The Jezabels are getting ready to release their third studio album Synthia later this month.
National Rock Review recently caught up with the band’s lead vocalist Hayley Mary to talk about Synthia, their new video for “Pleasure Drive” and David Bowie’s influence on Hayley as an artist.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review. It’s really great to speak with you.
Hayley: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
NRR: I saw you play a couple of years ago in Newcastle at The Cluny. I don’t know if you remember that show?
Hayley: Ahh I do. You know what from memory, that was a terrible show (laughing).
NRR: Well I enjoyed it anyway.
Hayley: Good i’m glad (laughing).
NRR: It’s nice to get to speak to you properly.
NRR: So where do we find you today?
Hayley: You know, I’m actually on a bus right now in Brixton. As I’m staying in a room that is just too noisy. The quietest place I could go was the bus. Sorry about that (laughing).
NRR: No problem. So we’ve got some questions for you around the new album. The first question I’ve got is obviously you are about to release your new album Synthia on February 12th through Caroline Distribution. I was just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the album and your inspiration behind it?
Hayley: Well, it kind of came about sort of accidentally in that we weren’t intending on writing another record for a while. We were just going to have some time off and then we had a show that we were rehearsing for, and we just started I guess ‘jamming’, I hate that word but that’s the word, some ideas and it just kind of eventuated that we had all of these sort of song ideas, and we just thought why don’t we make a record.
It wasn’t like we planned we had all these ideas to make it and what it was going to be. It just kind of naturally started happening and obviously Heather had some new instruments and synthesisers and that kind of really shaped the direction we went in it. Then kind of the name Synthia came quite late in the process. Thinking of the album as a like a woman made of synthetic sounds, but yeah that was kind of a thought we had later on rather like planning to write a record called Synthia. If that makes sense.
NRR: So where do you find the inspiration for your song writing?
Hayley: Oh you know everywhere I suppose. I guess for me personally I don’t really write with a plan to implement. We write some music and most of the time I will just start singing over it what I think sounds good and then I will just try and make it make sense. I don’t often know the meaning of the song until quite later. Also, reading and other musicians give you inspiration.
I’m obviously like quite into gothic literature and sort of gender studies and those kind of and also rock and roll. I think that the culture of rock and roll and groupie culture was a big theme when I was thinking about this time around because I’d had some time off and spent a lot of time seeing rock and roll bands and meeting girls who I suppose were groupies. I just noticed it was funny that that culture was still alive, and there was still a real gender dynamic between the rockstar and the groupie and it just amazed me. I think that was a big theme, but as far as sometime we come up with music first or sometimes the lyrics will come first it just depends.
NRR: Obviously with Synthia you’ve worked with Lachlan Mitchell again to produce the album. I know he produced Prisoner. What made you decide to go back with Lachlan for the new album?
Hayley: Well he’s worked on everything we’ve ever put out like even from our first demos and even with The Brink when we were in London he pre-produced that as well that as well. He came over and did the pre-production with us. So we didn’t ever notice that it was like a massive break from him. He couldn’t make the record, and we had a great producer over here that was interested in making the second one.
The main thing was that it just felt natural to do it, we were in Sydney, and he was free, and we had all these songs. So we just did it (laughing). We did what we normally do and work with him. Yeah, I mean obviously we love how he works, and he understands us as people really well. Just a long relationship.
NRR: Out of all of the tracks on Synthia, what would you say is your favourite track and why?
Hayley: That’s quite hard. It’s probably “Pleasure Drive” actually. That’s probably my favourite song of ours ever. I think for me it’s just personal in that it was kind of about, I think you know I went through a stage where well no I think I had sort of some life changes in the last couple of years, but mainly I think about you living in the moment more. I used to be a bit depressive; a bit negative and a bit think too much you know. That song was like kind of part of those few liberating experiences I had, so I’ve got fond memories about writing it and feeling excited about life. Yeah, so I think “Pleasure Dome” and I also love the groove.
