“Endless Summer” By The Jezabels.
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“Disco Biscuit Love” By The Jezabels.
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Australian quartet The Jezabels are a band who readily admit they “love a bit of drama” and you half suspect that they could transform something as mundane as strolling to procure the Sunday morning newspaper into a soaring epic, angst ridden song about heartache, lost love, separation and redemption. We’ve previously described them as a band on the cusp of greatness in a panel piece for Music Week (HERE) and confidently expect them to be massive in 2012. However to really appreciate just how huge they sound, we’d suggest you catch them live at your earliest convenience as that’s where the band blow their audiences’ proverbial socks off. The focal point is Hayley Mary’s astonishing voice (cue headlines such as “Hail Mary etc etc ”) which swoops and soars through an impressive array of vocal gymnastics whilst wringing pure emotion from every syllable. However unlike that other barrage balloon lunged chanteuse Florence Welch, she doesn’t resort to histrionic caterwauling or contrived mystical incense and candles new age wankery.
She can sound as dark and dramatic as Kate Bush in full on Brontë-esque gothic mode and as tender yet tough as Chrissie Hynde with an added emo pop/rock sensibility that should guarantee airplay and mainstream success. Despite such comparisons there’s a unique quality to Hayley’s voice, when you hear her you know exactly who it is and let’s face it that’s not something you could say of the identikit reality show singers and sexless robotic RnB dry humpers that are dropped from betwixt the pallid buttocks of the big labels with depressing regularity.
However if it’s Hayley’s vocals that draw your enormous flapping moth like ears to the Jezabel flame you’ll soon discover that the band are also as tight Kylie’s hot pants replete with ominous thundering drums that sound like the presage to a great storm,( I’m not sure if Nik utilises the traditional drumstick or borrows a couple of ‘Thor’s Hammers,’ 😉 ) Heather’s expansive keyboard flourishes and Sam Lockwood’s immense guitar licks. They are indeed a formidable sonic unit and Hayley admits that despite their different musical backgrounds, unity is strength.
“Nik[drums] is obsessed with metal. He’s a perpetual ball of rhythm. Heather is a classical pianist who has the advantage of not really knowing the rules of rock. Sam is the earthing element. He likes organic country-folk so he balances that theatrical, over- the-top, almost ’80s thing we have…”
Their debut album, ‘Prisoner’ went straight in at No 2 in the Australian iTunes chart only being kept off the No1 spot by the seemingly immovable object that is Adele and were also the only multiple winners at Australia’s recent Independent Music Awards in Melbourne.
The band return to the UK for a one-off show on at Heaven, London on Tuesday 29th November (For tickets visit: http://www.livenation.co.uk/artist/the-jezabels-tickets_) ahead of their UK album release in the New Year. We spoke to keyboard player Heather Shannon about, amongst other things, the prospect of ‘going global.’
VP: Hello! Your debut album was gone to the top of the charts in Australia, you regularly sell sold out shows, and now you’re getting recognition around the world. Have you come to terms with the fact that the Jezabels are now being recognised and appreciated globally?
HEATHER : It is quite hard to comes to terms with. The more we travel though, the more you get used to it. We are so lucky to be able to play our music almost anywhere in the world….The internet is a wonderful thing. I don’t think you could have done what we have done in such a short amount of time 10-15 years ago.
VP: .I first saw you live during Liverpool’s Soundcity at the Aussie showcase BBQ, and within minutes everybody was transfixed- a kind of collective “wow” moment. As a band are you aware of the kind of effect you can have on an audience? Which live shows have really stood out for you this year?
HEATHER : I think you definitely know when you have had a magical show. It’s something that you can feel in the room. Although, in bigger venues it is harder to discern how the show is going as you are so far away from the audience. In those circumstances you just have to put your head down and enjoy it, and hope that everyone else is too. We are just coming to the end of our Australian tour and it has been the biggest one we have done. I think coming from Sydney, playing at the Enmore Theatre there meant a lot to us.
