Home > Interviews > Interview: Hayley Mary – The Jezabels

Interview: Hayley Mary – The Jezabels

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Check out the remaining tour dates below! 

Hi Hayley, how are you?

I’m excellent thank you, how about you?
I’m great thanks. I noticed you recently finished your UK/European Tour. How was it?

It’s been great, we hadn’t toured properly for a while so I had forgot how exciting it was. It went really well, it sold a lot better than any other tours we’ve done there. The crowd was great, it sort of felt like how it felt in Australia a couple of years ago when things were starting to go well here. In the past we had toured the UK and Europe and people were kind of just coming to check us out and we didn’t really feel like we had a fan-base, but now we it kind of does and it feels pretty great.
How has the response been in terms of the new album ‘The Brink’?
Good, actually! It’s been going really well live which is a relief because that is what we had hoped to do. I think I am a bit funny because I don’t really read reviews but I get told about them, so I think I have a bit of a skewed view because sometimes I just get told the bad stuff like my Mum or my brother or the band will go “Oh, someone said something really mean”. But, I was actually told the reviews have been generally good… My manager had to clarify that one (laughs).
Haha, there’s a lot of keyboard warriors out there in this day and age that just want to blast bands for the sake of it.
 
Yeah, there are! Sometimes I’ve let them get to me, I’ve had my diva-ish moments. In the end I guess it doesn’t really matter and everyone’s free to hate as they wish. Sometimes it’s weird, you just don’t understand why they must hate you so much (laughs). It’s the language of today though, isn’t it? It’s the common culture. Sometimes they don’t even think it, they just say it because you are a different idea to them you’re not a person. But yeah, it’s just hard because you are actually are a person (laughs). It’s not just criticism of the music, I totally get that, but it’s when people get personal and start accusing the people rather than analysing the music, that’s just bad writing (laughs).
The band made the move to London to write and record ‘The Brink’, what was it that made you guys decide that moving abroad was the next step for The Jezabels?
 
I think we just needed a change and a couple of personal reasons, like a couple of us had partners over there. We spent a fair bit of time in London whilst we were touring ‘Prisoner’ (debut album) because it was just getting to expensive to fly back and forth from Australia to the Northern Hemisphere, so we were kind of based there loosely. We got to know it a bit and we thought we should probably go somewhere outside of Sydney and Melbourne wasn’t really different enough. So we thought let’s just go to London and make a record. There was a producer there we were interested in working with and it ended up working it. So it was just a number of little reasons, it’s not something we always wanted to do, there wasn’t a desire to escape Australia or anything it was just something needed to change and it did and now I’m totally ready to move back (laughs).
Are you over it already? Did you miss Australia too much?
 
I definitely am. Yeah, I do actually and I never thought I’d say that because I love Europe and I never really appreciated what Australia has. It’s just so good here, great quality of life, it’s beautiful, it’s OK to get up in the morning and you don’t want to stay in bed all day because it’s freezing. And you don’t want to just drink alcohol and eat dodgy food, which is kind what ended up happening in London and it leads to subtle depression.
Will you guys be relocating back to Australia anytime soon?
 
Yeah, we’re home now. Although I’m still paying rent in London which is just really expensive (laughs). Most of us are homeless at the moment, whenever we’re on tour we don’t really live anywhere. We’ve been touring which means the other three guys just live out of their suitcases, I live in London officially because I still have a lease that I am paying off but I’ve started bringing my stuff back to Australia gradually. I’m just ready for another change and ready to come back I think… Or maybe America (laughs).
What lyrical themes did you explore on the new record?
 
Well, I don’t really know. I thought of alienation a fair bit (laughs). Somewhere in there I think music is sort of the hero that saves you from cynicism in my mind, not necessarily the just music but the idea of the art and following dreams and all of those cliche things which I do often write about (laughs). Basically the biggest theme is the battle between cynicism and hope or romanticism, the battle between giving up and keeping going. I think I was becoming a bit cynical  in London, I’ll be honest. I’m already a totally cynical person except I’m a total romantic person at the same time. Those two forces were battling rather intensely and cynicism nearly won to be honest, I nearly gave up on a great deal of things last year and I was in a pretty dark place. But, we got there in the end. I think that’s why it’s a really optimistic sounding record because it was like to pull us out of a bit of lull we were in, I’m not sure why we were in it, there were reasons but they are kind of private. But yeah, the triumph of optimism is the theme.
I’ve been a longtime fan of yours since the early days and it seems ‘The Brink’ is a lot more structured and poppy than previous releases. Was that a natural progression or did you guys actively try to achieve this?
 
