This past week, I’ve not been able to stop listening to “Pleasure Drive”, the latest single release from The Jezabels. What dark, twisted and sexy tones were already laid down on record were further bolstered in the single’s film clip; Hayley Mary‘s demonic summoning in liberating women from their partners is equal parts sultry and melancholic, as the women depicted in the video awaken from their trances free, yet unaware of their power.
As a song, “Pleasure Drive” is a bold statement of a release from The Jezabels, especially following on from the brooding “Come Alive”, the first taste of their upcoming third album SYNTHIA. Where their 2015 album The Brink may have fallen on slightly deaf ears, SYNTHIA is not taking the same route. In the wake of the band’s recent tour cancellation (due to keyboardist Heather Shannon‘s battle with ovarian cancer), Hayley opens up about this difference in band dynamic and how the making of SYNTHIA reawakened a spark within the group as they continued to deal with Heather’s illness as best they could in privacy.
“That was something that we’d wanted to keep quiet, but we ended up having to tell people.” she says. “Over the last three years, that had a massive effect on our second record. We’d found out when we’d first started writing it and it was a bit of a blow, but we’d continued going on because she was able to manage it. It was just horrible, really. Her resolve just to keep going and not to let it stop her was inspiring in a sense and at the same time, quite a challenge. I was ready to give up on the second record, when she got it. I was quite depressed and upset by it, but she wanted to keep going, so it was like group therapy in a way! I think it made us stronger; I don’t think it [The Brink] was very well-received in a lot of ways and that made us stronger again. We knew why we were making this and we didn’t make it for any of the wrong reasons.”
With their confidence considerably rocked and a hefty bout of touring for The Brink seeing The Jezebels perform to more people and cover more ground all the while dealing with their own internal problems, a well-needed break to get their heads right was one that produced benefits that were clearly felt by all band members heading into the creative process for album number three.
“What happened in between the end of The Brink cycle and writing SYNTHIA,” Hayley remembers. “Was to do with my confidence hitting rock bottom between Prisoner and SYNTHIA. We’d worked really hard on touring, it was a combination of things; it wasn’t just the Heather thing, but I think that obviously played out in the record we got in The Brink and the whole process of dark times.”
“Coming out of it was so exciting; we had a break after touring The Brink and we’d had some perspective changes and just got so excited about writing another record. It was like, ‘Yes! I’ve got my mojo back!’ I think that having it taken away makes you so much hungrier for it and confident, but you just realise that shit doesn’t matter. Some things matter and you realise what they are when you hit rock bottom; I’m going to try and never let bullshit affect me again, but it’s very hard.”
Although touring is now out of the question for the immediate time being, the enthusiasm towards The Jezabels’ eventual return to the stage with this new album is undeniable as the attention turns towards Hayley’s growth as a live performer over the last few years. Always an endearing vocalist, her stage presence has been one that has stood out as one of the more noticeable elements of The Jezabels’ live show. A captivating and charming force onstage, she shifts between the light and dark with ease in translating such textures within the music to a live performance environment.
“I haven’t always felt that way,” she admits. “It’s taken a great deal of practice and sometimes, it’s [about] pretending and faking it! When you’re touring for as many years, sometimes you don’t feel up to it, but you push on and that makes you actually stronger. Being on stage that much makes you who you are on stage; I almost feel like the stage is a place where you can express your desires about who you are, rather than who you think you are. You can play around with who you want to be, because of the art. That’s why it’s so liberating. Obviously, I want it to apply to young girls who aren’t artists because life is art. That’s what I mean by taking away the stuff that doesn’t matter; life is a stage and then you die, you know? You’ve got to keep practicing and going for it and not beat yourself up too badly.”
With SYNTHIA set to be officially released in early February, Hayley is excited as we are to finally embark on this new chapter for The Jezabels. As a snapshot of their career, SYNTHIA marks an optimistic point for the Sydney natives – despite the challenges they’ve faced out of the studio, this new material indicates that the band is in perhaps one of the best creative spaces they’ve been in so far.
“I didn’t really think about it until you said it like that, but we are.” Hayley agrees. “It’s probably a cliché, but we’ve just been through a couple of hard times and it makes you one, have perspective and two, have gratitude for how easy your life had been before. We’re also together a bit more.”
“We definitely came close to losing it and giving up.” she admits. “Regardless of how this album sells or how it’s received, I am so satisfied with it because it reflects the time in our lives and my life, and how I felt writing it. We wanted to release it even though we were cancelling the tour; ultimately, it would be a better business decision to hold off until it could tour or get a session musician to play for Heather, because not touring these days is a bit of a kick in the butt. We just wanted to do the right thing around this record, symbolically; the reason it’s satisfying is because we stuck together and wrote it. We’ll stick together and tour it too.”
SYNTHIA is released on February 12th.
Photo Credit: Cybele Malinowski
To support the research of Ovarian Cancer, you can make a donation to cause and learn more by visiting Ovarian Cancer Australia or the Australian New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group.