VP: You’re touring the US and Canada with just one UK at London’s Heaven on 29th November- Will you be back in the UK in the year on the back of the album release over here ?
HEATHER : Yes we will be back over there to tour hopefully early next year. We are going to spend a lot of time over there!! Very exciting….
VP: You’ve said previously that since you came together as a band you’ve spent a lot of time reconciling your musical differences – Does this musical tension add to the drama of the music The Jezabels produce? Because let’s face it is pretty dramatic.
HEATHER : Yes, I guess it does subconsciously. We have to be able to satisfy each and every one of us creatively, so sometimes things get over the top….but individually we are quite dramatic people. We like to be entertained and affected emotionally, so we endeavour to produce that effect ourselves in our audiences.
VP: Is it difficult , as you’ve done in 2011, to get used to playing smaller venues in Europe after playing the bigger ones back in Oz? What’s been the strangest small gig you’ve ever played?
HEATHER : It has been a little difficult. It’s also a nice experience though, because its more intimate. It’s kind of sad when the intimate shows turn into great big performances, exciting, but also a little sad. A connection with the audience is felt more keenly in smaller rooms. I think one of the weirdest was when we were starting out in Australia we played in the corner of an Irish pub to about seven people. That was pretty funny.
VP: With regard to ‘Prisoner’ , I heard that you had some pretty tight time constraints and that your producer Lachlan Mitchell would love you to go full on ‘black metal’ 🙂 Was the recording process enjoyable, stressful, both?
HEATHER : It was both. I think time constraints are good in a way, because it forces you to make decisions and not over think. Although, it does create high levels of stress. Lachlan has a band called Nazxul which is a black metal band. I think his black metal influences rubbed off on us in some ways, especially when we were recording and writing tracks such as ‘Nobody Nowhere’ and ‘Prisoner’
VP: What’s the album cover all about? 🙂
HEATHER : We had previously released a trilogy of ep’s and Chris Doyle – the man responsible for the beautiful artwork – created three different portraits for the covers. We wanted to try something quite different for the album artwork so we went for the slightly disrupted in some way landscape pictures. I think this suited the wider and more diverse feeling of our new music. The Australian landscape is so diverse that we felt it important to identify our music with it.
VP: Song writing? All bands/artists work differently so how about The Jezabels? Do you all write songs separately and then present them to be fleshed out as a band?
HEATHER : We all write the songs all together from the start basically. There is a lot of back and forth-ing between the four of us. If someone is stuck on an idea, then someone else is there to offer up something new. At first it was a very slow process for us. But as time has gone on, we have become better and more efficient at it. It seems as though the basis of the song comes first – structure, harmony, melody, rhythmic ideas etc, and then Hayley will write the lyrics much later. The lyrics along with the tonal qualities of the music seem to be the uniting element in the songs.
VP: Has the whole social media/networking scene been a huge help to the band, . Is the ripple effect of the net somewhat overstated or has it been a major factor in getting your music out into the world?
HEATHER : I don’ think it has been overstated. Is there any other way to get stuff out there to unknown places so quickly??? It has had a huge effect on out touring. We have been able to sell out shows all over the world because of it. (Thanks Danny Macaskill!) Things like Facebook and our band email account are really valuable to us too. We stay very much in touch with our fans.
VP: The best and worst things about touring are….?
HEATHER : -Worst – lack of sleep
Best – too many to really say……the travelling in general, writing, meeting people…..
VP: We, along with others have been predicting huge success for you in the UK for a while now, and 2012 should see it happen…sooo – if we spoke in a year’s time what would you have liked to have achieved musically?
HEATHER : Hmmmmm……musically….. I will like to have learnt all our new songs off the album and be able to play them REALLY WELL!!! Hahaha…and hopefully have some new material brewing. I hope we can satisfy UK crowds and make them feel good when they watch us play.
VP: Five words to describe ‘Prisoner’
HEATHER : I always feel like a wanker when I have to describe our music, but I’ll try…..this is what it sounds like to me – exciting, disruptive, emotional, genuine, dark.