The Jezabels: Sydney, And Other Classic Tales Of Dystopia (p2)
Midway through what can only be described as one of their most spellbinding headline tours to date, we caught up the The Jezabels frontwoman Hayley Mary to chat touring, Sydney, and the beautiful toxicity of nostalgia.
No, no, that’s okay. This is more about what you want to talk about rather than what I do!
Funnily enough, “No country for young men” – that was written about Julian Assange, because we were living in London and Julian Assange was actually a family friend of ours, and it was not long after he’d been locked in the Ecuadorian embassy or had to seek asylum there. I went and visited him, and was just inspired to write that because… It’s a complex case, and it divides people, but I think the perversion of justice has been so great that whether he is guilty or not… Or feminist issues… Or all that stuff aside… I think the case should be thrown out, because of the process and that he is clearly a political prisoner.
I just felt really disempowered by seeing someone so incredible – what I think is one of the most important and substantial Australians to come out in the last 50 years – and he’s a villain. We have this thing – and we had this with Ned Kelly – that we don’t really like heroes. I think he was a hero, and I’m really sad that we didn’t stand behind him more, and still aren’t, because he… He may have had his flaws, and they tend to do with women, but I just felt really sad that I was seeing such a great mind trapped, and it still is. His mind is probably in decline – I know his health is in decline, and I was just a bit ashamed to be a part of a country that could’ve potentially helped him but didn’t. But that was about him, and so was “Marianne” on the end of The Brink. But I guess that’s to do with Sydney, because it’s got to do with him, and he’s family.
Would you say, in a really abstract way, that the Sydney for yoga mums and businessmen – and the case of Julian Assange – is because of a society that doesn’t love enough?
I do think that.We are dependent on whatever superpower – say the US or China – to maintain this incredibly luxurious life that we live, and its institutionalised into our social fabric and our infrastructure that we need this. We are living better than anyone has, ever, throughout all time, in a city like Sydney. I think we want to preserve our life, but vilify someone like Julian Assange, who was part of that preservation. It was like, “We are not going to stand-up for something.” Most Australians, if they were sat down and told about it, would probably agree with and believe in what he believes in. But because we are too busy pursuing infinite luxury, we just let it slide. And so I do think it was a bit tragic. It’s not a tenuous link at all that you made – that’s why we let things slide, because we want that postcard life… Wow! I had no idea I’d be going on these rants – I thought I was way too hungover to even do anything. Fuck, I was in the shower when the phone rang.
This always tends to happen with all my discussions – it goes into a weird socio-cultural space. I’m at parties and I always end up finding the political ones.
No, I always do too. That’s great. It’s refreshing. I’m probably bad at talking about our music; that’s why I end up talking about other shit that I don’t really know about.
I know you’ve done press interviews for this entire week and for God knows how long, so I wanted to take a fresh perspective on something a little different.
To be fair, though, I’m not really a musician. I’ve never really thought of myself as a musician. I’m someone that’s compelled to sing, so I surround myself with musicians, and then this stuff that we’re talking about – all of this kind of stuff that makes the content or the spirit, at least of what I would do in the band – is kind of what I do. It’s what I think about; it’s what drives me. So when people want to talk purely about music, I have nothing to say [laughs].
What would you say is your occupation first? Or is that too checkbox?
I officially write ‘musician’ on my immigration card… I think I should start writing ‘singer’, because my mum recently found a business card that I made when I was six. I drew it in pencil, and it had a stick figure of a little girl with my name and my home phone number. I only made one and I gave it to my mum, so I don’t know why I was thinking I’d get any work from that. But it said ‘singer’ [laughs]. I think I’m a singer – I always wanted to be a singer… But that entails a lot of things.
“Any all-ages show you could go to would be just a bunch of screaming men pushing each other around – you would get a black-eye if you went in.”
From the age of six – is that when you knew you were going to go down this road as much as possible? Or what did you want to do?
Yeah, always. Always. I don’t remember not knowing that I was going to be a singer. It was a bit of a ‘better-or-for-worse’ thing. It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s one thing I don’t envy. Most of my generation, and the generation coming is that… Paralysis of choice – it comes from living in the most priviledged place in the world, basically: being told that you can do anything, and that the world is your oyster – I feel that a lot of people don’t know what to do with that and they just freak out, and just think that they’re worthless because they haven’t got the drive – they don’t have that because they’re told they don’t have limits on what they can do. I had limits that I was born with, so I feel quite lucky. [Laughs] did you always know you were going to be a writer?
Ahhhh, I do a lot of things, but writing is what I spend a lot of time on.
I think it’s good to do a lot of things. That’s why I like singing, because you can be a genre slut, or you can wander around – you can do spoken word: all you need is your voice. You can go anywhere.
Did you always know you were going to sing with Heather? Since you’ve known each other for so long.
No! Funnily enough, that was out of… Necessity. Everything has to do with your limitations, and we were in a town… Heather is a musician – she is a very, very good musician. She is classically trained – a genius style musician. Most of what I say to her is probably bullshit. She was kind of, like, the other girl that played music, and we just fell into playing together. At the time, that was when hardcore was really big, and all of the boys in Byron High were starting hardcore bands, wearing black and screaming, having circle pits – there was this brotherhood that was going on. And before that, it was a lot of blues, and that kind of stuff. I find them both to be rather masculine genres, and any all-ages show you could go to would be just a bunch of screaming men pushing each other around – you would get a black-eye if you went in. So I guess, as a default, we just started writing music together as a reaction.
Did you ever that you liked blues and hardcore, but felt excluded by the community of it, or by other people that liked it?
I did, and sometimes I feel like I didn’t like that music in spaces of my life because of my association from being excluded from the community. But as you get older – and girls don’t get over these issues at childhood – I love that music now. It introduced me to music. This is like your forefathers in music: you have this love-hate relationship, like they taught you so much, but you can never be their equal as a girl. But I’m starting to feel like we’re entering an age where you can be, and that makes you love them more, and not feel below them.
So you’re back on the road again! I’ve seen you twice – once at Splendour and once at the Opera House.
You gave a lap dance to a girl that came up on stage, and that was probably…
There you go! You never forget.
She’s a very, very big fan, and she comes to every show. I felt she deserved it, because I promised it to her at a festival at some point. I think she asked for one, and I was like, “Oh, I’ll do it next time I see you.” And the next time I just happened to see her was at the freakin’ Opera House. I was like, “Fuck, I have to give her a lap dance… Alright, why not now?”. You’ve got to keep these promises!
That’s a good thing!
I’ve recently told someone that I’d dedicate a song to fucking Nickleback at Falls, and I have to keep that as well.
Sometimes it gets embarrassing [Laughs].
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The Jezabels / Ali Barter
Wednesday October 19th – The Gov, Adelaide
Friday October 21st – ANU Bar, Canberra
Saturday October 22nd – Bar On The Hill, Newcastle