going down a rabbit hole, I quickly stopped the track and moved onto a new one.

Looking ahead, what are your upcoming goals and aspirations for Julia Sound, and how do you envision the project evolving in the future?
One reason for setting myself the challenge of working fast was that I’d love to get into more composition for film and TV, and I know that turnaround times can be tight in that field. I think this project proved to myself I can create compelling music that would work well for visual media, so that’s something I’m going to explore. Also, now that I have a large body of Julia Sound tracks to draw from, I’m planning live shows. There’s a big appetite for live music of all kinds where I live (on the West Coast of BC) so I’m looking forward to taking some of these pieces to live audiences.

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