Jezebels on the Brink
Hayley Mary, singer and lyricist, tells how moving to London and dealing with self-doubt affected the Australian band’s second album
Dark matters: Haley Mary (second left) with The Jezabels
It’s not that Hayley McGlone is a serious person, per se – it’s more that she was, as she puts it herself, “brought up to be able to see the darkness in things”. This sounds a bit ominous, but McGlone – known to fans as Hayley Mary – tempers the inner gloom with an outwardly sunny disposition in her role as frontwoman of The Jezabels, the band she formed with three university friends in Sydney in 2007.
“I’m always a little bit too serious, I think,” the 27-year-old laughs. “I dunno, I think I was just trained, as a kid, to be really cynical. If there’s darkness in our music, it’s probably just because it’s very hard to try and write a heartfelt song that reflects how you feel about the world or what you see in the world without some darkness. If you’re trying to portray the pure happiness of teenage sexuality, or something, then a One Direction song is really great; What Makes You Beautiful is a perfect song for that very reason. But there is darkness in that song – I’m not entirely sure that it was consciously put in there, but I think it’s particularly dark,” she says with another chuckle.
“I try to write a really nice, upbeat song, and I think ‘I can’t sing this’. It’s not as conscious as this sounds, but I have to twist it a little bit to believe in it as an expression of my feelings and my view.”
The Jezabels first came to prominence with the release of their excellent debut, Prisoner, in 2011. The album did well in Australia, but, as it was initially independently released, it was somewhat surprising when it caught the ear of the rest of the world, too. Their skewed indie-pop sound, comparable to acts such as Metric, or a more upbeat Daughter, won them accolades and a fan base further afield – but it also meant that change was necessary when it came to album number two, The Brink.
After a long period of intensive touring off the back of Prisoner, entailing around 200 shows alone in 2012, it was a shock to the system when the band found themselves in a room together alone, writing new songs. It made for an unnecessarily drawn-out experience, McGlone explains.
“Prisoner was written over a period of a few months, in sections, in between tours, whereas The Brink was written all in one go,” she says. “I think we overdid the writing process a bit. We had enough songs quite soon, but we didn’t think they were good enough and we kept trying to change them.We probably could have cut our writing by about three months, so that was a bit intense, but I think it comes from us being really self-critical people.”
As the band’s sole lyricist, McGlone also found herself at an uneasy juncture, which she attributes, at least partly, to a major life upheaval – last year, the band temporarily relocated from Sydney to London, a city she describes as a “very critical place”, to work on the album. The decision was partly business (their label is UK-based) and partly personal (some members of the band have partners in London).