Jezabels: Please clap loudly

By Bridget Jones

It's not uncool to be popular and hear fans sing along to your tracks, Hayley Mary, lead singer of the Jezabels, tells Bridget Jones.

Hayley Mary of the Jezabels (second from left) says the best thing about really good pop music is that the common man and woman can sing along to it.
Hayley Mary of the Jezabels (second from left) says the best thing about really good pop music is that the common man and woman can sing along to it.

During the year the Jezabels spent recording a new album rather than touring their old one, it was the applause that Hayley Mary missed the most.

"I can't really explain it, except people weren't clapping. That sounds like a really egotistical thing to say, but it's true. I mean, why else would people go on stage?" the singer says, just moments after performing in Amsterdam.

The shock to the system was amplified by the sheer volume of shows the Australian band had been performing.

Their debut album, the 2011 Aria-winning Prisoner, had taken them around the world, racking up 200 performances in a year. So to stop completely and return to the studio to create The Brink was a little like going cold turkey; Mary suggests there are no rewards in the studio, at least not until the record is finished.

Since forming in 2007 while at university in Sydney, the four-piece had come to enjoy a fair amount of applause.

Releasing two EPs in the lead-up to Prisoner, they played every festival under the Antipodean sun (although their first New Zealand show wasn't until this year's Laneway Festival) before hitting the American and European touring circuit. The payoff came in securing opening slots for the likes of Depeche Mode and Garbage.

Mary studied the way the veteran performers "knew how to get on stage and prance around, and then treat [the support band and their crew] really well".

"Bands like that basically teach you how not to be a dickhead. They are real rock stars; people who were musicians before the internet age. Before Twitter, before it was demanded of rock stars to tell people their every f****** thought.

"And I'm not sure a real rock star will exist again after Noel Gallagher."

Earlier this year, Mary made headlines voicing opinions of her own; in an interview she suggested critics should "get a f****** real job" and that there was too much negativity around pop music.

On reflection, she says she stands by a lot of what she said.

The question she asks is, what's wrong with wanting to be popular?

"The beauty of a song is people singing along to it - it's not about inaccessibility. But the best thing about really good pop music is that the common man and woman can sing along to it - you don't have to think about it, but if you want to think about it you can. If you want to invest in it, if you want to look at the layers, like Bruce Springsteen for example, you can analyse that as much as you want.

"I do think there is a whole tradition in music criticism of a dislike of the popular. And I think it's based in this inherent snobbery."

Despite being recorded in London - a fact she says probably didn't help soften the shock of returning to the studio - Mary says The Brink is a step further into that world she is defending, despite worries the city could turn their sound darker.

"I think the opposite has happened in a kind of reaction to London. It's a brilliant place but it's a darker place than Byron Bay. It's a more cynical place; it's colder and lonelier.

"But maybe that's why it sounds a little more poppy; you know, a couple of hooks here and there, if you don't mind. Something to make you dance."

Who: Sydney band the Jezabels
Where and when: Kings Arms, Auckland, May 14; Bodega, Wellington, May 15

- TimeOut

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