Feature: The Jezabels
By Alana Mazurke
In anticipation of their second studio album The Brink set to be released on the 31st of January; Heather Shannon of The Jezabels enlightens me on its formation. The band, who had recently moved to London where the album was recorded, have felt a complete turnaround with the new release. Coming off the back of the award winning debut “Prisoner”; sonically and artistically the processes of the latest 10-track record were surprisingly dissimilar – for the better.
“The Brink was a lot different to the recording of Prisoner where we were recording as we were writing so that was a bit more stressful as we had to make a lot of hard decisions very quickly. This time we kind of just jammed for 6 months and wrote all the songs in the recording studio; it was all very collaborative and yeah it was very much all together.”
2011 saw the release of their first full length LP Prisoner to much critical acclaim, the same year winning the Australian Music Prize, came second on the ARIA album chart and received 8 Aria nominations. I asked Heather whether or not the success of the first album added any certain expectations or extra pressure when writing new material for their second release…“ I felt a little separated from all that being so far away; I felt like we weren’t trying to prove ourselves as we because we were in a different environment. You definitely feel pressure but we probably would have anyway. I think we were sort of more focusing on how prisoner could have been better and what we wanted; that reflected in our new writing schedule.”
The album was recorded over multiple studios in London, all of which were familiar to producer/sound engineer Dan Grech-Marguerat who has worked with the likes of The Vaccines, The Kooks and Moby. There was a notable difference in recording this time round with both Dan and Lachlan Mitchell who had worked on Prisoner; “The songs went through a lot more processing before we had the final cuts of everything, mostly because we had written them, had the first lot of pre production with Lachlan Mitchell, again with pre production with sound engineer Dan Grech and then we actually did the recording…so we were extremely prepared.”
After touring extensively for two years; by extensively I may even be undermining the amount of live shows there – they performed with upwards of 200 shows in a year alone, the band situated themselves in the new dwellings on London England where The Brink was both written and recorded. “Towards the end of last year we were getting a little bit over the songs that we were doing at the time. We had to instil some energy and as soon as we go into the studio we wrote really quickly like for us…Our manager Dave just books us a lot; we usually do three shows on one day off, three shows on one day off so we do have very limited time off. It’s hard because I actually have no idea how bands write when on tour – we actually find it really difficult.”
Originating from the attractive beach town of Byron Bay and completing the formation of the four piece at the University of Sydney I pondered on the difference of two cities, both with their own music culture, and how a small band from Australia, dealt with the transition… “It is a bit overwhelming at first because you do realise that it is actually a huge industry, whereas it’s quite small here. There’s so many people doing cool stuff and in a way it makes you fit in. With us we’re a bit random in the music scene in Australia and there’s a lot of women fronted bands over there so that gave us a bit more contacts that way.”
“I wouldn’t say we had better reception but it is extremely different. A lot of people say that overseas is a lot more competitive and a lot more people doing things. It is, but it’s also a lot more contusive to playing live music…people go and want to hear live music all the time. There are more bands, there are more people that go to see bands and it’s just much more of a culture of that over there.”
Notorious for their live performances and ample run of shows, The Jezabels are back to play at the 2014 St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival here in Australia before heading back overseas for a couple of months. “Festivals are bit more laid back but I enjoy both. I’m really looking forward to laneway such a cool line-up this year.” Not to worry, however, the band will be back tour the new album in May.
Recently opening for the infamous legends Depeche Mode and The Pixies whilst in the UK is just a few highlights of their touring past. I questioned whether the band had a chance to play some of their newer tracks and if that was an important process for the band. “We had three little shows in London just to try out new stuff which really helped us. I think it was important for us to do that because we kind of freak out while we’re writing; we like to protest and stuff hah.”
“It really does help; it’s the little subtle things that we change to make it work better live. There are things that you record that don’t work live and you have to work around that. We had to do a lot more of that changing to suit the live shows with Prisoner. I think with his album because we wrote it all in rehearsal and in the studio we had already played it live a lot and had it made easier to adapt.”
The band who formed in 2007 have been playing together for seven years now never really suited having a five year plan but attain a certain humbleness to their experiences. “It’s crazy how fast time goes by. When I think back to doing our first EP I feel like I’ve learnt so much about song writing and we’re all so much better at that now; sort of were in control of what we’re doing and what we we’re writing, whereas looking back then we weren’t really in control in that respect, it feels like a long time and it has passed so quickly.”
Regardless of the early stage of this year, I know I am not being too quick to say that this is certainly one of the highlights of 2014. The Jezabels release of The Brink makes for a very high anticipation of their tour scheduled for later on in the year. I think it’s the optimism and realness in lead singer Hayley Mary’s writing that is so appealing. Each song tells a different story of what feels like relatable issues; being on the brink of feelings from situations life constantly throws at us – youth, love, the unknown.
First single off the album is track “The End” featured below.
Second single off the album comes with “Look Of Love” and can be found via the band’s Soundcloud here.
Tickets for St. Jerome’s Laneway can be found here.