It was a pretty natural progression, I think pop has always figured in our music but it has just found it’s voice a little more. I guess it’s to do with how you evolve as songwriters, the elements come together a lot more cohesive and everything we contributed is a lot more cohesive. We sort started to understand to serve the song rather than yourself and that tends to make a more cohesive song and that tends to sound more poppy. You don’t need to put so much in and complicate things because you are kind of getting better at what you do. I’m not saying that pop music is the best music, but for us that was the trajectory and I think we simplified things. With that and the combination of the instruments we use and having a melody driven female vocal, it just kind of combined to equal pop.
Can you explain the writing process for the new album, were things started with a vocal melody or a guitar lead etc?
 
All of the above. It’s like anything. A song always starts with an idea whether thats a beat, a melody, a riff or a chord progression. We all add to it and kind of turns into a mess and I’ll kind of write lyrics over the top most of the time if it’s initiated in the music. There’s a few songs that I’ll just write on a guitar and the guys will make it a band song, that is quite rare but it does happen. Most of the time it’s like an ongoing conversation that we start with one part and then we create other parts around it.
As a band were there any big challenges in terms of making the record in London?
 
Yeah, there were some pretty serious challenges we had with our mental and physical health. Not all of us had both problems but some of us had mental breakdowns and others had really serious physical problems. We weren’t expecting that, I think it was doing like 200 shows and not stopping and then suddenly finding ourselves in London, which is not always the most friendliest place. There’s also an such established music scene that it’s very critical and not particularly in line with what we’re doing at the moment, so it wasn’t not like we slotted in a felt very comfortable, we kind of just did our own thing and knew it wouldn’t be the coolest and hippest thing in London. But the main issues were our mental and physical health.
It sounds like it was an incredibly tough time for the band, although ‘The Brink’ comes across ridiculously optimistic and positive.
 
That’s why it’s happy sounding. We got broken into, the studio got burgled and a lot of our recording gear was stolen. There was always obstacles in the way and I think we could of really easily given up and I’m sure there is people that wish we had but we couldn’t because eventually it became all we had. Somehow us four individuals had to make this record because it was going to save us and kind of did as it pulled us back into the world, which was nice.
You are achieving worldwide status as a band. What keeps The Jezabels functioning and motivated?
 
We’ve got a great deal of commitments before us and we need to stick to them (laughs). Our lives are booked up by our management and we’re not people that like to back out of things. I think if you’re talking about inspiration, I think this job is possibly the best job in the world. Something along the lines of doing what you want and getting to travel. It’s hard and you miss home, the people you know, the ones you love and you think about giving up and you’re like “Oh, I can’t do that”, there’s just no choice. I think that it’s the dream. I think most people find when you make the dream, it’s just like reality but it is a great reality.
You have an incredible and unique voice. When did you realise you could sing and are you classically trained?
 
Thank you! No, I’m not trained. I’ve always sung. One of my friends is a Yoga teacher and he was saying singing is really good for your health and soul. I’m one of those people who thinks anybody can sing. I’ve just always loved it and am lucky enough to feel free to do it as a kid, I think a lot of people weren’t encouraged to it. I’ve sung for many, many years and a I try different things, I’ve lost my voice a million times and I’ve pushed it to extremes that were not good for it. The only reason I can sing is because I do it all the time, I think. I’m not saying people aren’t naturally gifted, but I think a natural gift is just a lack of fear. Singing makes me not scared. I’m not trained in a sense of how to sing, but what has happened is I’ve lost my voice so many times that I’ve had to go and get lessons for exercises to strengthen my voice and that’s really helped.
This one is a bit of a fan question. ‘Hurt Me’ is my favourite Jezabels song. What is that song written about?
 
