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The Jezebels: We thought everybody hated our music

The Jezebels

For the singer of a group who invented the term 'intensindie' to describe their music, Hayley Mary has a remarkably relaxed public persona.

The black-clad Australian is fully aware of the negative critical reaction to her band The Jezabels' second album, The Brink, and speaks openly about it. But she displays none of the bitterness or denial that usually characterises musicians' responses to poor reviews.

"We're really not in line with what is cool at the moment," she ponders.

"When we were making the record we knew the UK reviews would be negative. We knew we weren't making music that would be considered good by the elitist music critics, but we made it anyway. Some people don't care about what's cool, and thank f**k for them!"

Being aware of your detractors doesn't necessarily mean criticism hurts any less, though, and in a rare moment of despondency Mary concedes bad reviews of The Jezabels' epic stadium rock "do get me down a bit".

"I'm used to them though, really," she adds. "For this album we received mostly bad reviews. A lot of bands have gotten really bad reviews early on in their careers and gone on to be the best band in the world though, so ..."

The Jezabels – who come to Belfast's Limelight 2 next Friday – are far bigger in their native Australia than in Europe, which is a state of affairs Mary and co-members Samuel Lockwood, Heather Shannon and Nik Kaloper sought to rectify by relocating from Sydney to London to record The Brink. However, they soon found themselves up against it.

"The first thing I remember thinking was that London was much more negative than Australia," says Mary.

"It was colder, harder, tougher. I think the record was almost a reaction against moving to England, in that it's not a very British-sounding record at all. Reflecting on the move now, Mary finds admirable humour in the challenges of an imposing new city and attempting to win over a fresh fanbase.

"We went to this place and thought: 'f**k, everybody here hates the kind of music we play," she laughs. "For a while it was cold, dark and desperate. I like London more now. "

The Jezabels have rather suffered from not having a concrete sense of home, according to Mary. During the endless cycle of touring and recording, band members are prone to "alternating mood swings".

"One person will be completely freaking out and the others will be fine," explains Mary. "And then the next day someone gets physically or mentally sick while the others are perfectly healthy. We tend to pull each other of bad moods. It also helps to remember that we are here voluntarily, and there are plenty of worse jobs out there."

You get the impression The Jezabels were just pleased to get an album released at all, especially given that the recording process was at one stage in danger of being derailed by a "serious, disrupting trauma" that Mary is, despite much prompting, "not at liberty to divulge".

"It was just like ... 'Whoa', she says of the incident. "It was a physical, sort of health issue. That always jolts everyone into taking a new perspective on life. I think that's what made us question whether we were all doing the right thing with our lives.

Fans of The Jezabels' dramatic, "uncool" (in their own view) music will be relieved to find out the answer to this existential question.

"In the end we all unanimously decided yes," smiles Mary, "this is exactly what we want to do."

The Jezebels play at The Limelight 2, Belfast, Friday, February 28. For details, visit www.ticketmaster.ie

Belfast Telegraph