Written for X-Press Magazine
The Jezabels are heading back to the West for Groovin The Moo at Hay Park, Bunbury, Saturday May 10. JAYDE FERGUSON chats with guitarist, Sam Lockwood.
Following up from their debut album, The Prisoner, which saw The Jezabels take out the Best Independent Release at the 2012 ARIA Awards, guitarist, Sam Lockwood reflects on the journey that took the band into their recently released second album, The Brink.
He admits that The Brink has been a bizarre change from their debut album with the band employing a few pop tricks and ‘80s dance vibes to create a more experimental sound.
“It’s what we needed, you have to see things differently. We got this synthesiser and having that instrument just changes your sound, you have this new language to work with and you can hear it throughout the album. It’s the same style of writing, but you just see what external forces can have on your music. It’s really cool; we learnt a lot.”
This new sound oozes simplicity, richness and maturity, but during the writing process, singer/songwriter Hayley Mary was concerned that she didn’t have sufficient creativity to write another album. Lockwood concedes, however, that you just have to get it done.
“A lot of the time with artists who have writer’s block, it usually becomes something they explore when they’re writing. We were very okay with the music; we had bounced ideas off each other and we could feel that Hayley was having a hard time. She puts so much pressure on herself so we weren’t that surprised by it, that’s the reason why her lyrics are so good and her input is so amazing. Our first album was easier as youngsters too; we’re older now and have had two years off… a lot of things change.”
The recording process for The Brink was recognisably different. Working in a London studio with Dan Grech-Marguerat (Radiohead, The Kooks), Lockwood acknowledges the vibe was pretty much perfect.
“It was great! This time it was different – we wrote pretty much all the songs before we got into the studio. It was more on us and it was really good to do that. Dan just knows what he wants and gets it. If you have the songs in your head, that’s the most pleasurable experience. You’re just in the studio getting cool sounds and getting things done.
“That’s the thing with Hayley, she had a hard time in the studio because she was still writing lyrics, but for the rest of us it wasn’t too bad. Dan’s worked with massive artists, which was relaxing. I was learning and really trying to pull stuff out of him like, ‘what would you do in this situation?’ It was interesting to see what solutions he had; I was just trying to steal all his good ideas, basically (laughs).”
The lows that had developed from not performing are evident in the album, broken up with bursts of energy and new beginnings. Lockwood recognises the extremes that come with touring and where he truly feels at home.
“It’s such a weird job,” he confesses, “Before a show you feel tired and you don’t really want to do anything. Then you do it and it’s exciting – you’re happy for the hour after it. Your body becomes so used to it, that routine, the waveform of excitement. Off road it’s missing from your day and it’s hard, we all experience it. It’s just a really different lifestyle.”
With a list of festivals under their belt, including Soundwave and Big Day Out, Lockwood admits he’s in a position to comment but can’t really understand the Australian music landscape and Perth losing such high-profile events.
“It’s so difficult, once things change – they’re gone. Obviously people don’t want to experience them, they want something smaller… Laneway sold out in Perth. You see it happen and the festivals struggle, it has to say something about what young people want these days. The amount of bad press BDO got was incredible and once you have that vibe around you, you know…” he drifts off.
“They had Pearl Jam and some of the best bands in the world,” he goes on to say. “It’s that age – there’s a mass crowd of opinion and if you’re not going with the flow at that time, there’s nothing you can do. That’s the music industry these days, it’s like you can’t control it. It’s scary when you’re actually a musician or a promoter, you just think, ‘oh my god what’s happening?’ (laughs).”
Lockwood affirms the best thing about the industry is supporting artists and having them support you.
“You form friendships,” he says. “We just had a UK band called Champs play with us and they’re going to be massive, but to capture that and play with them at that early stage in their career and make beautiful music is awesome. With The Pixies and well-established bands you get to learn from them and ask them questions. It’s really, really cool.”
Growing up obsessing over people like Ben Harper and John Butler, Lockwood admits that, while he likes playing the electric guitar, it’s still great to pull out the acoustic every now and then.
“I actually grew up playing slide guitar like Butler, he was my idol! I think I’ve played electric for so long now when I go back to acoustic it feels like I’ve lost my touch – it’s a different world.”
With Groovin The Moo just around the corner, Lockwood is anticipating a great show in Bunbury and says that fans can expect something bigger and better than before.
“We’ve got a good slot later in the night. We also have a really good lighting show being worked out so it’s going to be a pretty big event. It’s something we haven’t done before at festivals so it’s very exciting! It’s also the last place on tour so hopefully by then the lighting will be perfect (laughs).”