The Jezabels are a band who, after bursting on to the scene with a trilogy of EPs, have yet to gather significant momentum outside Australia. But their allure could and should become more international after the release of their debut album Prisoner at the end of last year. Much of the hype surrounding the four-piece has been about their genre-less style, but why do we need to trivially label them anyway? Surely, all that matters is that our ears are massaged by meaningful, heart-tingling music. After all, it’s not about who they sound like, but what they sound like.
However, a small insight might shed light on why The Jezabels are so hard to define by music critics whom seem so keen to do so. Vocalist Hayley Mary and Heather Shannon (keys) first played together in 2006 before catching the attentions of guitarist Sam Lockwood. Sam then drafted in drummer Nik Kaloper and The Jezabels were formed to enter a band competition. Of course, they won.
Since then, they have been gratifying their desire to play music but like any band, there are always differences amongst the band members about their sound and vision. Hayley once said: “The process has pretty much been one of reconciling musical differences. But we’re getting closer.” Perhaps it is these differences that have created the theatrical charm that will soon be unmistakably associated with The Jezabels.
There’s no denying that Hayley Mary’s vocals have a strong command of every track mixing up emotions of melancholy and solace but she is complimented by Nik’s intense, metal-influenced drumwork. And in between, you have the classic guitar and keys threading it all together. But performing out of the studio is a whole new arena.
As a band who have remained loyal to the original team backing them, they display yet more humble traits as Nik, Heather and Sam sound-check the equipment – Heather can be seen warming up with some scales. Perhaps Nik should been warming up more though as he drops his right drumstick during the opening track. However, it conveniently nestled on the bass drum and he nonchalantly continues before picking it up to resume the slaughtering the drums consequently received.
Although bands usually line up with the vocalist at the front and the drummer at the back with everyone else in between, this formation is somewhat reflective of The Jezabels’ style – the drums and vocals form the spine while Heather and Sam add flesh and colour. On the stage though, Nik transforms the role of the drummer. He doesn’t just provide the rhythm; he directs the tracks as much as Hayley does as a foray of drum-abuse is unleashed – you can almost see him holding back his metal tendencies.
Despite Nik’s hardcore drumming, there’s no doubt that most eyes will be on Hayley. She infuses energy, bopping and singing into the eyes of front-row viewers overpowering their heads to implosion. People often talk about the absence of a bassist but in fans’ favourite ‘A Little Piece’, the bass from Shannon’s keys is undeniably powerful.
The gig wasn’t completely smooth though, Nik’s dropped drumstick was far less distracting than Hayley directing the sound engineers to turn up the keys, then the guitar, and finally her own microphone too before somebody remarks that it’s “too loud”; somebody who got lost on the way home. Nevertheless, the crowd were appreciative, rapturous and satisfied knowing that they witnessed something greatness in its infancy. There’s no doubt that The Jezabels are developing a loyal following and they have a sound suited to the euphoria of festivals. Think ‘Endless Summer’. And the genre? Let just say hard indie.
Audio, Saturday 3rd March 2012