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The Jezabels: A study in contrast

SINGAPORE — In their six years of existence, Sydney band The Jezabels have released numerous EPs and one album and their music has challenged many critics in terms of general description or convenient pigeonholing. It’s a nightmare for music journalists who have to describe as concisely as possible, what The Jezabels are all about.

The Jezabels: A study in contrast

The Jezabels delight in walking the line between musical genres.

SINGAPORE — In their six years of existence, Sydney band The Jezabels have released numerous EPs and one album and their music has challenged many critics in terms of general description or convenient pigeonholing. It’s a nightmare for music journalists who have to describe as concisely as possible, what The Jezabels are all about.

Of course, one can just head to the Laneway Festival next year, held at The Meadow @ Gardens By The Bay, to find out. Or better yet, just ask them.

The Jezabels’ singer, Hayley Mary, is articulate, passionate and candid, and never short on witty quips and honest commentary. Her willingness to be forthright about the art and craft of The Jezabels makes it that much easier to understand where exactly this exciting Aussie band — Mary, Nik Kaloper, Sam Lockwood and Heather Shannon — are coming from and, more importantly, where they will be going in years to come.

“We all love very different music and there are not many bands which we all agree on. So our influences are very eclectic,” Mary said. “Sometimes an influence will dominate — I think there are some songs that are more poppy and that might be because me or Sam have come forward with the idea and we have more of a pop sensibility. Some of them are darker or technical because Nik has influenced them.”

Ultimately, it’s more than the mere influence and inspirations of favourite bands and artists that The Jezabels draw from: There is a deeper intent involved. Mary is serious about developing the idea of “toeing the line between things”. “There are things we do that fit in a genre and I love a lot of music that is straight up like punk or pop or metal. But for us as musicians, we find it more satisfying to write things that stand on a blurred line between genres and also between dark and light and it comes down to the lyrics as well,” she explained.

It is obvious that The Jezabels treasure an ambiguity in their music. “You don’t want to shove it their faces (like how) you’ll like us if you like punk or you’ll like us if you like indie. It should be you’ll like us if you like our songs.”

It’s an admirable sentiment that flies in the face of modern rock marketing and programming but for Mary, this is an “artistic endeavour”. “That really sounds wanky, I suppose, but there’s no better way of saying it!”

So what is The Jezabels all about? “I love a lot of ’80s epic kind of stuff, but I also think indie was quite influential when we were forming — we love bands like The National, Arcade Fire and Radiohead,” said Mary. “We try to go for an honest kind of sound so you’ve got the kind of epic drama of 80s power rock and the kind of humble indie influence on it — maybe that’s why it’s a little bit confusing.”

It is this deliberate and creative use of contrast in their music that has also informed the new music they are writing and recording. Case in point: Their new single, The End, may sound very poppy but there’s more to the song that meets the eye (or ear).

“The song is about something that could potentially be seen as quite dark, almost suicidal. But the light-hearted, uplifting nature of the song is necessary for a song like that to make it ‘stomach-able’,” Mary said.

“It is a song about hope and not giving up. There’s always that moment — ‘is this the end?’ But we wanted the song to be more like ‘is this a new beginning?’ So I guess that’s why the song is poppy — we wanted to have a broad appeal.”

All these influences and styles will be evident in their new album, The Brink, that will be released next month and Mary promised “a warmer record” that is “more concise”.

“We’ve grown to appreciate simplicity. Unlike (previous album) Prisoner, we wrote everything before recording in the studio. It sounds more like live songs we can play together as a band rather than something soundscape-y.

“This one is more song-driven. A departure in a good way.”

 

The Jezabels perform at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival Singapore on Jan 25 at The Meadow @ Gardens by the Bay. Tickets from SISTIC.

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