Ask Hayley Mary of The Jezabels what the difference is between complexity and accessibility in pop music, and she doesn’t miss a beat. “There isn’t one,” says The Jezabels frontwoman, “or at least, there doesn’t need to be. To me, pop is the darkest music of all. If you look not at what pop artists are consciously doing but at what they’re reflecting about the world, pop is the most twisted, weird and scary stuff. If you wanted to study the Earth from an alien perspective, listen to pop music.”
The Jezabels are arch players of this contradiction. With The Jezabels there’s always a twist and they delight in toying with the darkness that somehow cloaks us all and yet channel it into songs that are layered with bright, chiming seams of pop.
‘The Brink’ is the band’s second album and it was summoned from a dark place; despite the outstanding success of their masterful trio of debut EPs and then their first long player, ‘Prisoner’, which catapulted them from indie kudos to full blown mainstream success (No.2 album, the Australian Music Prize Best Album award and a staggering 8 ARIA nominations). The two solid years of international touring played a huge part in forming the abyss that welcomed the band when they pulled into their new base, London, at the end of that marathon cycle of gold, platinum, headline sold-out shows and festivals.
“We played between 180 and 200 shows last year and it was possibly a bit extreme,” says Hayley. “But the low came from not performing. We basically had a year off and I realised how much I live to do shows. For me, writing is the self-deprecating, self-loathing stage. We all had our reasons for feeling low at various times, but I felt like I was on the brink of a lot of things on this album. Some of them good, some of them bad: youth and age, alternative and pop, giving up and pushing through. I guess hope is part of that. And also fear.”
It is these feelings and this precipitous state that the band have distilled into ‘The Brink’. Released on Play It Again Sam and produced by Dan Grech-Marguerat (Radiohead, Lana Del Rey, The Vaccines, Hurts), ‘The Brink’ is an album of songs that manifest all of those emotions into vaulting ambition. It is an utterly fearless record of youthful optimism achieved through hard won experience, taut with gleaming hooks, indelible melodies, all hammered out by a tight-knit band through dark days in a strange new city.
From album opener and title track ‘The Brink’ via first single ‘The End’ to the closing bars of the finale ‘All You Need’, The Jezabels’ second album is a thrilling affirmation. It is a death defying balance of optimism and maturity; richness and simplicity. It is a the journey of a band dealing with loss of innocence, mortality, politics, isolation and unity all spun with silken ‘pop’ threads, which Hayley sees as being given to them through a greater appreciation of simplicity. “What this record represents is not reflecting what is, but what we want out of life,” she says. “I guess it depends on what you think is the role of music. Is it to reflect how you feel, and bring everyone and everything to that level? Or is it a kind of healing power, pushing you to this fabulous fantasy world where happiness can exist?”