For the penultimate gig of their tour through German clubs the Jezabels from Australia played the Luxor in Cologne. The transatlantic diablog met the band for a chat backstage prior to the concert.
Being in town before (in September 2011) the four members say they really like Germany and especially Cologne. They even did some sightseeing. The obvious spot, Cologne Cathedral. And to answer their question: Bands can play nearby the famous church. And the not so obvious one: The Kaethe Kollwitz museum.
Sam Lockwood: Kaethe Kollwitz is Heather’s favourite artist. And mine, too, probably – after seeing it today.
Heather Shannon: All the pictures are quite sad. Only black and white. Only a couple of coloured ones. And only one with people smiling.
Nik Kaloper: Is it photography?
Heather: No, only litographies…
Visiting Cologne Cathedral maybe the band saw the new window by German artist Gerhard Richter?
Sam: We were there witnessing a Sunday mass with a choir. We didnt’t see it, but I like modern stain glass windows.
Heather: But how is it looking?
tdb: Well, it’s made of many colourful mosaics and it was a bit controversial.
Heather: Why is it controversial?
tdb: Some people said it was too “new” for a Gothic church.
Heather (smiles): Ah. I love it because it’s controversial.
Nik: Yeah, so people care about it.
(Photo by The Jezabels/PIAS Germany)
Founded at college in Sydney five years ago, just one member of the band actually studied music. It was Heather whose techniques of piano playing are obviously inspired by classical music. Singer Hayley Mary and guitarist Sam Lockwood both graduated in art while high-speed drummer Nik Galop took classes in mathematics.
tdb: That’s a tough one, isn’t it?
Nik: Well, not really. For me I would be much harder to write an art essays [like Heather and Sam]. It’s relative…
So the members are different characters. But like with most great bands the sum is bigger and the individual parts. And their sound is quite large and euphoric, too. Guitarist Sam Lockwood recently even asked their fans for advice on finding a special guitar effect too enrich his sound a bit more. He’s still checking options.
With that the band and the interviewer change location since the support act starts to soundcheck. After sitting in the entrance/bar area of the Luxor we are now standing side by side in a stairwell which offers some nice reverb.
tdb: How much of your big sound is actually added in the studio?
Heather: We had 3 EPs and then the album. And when we started recording we… we were hesitate because we’ve never done it before. So we didn’t produce the music a lot, We didn’t do any production at all. We did pretty much play how we play live. With EP two we started to add more and more layers and different sounds. So our music went along with each release. The album is definitely the most produced of our releases, but… ahm I wouldn’t say it’s heavily produced. I would say we can definitely recreate everything live that we put on the album.
Sam: We still use a lot of reverb. Why don’t we?
Nik: I put reverb on my kit. There are two kinds of reverb on my snare.
Drummer Nik Kaloper adds that they also use reverb on Hayley Mary’s vocals. “Basically on everything,” he jokes. Hayley, who’s drinking a tea and also offered one to the interviewer, agrees.
tdb: And I guess it helps to fill in gaps that may appear because you don’t have a bass player. You may also cover that a bit, Heather?
Heather: I think Nik, too. Our sound is very build up. Maybe it lacks a groove without bass…
Hayley: … but we’re getting better at grooving.
Heather: We are all playing differently to normal drums or guitar players. Nik plays a lot of toms, for example.
Nik: But we never planned that in retrospect, actually.
Sam: It pushes us to be more creative. If songs work acoustically, you see if they are good songs. I think some of ours do…
Like this version of “Try Colour” the band played during a campfire performance at an Australian festival in the very early hours of a day (Hayley: “That was after midnight actually.”).
(Video by TheMusicComAu)
The aforementioned festival, mostly remembered because of the early morning and the host, is an annual music festival in Busselton (Western Australia) near Perth. Which places does the band recommend visiting in Australia?
Hayley: There’s a lot. The East Coast.
Sam: Great Barrier Reef. We haven’t even been to the desert.
Nik: The Twelve Apostles… [Editor’s note: A collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park, by the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.]
The cover photo of the Jezabels’ debut album shows another spot to visit in Australia. As Hayley says, it’s called Jindabyne. A place near or in Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales where it even snows sometimes.
Due to the fact that Australia is very far away from Europe and America, it may be hard to become known anywhere else than on the island.
Sam: It used to be. Back in the day we had bands struggle to get overseas. Finding labels. Now it’s easier. But it’s still very far away.
Hayley: It’s funny. You can be very successful in your own country but still unsuccessful in the world.
Nik: It’s easier to make a noise in Australia than in London, but if you go to London from there, you have to start again as a band.
Sam: But I guess it’s the same for German bands. It’s a cultural thing. The UK and English speaking lands dominate the world market of music. There are also not so many German bands who are popular in Australia. But now with the internet it’s easier.
And indeed, the Jezabels are quite active on the internet – especially on social media. The band and member has his and her own Twitter channel. They even asked their fans via Facebook to design a tour poster for upcoming shows.
More on future plans, putting out singles and about Germany in part 2 of our exclusive interview with the Jezabels…
With thanks to PIAS Hamburg and, of course, the Jezabels
Interview by Lars Goellnitz