Wed, October 3, 2012
Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pmThe Independent
Tickets Available at the Door
Revelation is part of The Jezabels’ art. Three EPs have led us this far. The Man Is Dead. She’s So Hard. Dark Storm. Strange jewels dropped along their winding path to who knows where, each more lustrous than the last.
Did you see how they caught the light? Hurt Me broke the US charts, made iTunes’ single of the week. Easy To Love and Mace Spray were indie radio staples; Dark Storm an iTunes #1. AIR and APRA nominations were lavished for records and songwriting.
Meanwhile in the live arena, maybe you’ve been shaken by The Jezabels’ cocktail of power and elegance, at one of their sold out headline shows around the world, or at any number of festivals that left critics gasping, from Oz inkies to UK glossies to Austin’s SXSW:
“Commanding…epic…brilliant…menacing…purring, roaring, soaring… intellectual ferocity…pyromaniac intensity…imagination and emotional rawness…thundering…threatening…exuberant rock’n’roll swagger…”
So much for peeking through the keyhole. With Prisoner, their debut album, The Jezabels are released at last.
“We love a bit of drama,” firebrand singer Hayley Mary makes clear from the outset. “The EP trilogy was practical as well as conceptual on our part. It helped shaped us internally, as well as how we were perceived.
“The themes we got to develop, the aesthetic of the design… they helped establish our world, our business, our creative realm. It was nice to feel like we were protected within the force field of the trilogy.”
In the force field of their hearts and minds, Hayley Mary and keyboard player Heather Shannon were The Jezabels long before they left the coastal paradise of Byron Bay for the bright lights and dark shadows of Sydney in 2006.
Guitarist Sam Lockwood recognised them in the corridors of learning. History. English. Gender. Rock. He signed them up for a band competition, conjured drummer Nik Kaloper from the mist. The battle was won. The first of many.
“It was a combination of four individual desires to play music and taking whatever opportunities we could find — which happened to be each other,” says Hayley. “From there the process has pretty much been one of reconciling musical differences. But we’re getting closer.”
Prisoner is a panoramic study of tension and emancipation, from the echoing stone cathedral of the title track to the sun-blasted morning of the first single, Endless Summer; from the cloistered atmospherics of the instrumental interlude, Austerlitz, to the chiming and climbing pop of Deep Wide Ocean and the quiet reflecting pool of Peace of Mind.
Like the EP trilogy, Prisoner was recorded during stolen hours by Sydney producer Lachlan Mitchell, whose passion for glittering pop divas and his nocturnal gig in blood-guzzling black metal band Nazxul helped define The Jezabels’ polarities of grandiose theatrics and gothic intensity.
“I was always obsessed with that whole Brontë-esque gothic melodramatic thing Kate Bush did,” Hayley says. “I love the performance aspect of people like Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper.
“Nik is obsessed with metal. He’s a perpetual ball of rhythm. He needs to drum so he doesn’t flip out. Heather is a classical pianist who has the advantage of not really knowing the rules of rock. Sam is the earthing element. He likes organic country-folk so he balances that theatrical, over- the-top, almost ‘80s thing we have…
“Between us it gets very intense but also very dynamic and awesome. There’s always someone with a great idea that you would never think of yourself.”
Between big ideas and spectacular hooks, dynamic and awesome is about right. The ecstatically swelling melody of Long Highway and stately grace and sky bound chorus of Rosebud bring immediate rewards, but between layers of sound and meaning, Prisoner takes time to fully reveal itself.
“The lyrics are set out as a letter to a prisoner,” Hayley says. “I’m interested in the idea of your personal role in your own oppression. To a certain extent the album explores the idea of looking at yourself as a prisoner and asking about the reasons for that. Are they external or are they internal?”
Perhaps related is the fact that The Jezabels have chosen to remain an independent entity for their debut album — in spite of a virtual stampede of label interests.
“The team we’ve worked with showed faith in us from the first show, from management to production to design,” says Hayley. “That’s a valuable thing, to have this internal strength of knowing it’s us against the world.”
World be warned. Prisoner is loose.
Over the past two years, Yukon Blonde has earned no shortage of acclaim for its hook-heavy brand of pop rock. But despite their love of vintage rock 'n' roll, the members aren't the kind of guys who cling to the past.
Frontman Jeff Innes, guitarist Brandon Scott and drummer Graham Jones first joined forces in 2005 in their hometown of Kelowna, BC. Performing under the name Alphababy, they released two EPs and toured extensively while perfecting a slow-burning variety of synth-heavy rock. But when the project soured, the three friends abandoned all of their hard work and reinvented themselves as Yukon Blonde in 2008.
Starting from scratch with a new name, they ditched their moody style in favour of a more raw, guitar-driven sound. Catchier and infinitely more fun to play live, Yukon Blonde's new songs quickly earned the band a devoted following when they relocated to Vancouver, BC. It was in this city that Yukon Blonde cut its debut EP, Everything in Everyway, in 2009. Recorded live-to-tape with producer Shawn Cole (You Say Party!, Hannah Georgas), these sessions also spawned the band's 2010 self-titled full-length.
With its amped-up rock songs and sun-dappled vocal harmonies, the LP received rave reviews. CHARTattack called it "the soundtrack to your summer," while Exclaim! declared, "The nuances that Yukon Blonde employ are utterly refreshing, and more compelling with each listen." The record earned a nomination for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, and the outfit embarked upon a gruelling live schedule that kept them on the road for nine months of the year and included shows in the U.S., Europe and at home. During this time, the band expanded its ranks to include a full-time bassist, John Jeffrey.
Now, Yukon Blonde is poised to reinvent itself once again. Despite the success of the group's previous material, the musicians were initially uninspired when they set about writing like-minded new songs. Instead, the members were drawn to the fast, punk-tinged tracks that Innes has been penning in his spare time. Danceable and unrepentantly poppy, these new tracks evoked late-'70s/early-'80s post-punk and drew inspiration from artists like the Buzzcocks, Ramones and Talking Heads.
After an intensive three-week writing retreat in BC's Comox Valley that saw the band pulling twelve-hour days, Yukon Blonde hunkered down at Burnaby, BC's Hive Creative Labs studio with Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, Ladyhawk). Eschewing the analog tape of their past work in favour of a crisp digital approach with synthesizer flourishes, the band agonized over tones and meticulously crafted 15 new songs.
Four of these songs sounded out of place, and bore a distinct similarity to the debut. Yukon Blonde opted to release these four cuts separately as the 2011 EP Fire//Water. With the fan base's appetite sufficiently whetted, the group held back the remaining tracks for their second full length album.
Currently wrapping up a 62 show tour of North America behind Fire//Water the band is now ready to introduce the world to their next release – the first single from the upcoming album – a song called Stairway that brightly elevates the band's surging arrangements. Slotted for release on January 31st, Yukon Blonde's Stairway 7" also includes as a B-Side a home-recorded DEMO version of a future album track called "Radio", which assaults the speakers with a brash stomp worthy of early Elvis Costello. Melodically contrasted with one another, both songs on the Stairway 7" hint at the range of paths sonically taken with the band's sophomore LP which will be available in early 2012.
Artistically uncompromising as ever, Yukon Blonde have already proved that they are willing to go wherever their restless artistic muse takes them. The next stop: a live venue near you, as these road warriors will be racking up yet more miles on the odometer in the very near future and heading on tours across Australia, Europe and North America.