Endless Touring

23 May 2012 | 4:40 pm | Benny Doyle

“You just learn how to deal with each other. Earlier on you come to blows a bit on the road because everyone is stressed out, but you realise that you’re just tired, which is obviously why you’re having a fight, so we just don’t fight anymore.”

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The day might have only just begun in springtime London, but Samuel Lockwood is in a jovial mood. The reality that the 24-year-old Sydneysider is neither burnt out nor cynical is slightly disarming but also a welcome surprise. After all, the past 12 months for The Jezabels have been nothing short of meteoric. “As a band we're in a really good place at the moment,” Lockwood states. “You just learn how to deal with each other. Earlier on you come to blows a bit on the road because everyone is stressed out, but you realise that you're just tired, which is obviously why you're having a fight, so we just don't fight anymore.”

The Jezabels haven't so much snuck up on the Australian musical conscious as they have slowly wormed their way deep into its core, their tireless work ethic positioning them as one of the most popular and successful contemporary rock bands in the country. On the back of three well-received EPs, solid radio airplay and some bold, electrifying hooks, the quartet had positioned themselves perfectly for their debut album assault. Prisoner was released in September last year and, led by festival anthem Endless Summer, quickly shot up to second position in the charts.

Since then the band have continued their usual cycle of relentless touring, however, the stages are getting bigger, the crowds more vocal. Their popularity has also seen them doing serious road time in both Europe and America, with the band playing iconic venues like London's Electric Ballroom and the Bowery Ballroom in New York. The scale of these achievements isn't lost on Lockwood.

“To headline The Bowery Ballroom – I mean plenty of Australian bands have done it, but what can you really say about it?” he humbly reasons. “I learnt to play guitar in high school and wanted to maybe one day play in a band, then suddenly you're headlining The Bowery Ballroom. It's very hard to play overseas as an Australian band, so to get to that level where we are at, I'm so proud of us,” he continues. “I think it's probably going to sell out, which is pretty cool. Everything is a rite of passage just to be in a band. You get more and more experience and I think the experience that I've had from touring in Europe and America, I've learnt so much from that.”

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It's been six years of hard work for the four-piece, but Lockwood ensures that it's been an organic growth and development.

“I think it's come to its place where it should have been at,” he says. “We never pushed it in any particular direction, we just sort of randomly came together and it worked from the start, which was really fortunate. We never said what sort of music we wanted to play or who we wanted to be and I think that's been one of the most positive things about us. We just kept playing and growing. It's definitely a different beast but it's still the same. We've just grown up from children to adults.”

Since the release of Prisoner, the band has received a plethora of accolades. Peers, fans, critics; with their cinematic and provoking sound, The Jezabels have seemingly won over every ear that's listening. “When I start thinking about it, it makes me all emotional,” Lockwood confesses, “but because we are independent all the independent awards just mean so much. We got a SMAC Award in Sydney, the FBi award for Best Live Act and that was just amazing, because it's like peer reviews and stuff so it's really nice to be recognised. Then you've got the Rolling Stone Album Of The Year, which is something incredible for the album and obviously we're really proud of that, then when we got the AMP award, wow, I dunno.

“When you look at the albums that we were up against, it was such a strong year for Australian releases,” Lockwood admits. “Kimbra, Boy & Bear, Gotye; all these massive records, then there were great smaller releases like Abbe May's, from really good quality but not so popular artists. Because we were over here [in Europe] when we found out, it was in the middle of the night and I was waiting for a text from my manager. I heard my phone go off and I looked at it, but it was a little ambiguous, I think it just said, 'Oh, that's fucked!' Something like that. So I thought we didn't win it but then when we found out, we couldn't believe it – it was just like, 'Oh my god!'”

Listening to Prisoner, although it moves smoothly as a complete work, it's obvious that The Jezabels, made up of Lockwood, Heather Shannon (keys), Nik Kaloper (drums) and Hayley Mary (vocals), are all approaching the music from a different stylistic position. It's been critical to build the group's distinct sound. We all write together so it's always a collaboration and we're all so different in what we write,” he says. “If you listen to what our first EP sounds like it's like a fight between four different styles, but I think we have worked out a way to incorporate it better and it sounds more holistic [now].

“Collaborations always get really great creativity because it gets everyone's different ideas and it synthesises it to come up with a better thing, I think. It's such a process as well and it's hard on your ego at times. Because you think you have the right idea for a part of a song and you think the others' parts are going to suck, then you hear their idea and you go, 'Wow, that's better than what I was thinking' – it's so humbling.”

The grandiose nature of the songs also makes it the perfect platform for Mary to unleash her powerful vocals, her energy and charisma on both record and stage capturing the hearts of music lovers looking for a little bit more of that. “No one wants to be emotional or actually say how they feel, but Hayley in her lyrics gets very personal and that's something that I think maybe sets us apart – that we do try and make emotional music,” Lockwood acknowledges.

“We want to make music that actually does mean something for someone. The music Heather and I write allows Hayley to explore those issues in her lyrics. You can't write about your personal emotions if you don't have music behind you that's fitting.”

But even with all this ongoing success, if you think the band are going to be resting on their laurels for a second, then think again. “We're basically going to get as much out of this year as we can I think,” he says. “We've pencilled in dates until about September, but after that we've got another two months of going back to places where we think we should go back to. Just touring, touring, touring.”