Charles Brownstein of Northern Transmissions interviews Hayley Mary of The Jezbels
CB: We caught up with Hayley from the Australian band The Jezabels just before they hopped on stage at The Commodore Ballroom. The first thing we started talking about was working with Lachlan Mitchell which is kind of interesting because he usually works with more heavier projects as well as working with as well as working with well know producer, engineer Peter Katsis.
H: We did our first demos with him and then all three of our EPs and then we just decided it worked really well so we kept going but originally it was just that we knew him because of our manger who also has, in Australia he’s a booker, Dave Batty he’s aour manager and he for some reason does find himself booking a lot of heavy bands too so I think that’s what they grew up, they’ve known each other for a long time and they grew up listening to heavy music and that kind of thing. We find ourselves a little bit surrounded by people from the heavy music world which I don’t think is a bad thing we actually like it, particularly Lachlan and the sound side of it, we actually really like what it brings out in us I think. He lets us go kind of any direction and plus he’s in a black metal band and he’s worked with a lot of metal heel so he’s really into like pop and like ’80’s ballads, quite an eclectic taste so that was why we kind of thought it was great because he’s a bit dramatic. We’ve had Lachlan mixing the majority of the EPs, I think someone else, yeah Phil McKellar mixed the first one but um we just wanted to depart a little bit from our sound because we feel like we owe to people a development of sorts. It wasn’t really that we were unhappy, we were always happy with everything that we came up with and our sound progressed so we thought let’s add some new ears to this because the task was pretty huge for Lachlan to record and produce and pre-produce that album so we kind of needed freshness and also Lachlan was about to have a baby so there was a deadline and um we really like that kind of, I guess where Lachlan is like into really popular mainstream old music and black metal there’s also that indie side to us that we kind of wanted to tap into.
CB: That’s cool, so he’s into sort of straight ahead pop music and black metal
H: Yeah well he’s pretty open minded like when he comes down to he he’s not a snob of anything and I think a lot of people, a lot of the time when people don’t like pop it’s because they wouldn’t give it the time of day um whether or not that’s up to them what they want. He just, he grew up listening to Michael Jackson and that kind of thing so you know but yeah we wanted to basically um address someone directly and go we really like what you do and we all there’s a couple of bands that we all really love actually there’s like one band that we all actually love ‘cos our tastes are pretty different and er
that’s The National so um we thought hey there’s no other records we all like let’s go with the guy that mixed this one.
CB: We chatted a little about the bands various influences that came out on that record as well as the making of the video for Endless Summer which had a bit of an interesting story behind it.
H: Compromise is basically the process of our writing as I would describe it, the process of compromise, constant compromise on the part of all of us because um like while non of us get exactly what we really would ideally want I think it’s the songs are enriched for that because you sometimes there’s a weakness in getting such a pure thing like for yourself. You know we add all our different colours to and I think gradually like our first EP was a bit like who are these guys, they don’t know who they are at all like the kind of songs were a bit like out there. I love it for it’s naivety but the elements had the four elements of us hadn’t really come to gel at all in it and they were kind of competing, not knowing each others’ strengths and eventually yeah we just learnt them, we picked up each others’ strengths and that I think some of us are influenced by Fleetwood Mac for example. There’s things as varied as like, Heather’s a classical musician she plays classical piano and she has a degree in it and she doesn’t listen to a lot of contemporary music at all like rock and roll I mean she knows some but she’s probably
more recently got into that just from the band where as Nick probably only listens to contemporary music like doesn’t listen to anything prior to 1990 probably and um.
CB: And he’s into metal right?
H: And he’s into metal and like technical kind of, well he’s very interested in rhythm so, metal and technical music like that just happens to be one of the, the very rhythmic based genres at the moment I suppose like thrash and tech and whatever but um yeah Sam is really into kind of for want of a better word I’m going to say like um earth, earthy quite authentic artists like that are raw and kind of beautiful, like roots-y yeah. He loves Gillian Welch for example and Lucinda Williams and loves acoustic guitar and that kind of thing where as I like really inauthentic music ha ha. I have problems with the terms authentic and inauthentic actually but I’m using them just because people understand them like I love pop and pop divas like Belinda Carlisle and I love Abba and canned stuff.
CB: Great, those are great.
H: Exactly they’re all great they’re all great in their different ways and I think it’s a struggle sometimes ‘cos you just feel like sometimes you’re pushing and pulling but in the end we’ve got a lot of great influences involved, combined into a melting pot. And Lachlan was a great facilitator of all that because he’s got a very good ear for most types of music and a very good appreciation of it so he let us go in any kind of direction we want which is awesome. We’ve done most of our videos up until the recent one for Trycolour and the first one we did with someone else but um most of the EP videos were done off with a friend called Mikey Hamer who’s actually Nick’s flatmate and we just started out with like ‘cos we’ve done a lot of stuff with friends basically like up until recently when we can start paying people but most of the time it’s been like mates helping us out and then we’ve eventually started paying them because they were good anyway. But um yeah so the Endless Summer thing was kind of like a way of doing a
bit of a romantic mini film I suppose. We like a little bit of satire, a little bit of melodrama, not that we’re unserious about our music just that sometimes going over the top is really fun and it’s meaningful but it’s definitely a little bit over the top. The shoot itself was a little bit troublesome actually because we had a bit of an issue with the council with the gun but um.