NRR: Speaking of “Pleasure Drive” I love the video, it’s very dark. I was just wondering if you could tell us about the concept behind the video?
Hayley: Well, I think it’s dark but I also think it’s funny. We wanted to sort of combine two elements that have always been in the music. But I don’t if other people who’ve made videos for us have ever noticed like gothic disco. I guess they are both considered to be disparate sort of forces, but we wanted to make like an aesthetic where they both fit.
I was talking to Matt Hemmings, who directed it, who was my flatmate, about like just taking control of the video to get something that we felt actually represented the band and something that had gothic and disco. He said the word “disco cult” and I thought that’s great, let’s make a disco cult video. So it was obviously influenced by the occult and a little bit of voodoo, but also the fun of disco and the seemingly light-heartedness of it. I don’t know it just came naturally from listening to the song I think, yeah. I don’t think of it as dark because I had so much fun making it (laughing).
NRR: It looks like it was a lot of fun.
Hayley: It was, it was.
NRR: Obviously there are a lot of different sounds on Synthia. I’ve read so many different people trying to describe your music in so many different ways. I was wondering if you had to describe your sound on Synthia in three or four words how would you define it?
Hayley: (laughing) I would describe it like a beautiful gothic Australian desert with an old man singing but sped up to sound like a young girl.
NRR: We touched briefly there on your inspirations, but I noticed on Facebook you posted about Bowie and him being an inspiration, and I was just wondering obviously with his recent passing how much of was David Bowie on you as an artist?
Hayley: It’s a funny one. I woke up that morning because I’m in London, and my brother who is in Australia had called me like four times in the night, and I was like oh my god someone in the family has like had an accident or is dead. I called him back, and it was true David Bowie was dead, and we cried, we were like I didn’t think he could die. I actually coincidentally moved to Brixton that day as well, so I was like what the fuck and I had also just found out about Heather’s cancer becoming more aggressive. So that was like a really emotional time.
Like honestly it felt strange because everyone was suddenly talking about how amazing he was. I think he’s always been a massive influence on me, and I don’t mean it like he wasn’t on everyone else he was on everyone basically. My big top four has always been ABBA, Queen, Kate Bush and David Bowie like hands down that’s my canon of influences.
Yeah, it was kind of like losing an uncle or something, but you didn’t know why. You felt bad for feeling sad because you didn’t know him. I also think as much as a massive influence on like you know … he defended the underdog in a lot of ways by a really distant kind of performance that I think it just transcended everything it almost transcended morality, and he just taught me a great deal.
I remember being a little girl with mousey hair when I first heard “Life On Mars” and I was probably like four or something, and I thought it was about me, it was like early, early days influence. I think when he died the twentieth century really …It’s like they say the 1914 war was the real beginning of the twentieth century I think David Bowie’s death was the real end.
NRR: Just touching on your influences again there. If you could collaborate with anyone in particular who would you say would be your dream collaboration?
Hayley: David Bowie (laughing). Someone alive …. Does it have to be someone alive?
Hayley: Maybe Roy Orbison.
NRR: That would be interesting.
Hayley: I think Roy Orbison or Scott Walker. I love their voices, their tragic beauty.
NRR: If you change anything about the music industry, what would it be?
Hayley: Well I mean I think I would change that it inevitably like everything gets caught up in capitalism but I don’t think that’s the music industry’s fault I think I would change capitalism (laughing). I mean everything gets homogenized and dragged into a system because that’s the engulfing nature of money.
Yeah I don’t know, I think probably that but I also think that capitalism drives rock and roll in a lot of ways, so it’s a funny one, but yeah probably that, but you know I wasn’t planning on trying because it’s a rather an overwhelming task. Yeah you know just kind of try and find new resistances to homogenisation I suppose in what you listen to and what you make and try and be yourself but yeah.
The Jezabel’s new album Synthia will be released via Caroline Distribution on February 12th.