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interview: the jezabels

The Jezabels (L-R): Sam Lockwood, Heather Shannon, Nik Kaloper and Hayley Mary.

In addition to a hectic touring schedule that has seen them supporting acts including Tegan & Sara and Josh Pyke, as well as performing in New York City in October as part of the CMJ showcase, the Jezabels have just released Dark Storm, the magnificent finale to their trilogy of EPs.

On top of that, lead single, Mace Spray, has been released to rave reviews (not to mention obscenely high rotation in my household), and lip got the chance to interview vocalist, Hayley Mary, just before their Dark Storm tour kicks off in Wollongong on November 18.

So you’ve just come back from the US – how was that?
That was pretty great. We were only in New York for a week, but we played about six shows in four days so it was quite busy and intense.

How did you find the music scene over there in comparison to Australia?

We didn’t see a lot unrelated to CMJ so it’s hard to gauge but even just venue-wise, I think the attitude’s a bit different. They’ll often feed the bands when you arrive at the venue and stuff like that, but there’s less free alcohol than in Australia. I don’t really drink that much but I suppose most bands are accustomed to getting a carton of beer or a bottle of vodka. I think they just discovered that drunk bands are not the go!

Did you have any idea when you first started writing and recording as to what you wanted to achieve with the trilogy of EPs?

We didn’t know we were doing a trilogy when we first started, that came about after the first EP when we decided we weren’t ready for an album and that it was more financially efficient to bring out a few EPs. And then we thought that conceptually, it was pretty cool to do an epic trilogy Star Wars type thing. I guess that affected the knowledge we had about the themes and our intentions once we made that decision.

Did that then inform your songwriting on subsequent recordings as well?
Yeah, I think that the first EP was a bit of us expressing ourselves randomly and it is a little bit more disjointed than the last two because we were very naïve and young. I love that EP but it didn’t come across as a coherent whole in a lot of ways. I think there’s a naivety that could be to its advantage but we’re definitely more self-aware in the second two, particularly the third. I guess we’re just becoming more and more aware of what we’re writing.

What was the first album that you bought as a kid?

Abba Gold. The second one was more Abba Gold.

Was there a song or artist that particularly inspired you to pursue music?
Abba. No, I like Kate Bush a lot. I think she’s quite an individual, she tends to just do her own thing which I think is an attitude we all have in common in the band, even though we’re not all into Kate Bush. I love the big stars like Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, they were pretty inspiring to me but it would be a different answer for every member of the band, I know that for sure.

What do you like most about being in a band?
I think everything plays its part, there’s no one thing I’d like to always do. I think touring is really great but you really enjoy writing in the down time and recording. If you can evenly distribute them, it makes for a balanced experience. They really do all have their merit. I think that performing live is when you discover how your hard work is paying off.

Have there been any moments where you’ve wanted to throw in the towel and pursue a more conventional career path?

It’s kind of all the time, and never. When you’re away from the people you love and you’re tired and you’re homesick, you think, maybe I should just go back to uni but you never really think that. The grass is always greener, and we all have a lot of other interests that we would have been happy to pursue if this hadn’t come along, but I’m sure we’d be sitting there thinking, I wish I’d done something with my music.

What were you envisioning that you might be doing had music not come along?
I was an arts student, and I do like writing and English and gender studies, and I might now be doing Honours instead of having finished my degree and continued along that path of writing about that kind of stuff. But I haven’t given it a serious thought because I don’t think that’s going to happen at the moment. The cool thing about being the lyricist is I can write anyway.

What’s been your best tour?

I think Tegan & Sara was the best tour. That’s probably the biggest tour we’ve done and they are just really great. Really great people and they treat everyone on tour, the staff and the support bands, really well and make you feel really welcome. They come and watch your show every night. It’s not the kind of thing you get from most headline bands so it was a highlight for us.

Is there a question that you’ve always wanted to be asked but has never come up?

Not particularly. But I do like it when people ask about whether we take making dramatic, a little bit epic music, seriously or not and it’s a good opportunity for us to say that we don’t. But at the same time, there is a seriousness behind what you think is comedy. A bit melodramatic rather than dramatic, and we’re aware that we sound over the top sometimes. You should take it how you want but it’s not all serious. I think sometimes people don’t pick up on the satire in our music. There is an element of that and lately, I’ve liked expressing that in interviews.

The Dark Storm tour is unfortunately sold out in most capital cities but be sure to check out the video clip for Mace Spray.

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