H: Yeah ‘cos anyway we were shooting on an ex shooting range and they weren’t allowed to actually have guns on there any more ‘cos it used to be it was all very complicated but I don’t really understand how it worked out in the end but it just did.
CB: We talked about the band’s releasing of three EPs before actually releasing a full length album which is kind of a different way to go as well as the music scene around their home town of Byron Bay.
H: It was after the first EP and we were thinking about making an album and we all happened to be in the car like our manager and Lachlan and us for some reason because we were touring together and we sort of said yeah well I guess we should do an album and non of us felt at all prepared to do that. ‘Cos we were really slow writers up until recently when we had to write an album we became really fast writers all of a sudden and we also hadn’t really developed our sound that much I think we felt like we could use a bit more time so we were like well maybe we should do another EP and we were like well maybe we should just do like three like a trilogy of EPs I think there was a joke that we would never do an album at some point but we realised that you have to do an album to be taken seriously. So we said a trilogy and then we started getting kind of excited by the conceptual side to that like having a kind of joint aesthetic to like connecting themes lyrically and musically. I think that they do definitely develop but there’s um tie, there’s links between them all theme wise and music wise as well and lyrically as well so yeah that was definitely a conscious decision and it was as well as being conceptual and creative like that we were too scared to do an album it was also kind of pragmatic and a business decision too because we’re independent in Australia and like we release all our records ourself and it was cheaper it’s kind of a quick, it’s a way of getting more releases like and you pay less for an EP that you do an album and
you get and then 6 months later you can release another one and six months later you can release another one so instead of paying all that money up front and only getting one release which means one set of media, one maybe two tours if you’re lucky a couple of singles. You’ve got the potential to kind of get more attention through 3 releases than you do one album that might be crap anyway because you haven’t
actually developed your sound well. So yeah it was totally a purposeful decision because of many reasons. We all have pretty varied accounts of that because we were young so like there’s only a certain amount of music you can actually see when you’re under 18 and I kind of got like Sam went to the blues festival because Byron’s quite a cultural place like it’s a small town but it’s got a lot going on, a lot of people visit. There was a blues and roots festival there that happened every Easter and Sam went to that every year with his family hence his kind of roots-y background but I didn’t really go to that much or take part in it I was kind of like um I listened to like the top 40 and I went to hardcore shows like there’s a pretty strong hardcore kind of culture there that I feel ambiguous about particularly as a girl. Heather was quite insular and I think she went to the blues festival and that kind of thing and she liked Missy Higgins do you know Missy Higgins at all?
H: Australian, I’d call her folk singer song writer that kind of thing, The Waifs indie stuff from Australia but mainly she listened to classical music and stuck to her own little world so she didn’t really get caught up in the hardcore thing but I sort of went to a few shows and I felt really alienated by the whole culture and I’ve sort of become a reaction to it in a lot of ways I mean I can respect it like any tradition of music and I do have a love for it in some ways but I also have this kind of anger towards it ‘cos I felt like it fostered particularly among the young people ‘cos that’s who was into hardcore like just a kind of misogyny and sexism which is already quite prevalent in a surf town anyway so I’m not gonna blame hardcore totally but yeah it was pretty intense. And then leaving and going
and going like a degree in kind of arts where I learnt about history and gender studies I was like oh they were totally sexist.
CB: We finally discussed the band’s playing live including their show at the prestigious Electric Picnic Festival in Ireland as well as playing the odd smaller club show.
H: We’ve been playing some smaller venues across the US the last few days so this will be the first theatre show we’ve ever done outside of Australia, hopefully the crowd will be here for us but yeah I won’t know until I’m up there. To me it’s less about, I don’t mean to say this the wrong way but I don’t mean anyone to take this the wrong way sorry, it’s less about quantity and more about quality of a crowd like if they’re just sort of sitting there, even if there’s heaps of them just kind of folding their arms and waiting for you to impress them which they often are when you’re supporting so that could be it
it’s would be interesting to note it’s harder to conjure up the energy to win these people over but you try you just kind of try and make your own thing but when they’re really excited you just can’t help having a good show and feeling energetic so I would say yeah I suppose when a big crowd is really energetic it’s a little bit more overwhelming than when a small crowd’s energetic so it could be the best show of your life ever but um we’ve had amazing shows in tiny venues when just 5 people were screaming out in every song. That was one of those moments where you’re like WTF we’re in Dublin
playing with Sinead O’Conner and The Arcade Fire and Pulp and like it was crazy, that line up was crazy is that what you were asking or I can’t even remember I think there was who did Born Slippy, Underworld it was just massive I can’t even remember but yeah that was amazing for us and like playing in our hood because that was our first Irish show.