PRESENTED BY XAVIER BRINKMAN
Few bands have made more of the past 12 months than Sydney quartet The Jezabels.
Since releasing their second EP, She's So Hard, in November 2009, the four-piece have toured the country supporting Tegan & Sara, Katie Noonan and Josh Pyke, and as headliners in their own right (selling out shows nationally in the process). They've watched Hurt Me, the lead single from She's So Hard, receive heavy rotation on radio in Australia and abroad, a feat also achieved by its follow-up, Easy To Love. Fittingly, The Jezabels have seen their fanbase grow every step of the way -- sometimes in the most unexpected places.
"I think the biggest spin-out was when someone from Germany sent us a YouTube clip of them dancing to one of our songs," grins 23-year-old vocalist Hayley Mary.
There have been lessons learned along the way. The constant touring has, says 24-year-old keyboardist Heather Shannon, made the band -- completed by guitarist Sam Lockwood (24) and drummer Nik Kaloper (25) -- much tighter. Sharing the stage with Tegan & Sara, they learned how to work the biggest rooms of their career. Best of all, the long hours travelling betweens gigs and the routine of performing every night has solidified the band's understanding of what it is that makes them tick.
"I think we have a more consolidated idea of ourselves," nods Mary.
Which brings us to The Jezabels' new EP, Dark Storm. The third and final release in a trilogy of EPs that began with 2009's The Man Is Dead, its five songs represent the band's most confident outing to date -- moody, mysterious and epic, yet buzzing with the quartet's ever-present knack for an irresistible pop hook. Not that writing it was an easy process.
"We had a bit of writer's block," offers Mary. "We were all stressing and being passive-aggressive, and then someone said, 'I'm really worried that this isn't going to be like Hurt Me!' It was as obvious as that. And we were all like, 'Yeah, me too!' As soon as it was said, it was a lot better. We decided to write whether we had a single or not. We realised we can't function in that way."
Freed of such self-imposed pressures and constraints, the band set about crafting an organic and heartfelt collection of tunes -- and, in the process, ended up writing arguably their best songs to date.
For the first time in The Jezabels' career, they allowed the music to grow and evolve in the studio. "We had to put a lot of faith in ourselves working together," says Shannon.
Experimentation was the key word, with Lockwood employing an eBow on the song A Little Piece, and Kaloper using what Shannon calls "a weird percussion instrument" to summon the sound of thunder in the moving title track. For Mary, the new songs provided her with an opportunity to finetune the lyrical themes that informed the band's first two EPs.
"I think the themes of gender and romance that people seem to pick up on are there on the first EP, but they're much more conscious on the second and third. And because we were linking all the EPs together you could do that -- it was like, well, it's a trilogy, so let's really explore this."
She is, however, keen to make one thing clear.
"We do think it's funny how dramatic our songs are, and I think you could misconstrue how seriously we take ourselves. There is happiness in there, but it is really cool to write this epic thing and call it Dark Storm! It's a really serious name, but it's obviously very melodramatic."
With that cleared up, all that's left now is to head out on the road again. An October tour of America and Canada will be followed by a headlining trek across Australia, culminating with appearances on festivals such as Wave Rock Weekender, Peats Ridge and the Falls Festivals. It's a long way from The Jezabels' humble beginnings in a Sydney University band competition in 2007.
"None of us had any expectations at the start of what we were going to do or where we were going to go," smiles Shannon. "We've achieved everything we could have hoped for 10 times over!"
Cindi Avnet: Producer / Talent Booker
Chris Hobbs: Cinematographer
Audio: Wes Gaither
Atara Gottschalk: Co-Producer / Talent Booker
Leah Hobbs: Associate Producer
Courtney Arwin: Balcony Location