In case you haven’t been paying attention, The Jezabels have blown all the way up. Just a few years removed from being unknown Sydney uni students, they’re now based in London and well on their way to world domination.
“Well, sort of,” laughs keyboardist and pianist Heather Shannon. “We don’t really have homes at the moment, but we’ve got a rehearsal space here. We come back here and rehearse on the days we’re not on tour, and then we... go back on tour.”
Surely all that drifting leads to some degree of anxiety? “That’s a good question,” Shannon says, “because anxiety is the word, yeah. I do get anxious sometimes, being on the road, but I think you start to lose that and get used to it. It’s just hard... you feel like you’re not doing anything, because you’re just sitting in a car and going into a venue every day, and that’s it. But you start to find pockets of time where you can do other things. You get used to not having a routine.”
Drummer Charlie Watts once described his first 25 years with The Rolling Stones as 5 years of playing and 20 years of waiting around. Shannon can already relate. “Yeah, that pretty much sums it up! I have this guilt embedded in me, I don’t know if it’s from uni or something, but I hate sitting around doing nothing. So I try to take stuff on the road to work on.
“At the moment I’ve got this book on counterpoints [a classical music technique popular during the Renaissance], and I’m trying to teach myself how to write them properly. I learnt a lot about that stuff at uni, but I just want to get really good at it. It’s kind of annoying not having a teacher to help, but I just try to do it myself. I’m probably doing it completely wrong.”
All that touring has resulted in a devoted British audience for the band, even if the UK music press hasn’t embraced them as wholeheartedly as their Aussie counterparts. “Actually, it’s strange,” Shannon admits. “We’ve sold a lot of tickets here — at our last show in London, we sold 1200 tickets — and our fans are amazing people, just like in Sydney. The challenge here, though, is convincing the media, because it’s much more intense and they’re sort of hot-and-cold here.”
“[Being Australian] is sort of a mark against you, in a way. It’s weird. You have to prove you’re not just an Australian band that’s going to be here for a few shows and then leave; you need to show them you’re in for the long haul. In all the stuff people have written about us here, they always mention Crocodile Dundee or Fosters or something, just really lame stuff, just because we’re Australian.”
Not that Shannon is completely immune to Aussie clichés, of course. “I do really like Vegemite, actually. That’s a cliché, but I haven’t seen them write that one yet!”
For Shannon, her band’s journey to the top has been slow and steady. For those of us on the outside of the tour bus looking in, though, it’s been an absolutely meteoric rise, capped off by winning the 2011 Australian Music Prize for debut LP Prisoner and their insanely popular set at last year’s Splendour In The Grass. Bluejuice frontman Jake Stone has been quite vocal about his jealousy of the speed of The Jezabels’ ascent, and he’s not alone.
So how does Shannon feel when critics say she hasn’t ‘paid her dues’? “I don’t agree with them at all, obviously. But Jake’s a really great friend of all of ours. He’s just an intense person, and we all love him. I don’t know... some people like to say different things. Everyone has an opinion, and that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me.
“I know how hard we’ve worked, and I know we deserve this. That’s all that matters.”
Prisoner is available now. The Jezabels play the Brisbane Convention Centre on Thursday June 7.