It’s not something I completely understand, I just write and think about it later (laughs). It has to make sense in a particular way, it’s not like a just blurt shit out. Every word is meticulously chosen, but I don’t always understand it until quite a bit later. But, I did have a thought with that and it was to do with the relationship between a woman’s body and meat (laughs). I became a vegan for a while and I became really conscious of meat… I’m not a vegan anymore, I’m a vegetarian and I’m weird about meat, I used to have nightmares about meat. For some reason it became part of the way I saw my body and women’s bodies, objectification of women is probably a more tangible way of saying it, but it was more a feeling than a political issue. But yeah, I just had this image of a woman lying on the table to be cut up and eaten (laughs). It sounds really dark (laughs) but what it became was about childhood and love and romance and all these thing that are caught up in the idea of a dinner table. Like, sitting at a dinner table in a Jane Austin novel where you’re courting a romantic mysterious man. All the years the dinner table has been through but how they’re caught up in a tradition that is kind of oppressive to women but at the same time is really beautiful and romantic and I have this love/hate relationship with tradition for that reason, I guess I’m a feminist.
You guys are at a point where you’re fan-base stretches across the globe and have played a number of amazing venues. What is your all time favourite venue to perform at?
Wow, um (pauses), we played in a Nazi Bunker in Hamburg the other day which was was pretty amazing, they’ve turned it into an Arts Centre. They tried to tear down some of the Nazi architecture but they couldn’t because it was built to withstand bombing. It has like 3 metre thick walls and stuff, and they just decided to turn it into something beautiful. It’s an amazing building, obviously the history is pretty dark but what they’ve done with it is pretty beautiful. Germany fascinates me like that with all it’s history and stuff. Also, The Opera House which we will be playing in soon is pretty exciting.
Favourite country?
 
I do like going to Germany because they like us, I think. I love Scotland because I am Scottish. Ireland is cool too. Everywhere is cool. Australia is great but I am not a patriotic person, I love it here but I don’t think patriotism is very good if you come from a first world country, I think it’s kind of insulting to the rest of the world. I like everywhere. I like America when I’m in it, it’s weird I don’t ever want to go there when I’m not there, but when I’m there I catch the bug and don’t want to leave (laughs).
The music industry is suffering at present mainly due to illegal downloading and such. In your opinion what does it take for a band to make a comfortable living off of their music?
 
Music itself has very small financial value, I guess it’s only financial value is in what else it can sell. You just have to work out what you’re comfortable using your music to sell. The ideal is you use your music to sell your live show and that is the main income for most people, then it sells merchandise and things that are directly your products. But, a lot of the time you’ve got to be realistic and put your songs on an Ad or a TV show. I mean TV shows don’t pay that well. Things that you want to put your music on normally doesn’t pay as well and things that you don’t want to put your music on will keep you living for the next year. I think the fact is if the consumer the wants to have music for free they may have to change their expectation of how artists are expected to survive and they may have to accept that they may have to do what they used to call selling out. It’s not selling out if there’s no choice, you have to kind of adapt and eventually the consumers and the critics will work out that they need to change their attitudes towards selling out because it’s not possible to be a band and make a living off just music anymore. I wouldn’t say the music industry is dying because of it, it’s just evolving.
That is true and I guess the labels haven’t quite picked up how to combat that yet. 
 
No, you are definitely right. But I think certain bands are. Music still exists, and it’s still being made and consumed more than ever before, I guess it just depends on how you look at it. The days of the ‘Rockstar’ who makes millions of dollars are over, but I’m kind of glad about that because I believe the cult of a rockstar is a little bit unhealthy, for the rockstar and the fans (laughs). But, just a more of a realistic approach and maybe musicians will have more a modest income but that’s OK.
What does the future hold for The Jezabels?
 
Touring. We’re doing Groovin’ the Moo and our tour. Then we head off to America, then Europe for the festival season. That’s about all I’m booked out for you. Maybe have to make another record (laughs).
Anything else you’d like to add?
 
No, that’s all from me. Sorry if I rambled (laughs).
No, that’s OK! (laughs). Thanks so much for your time.
 
No worries, thanks for yours! Talk to ya later.

 

 

Friday May 2              The Palais Theatre                                                      Melbourne      VIC

Presented by Frontier Touring
* With special guests Gang Of Youths

Lower Esplanade, St Kilda

Tickets $55 + bf available from www.ticketmaster.com.au 136 100

Pre Sale From 12noon AEDT Monday Feb 17th, General Public On Sale From 9am local time Thursday Feb 20th

Doors TBA

Tuesday May 6           The Tivoli Theatre                                                      Brisbane          QLD

Presented by Frontier Touring

* With special guests Gang Of Youths

52 Costin St, Fortitude Valley

Tickets $55 + bf available from www.ticketmaster.com.au 136 100

Pre Sale From 12noon AEDT Monday Feb 17th, General Public On Sale From 9am local time Thursday Feb 20th

Doors TBA

Friday May 9  The Astor Theatre                                                                   Perth               WA

Presented by Frontier Touring

* With special guests Gang Of Youths

659 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley

Tickets $55 + bf available from www.showticketing.com.au 08 9370 5889

Pre Sale From 12noon AEDT Monday Feb 17th, General Public On Sale From 9am local time Thursday Feb 20th

Doors TBA

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