girls listening to girls: stonefield
I’m listening to the rock tones in Stonefield’s 2016 LP, As Above, So Below, wondering where they were when I was a teen. Not where the four Findlay sisters from rural Victoria (whose music career started when the oldest was fifteen and the youngest was only seven) were – but where was a group of awesome women making it in rock music, the ultimate boys’ club? I needed you. I was a young girl whose love for prog rock and blues had just started to bloom. Artists like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and Cream were invoking respect and admiration in me. There didn’t seem to be any female contenders out there.
Women in rock is not a new thing. There are countless incredible female guitarists, bassists and drummers who rival the male greats. While approval from a bunch of middle-aged dudes isn’t the ultimate goal, it still must feel pretty damn nice when someone like Jeff Beck invites you specifically to play in his band instead of some other old guy (which was the case with another young female Aussie rocker, Tal Wilkenfeld). Even earlier, there was Joan Jett and Suzi Quatro. Joan loved rock n’ roll and that was cool. Suzi was the wild one and we’ve got to respect that.
Joan and Suzi were outspoken women with big, growling voices, in tight leather showing everyone they could do whatever they wanted. Nevertheless, their music was more about attitude and less about the actual mastery of a great seventies rock song. I didn’t like that they were always backed by male musicians and their sound leaned more into what would eventually become punk. To me, they always felt like a novelty. As a young girl, I didn’t want a woman loudly telling me she could do it, I wanted to see a group of women just do it. I yearned for the coherence and teamwork that comes with a well put-together rock group. I hungered for a woman’s touch to a harsh, loud, bluesy sound.
All this is racing through my mind as I listen to Stonefield, desperately trying to think of all the young girls I could link this music to. I want to show everyone and excitedly say “Listen to that sound! That’s not Black Sabbath, that’s four young girls from Australia!”
For the uninitiated – the band consists of four sisters: Amy Findlay, providing lead vocals and drums, Hannah Findlay on guitar and backing vocals, Sarah Findlay on keyboard and backing vocals and Holly Findlay on the bass and backing vocals. Making the festival rounds for several years now, consistently touring Australia and the US with two LPs released, Stonefield have a pretty solid fan base. Stonefield are exciting for so many reasons: I’m a sucker for siblings in bands together, they’re local artists and, more importantly, they are genuinely very good. Their two LPs, As Above, So Below (2016) and Stonefield (2013), do an incredible job of walking the line between catering to that nostalgic sound we’ve been craving recently and bringing their own distinctly feminine edge.
Thinking back to the girl I was, one who knew what she wanted but never really found it, I believe their albums should be mandatory listening. There are different kinds of girls: girls who are passionate but need a little push and girls like the Findlay sisters – girls who don’t wait for anyone. Girls who look at icons like Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa and think ‘we could do that.’ We need both types in the world. We need to support each other and keep making art to inspire each other. I wish I could go back and show fourteen year-old me Amy Findlay belting out a cover of Whole Lotta Love (my favourite song at the time). I want younger me to listen to songs like Eyes and Midnight, from As Above, So Below, so I know that young girls can play hard and psychedelic rock. I want to show myself Diggin’ My Way Out, from their first album to hear honest lyrics which aren’t afraid of their own genre. I want to show myself that you’re allowed to have the interest and passions that you do and still be a heart-pumping, shawl-wearing female.
I don’t want to make Stonefield out to be some prolific band that’s completely figured out this whole rock thing. They’re young, they’re new, they have flaws. Their stage presence still seems a little stilted and I can’t wait to see them strip back all the effects and just show off their raw talent with an almost acoustic sound. But that comes later. With every interview you watch, you get the sense that these girls are not taking it for granted – they are working hard and have done their research on the genre they’re playing with. They know the rules, now we get to see them broken.
With more writing and recording these four sisters will mesh old influences with entirely new grooves and create their own unique sound. Like a seventies lava lamp, injecting masculine water with psychedelic, female wax. I, and hopefully tons of other girls, will be there to support them. Ladies (and gents), go rock out to Stonefield.