How does it feel to return home after a nearly 200-date tour run? A little like the woozy, land-sick sensation that comes after getting off a boat—at least that’s how Jezabels lead singer Hayley Mary describes it.
“It’s a great life, but it’s not a balanced life. I think I have an understanding as to why musicians often turn to quite indulgent lifestyles and drugs and that kind of thing, because your normal, everyday life on tour is quite extreme and exciting,” says Mary via phone from her home in Sydney, Australia, adding that none of the band has resorted to that. “Everyone else has their lives that are normal and your friends are working. They’re not just there waiting for you when you get back. They’re living their lives and you’ve got to fit into people’s lives again. Being stationary, it’s great because you get into a routine, but you also miss the road and the sense of purpose of travelling.”
But it’s less about striking a balance than it is accepting the imbalance, Mary laughs. As with most things in life, being a musician has its ups and downs, but the Jezabels seem to be on an upswing as the band gears up to get on the road in support of The Brink, its electro-pop-rock follow-up to Prisoner, an album that, while equally as intense, embraced a sense of simplicity over the multi-layered, sonically intricate melodies hammered out on the band’s debut.
“The way we wrote Prisoner was quite a studio album, getting soundscapes down in the studio, and half the songs were written as we recorded them, not beforehand. They were actually quite a struggle to learn how to play live and to replicate,” Mary recalls. “I think we’ve worked it out now, but that took us a good few years and practice with them. It was quite a struggle so we thought, why not try primarily writing songs, like jamming them and rehearsing them and actually playing them live a few times before we record them rather than hoping we can replicate these crazy sounds that are actually impossible for three instrumentalists to recreate.”
Mary feels both albums have their strengths—and weaknesses—but it’s part of the learning experience that comes with being in a band. However, the new approach did result in The Brink being more song-driven than conceptual sounding, as Prisoner was. The album also possesses a sense of optimism that Prisoner did not. The Brink was recorded in London and Mary recalls people groaning that the band was going to produce something very dark that reflected the contrast between the city and easy-going Sydney.
“I think the music got lighter as a kind of reaction because we did get into some low points,” says Mary, adding the details aren’t really hers to divulge, but the band struggled for a period and it became uncertain if it would be able to continue. “Then we all started thinking about life, as you do, and I think once we started writing again with our mental and physical health issues we just pushed through them and I feel like the music was a bit of therapy. The other thing is that London is a more cynical place than Australia … as much as I’m quite a cynical Australian I feel like if I’m in the UK I kind of react against it because it’s like, come on, guys, there’s a sense of romanticism we need to keep alive and I feel like The Brink is a reaction to London. As much as I love London I do feel like it’s a reaction to it rather than a London record.”
Sat, May 31 (8 pm)
Starlite Room, $16 – $19