After playing a string of shows over the past year and releasing latest single The Others in August, The Jezabels frontwoman Hayley Mary spoke to JOSEPH WILSON about financial success in the music industry, being nominated in the NLMA’s and hitting up their headline show for Fremantle Festival this Saturday, October 28. Fingers crossed they cover Tina Turner’s The Best like they did at Falls Fest!

You guys released single The Others in August, how has the year been for you guys since then? How has 2017 been for you?

Great, we don’t really have any plans right now other than doing shows. When we released The Others we did seven nights in a row at the The Landsdown, which was crazy. But it was a really good vibe because it was in support of a small venue and instead of just doing one bigger venue, we did something different and played in this smaller venue seven nights in-a-row. It felt a bit old school and I really enjoyed it. So we did that for a week and we recovered by not playing or seeing each other for a long time.

We did have a couple of benefits; we did a benefit for the Marriage Equality campaign. We also did Amnesty International and we were one of the Midnight Oil supports in Melbourne and Hobart which is pretty exciting.

That sounds pretty busy…

It does actually when you think about it. We’re just chilling on the writing but we’re doing a bunch of festivals, like Fremantle.

Your last album was 2016, is the band in an elongated touring phase?

We are in a strange, somewhat unique phase of not wanting to pin ourselves down into anything particular. We will say yes to shows if they come and if they’re appealing, but we’re not really pushing. We’re definitely at the end of the cycle of touring but it’s whether or we are going to begin again immediately with writing, or just chill and do what comes when.

It’s not a hiatus as such. I shouldn’t have even mentioned that word, I hate that word. We’re not doing the usual thing that the industry seems to make you do which is have expectations on yourself and fixed timelines. We’re stepping back and having a relaxed, self-driven approach. I don’t know what will happen, but it’s pretty vague and nonchalant at the moment.

Many bands continuously follow the cycle of touring and recording – do you think it’s important for bands to take a ‘step back’?

If you want to keep growing like a business in a capitalist system, you’re supposed to stick to some sort of cycle. Live up to expectations and hopefully exceed them and keep growing your crowds and territories that you cover. All of that requires releasing new music – more and more these days because the shelf life of things is shorter.

If you want to grow, and keep going, stick to cycles. Cycles are becoming short because people are releasing song after song instead of waiting for a whole album; in the pop world at least. But I think if you want to grow at our stage after 10 years of playing together and having done a little bit of that ourselves, we wanted to grow as people within the relationships that we had, and then we needed to step back. It just depends on where you’re at.

Do think it is a necessary step older bands like yourselves should take?

I think some bands, this is the stage where they want to step-up and take it even further and that pays off. But we’ve just had too many health issues; we’ve been confronted with things that have forced this relaxation upon us. I don’t think it’s necessary; you could be doing the opposite. But it’s just where we’re at.

How does it feel getting to your 10th anniversary as band? Has anything changed?

I guess naiveté is a little bit gone. I know the hard work that music entails if you really want to take it seriously. Which is what I really like about it, I didn’t imagine the specifics of it when it was just a dream at the beginning.

I actually like that you can’t live a normal life, in a sense you can’t be there for your Wednesday football practice, or you might miss your girlfriend’s birthday and might miss all of the weddings and all these things because you’re going off and doing similarly amazing things that exist outside a lot of your friendship circles. It is kind of hard, but also great because of what you get to do. The naiveté of the sacrifices you have to make is gone, but I still have a lot of excitement about the future.

Do you think successful musicians are often placed on a different path to everyone else?

I do and I don’t. I think success is a never-ending ladder which is only ever measured by looking from the outside. Once you’re in it, there is always someone you could one-up. There are always people that hate on you. I think I have met some of the most successful musicians in the world and they are still quite hungry for it. It’s very rare to find people who have done everything they have wanted to achieve. Those two mindframes don’t really go hand in hand.

There is obviously the wealth line which makes people a little bit happier and above. I think they said it was something like $90,000 and above that it doesn’t really improve your happiness. I think it’s a little bit like that with music, if you’re making a living off your music then you’re ecstatic, but above that I think most musicians just want to be able to play and not have to do other things that might take away opportunities to play. The wealth that comes to some is great, but I don’t think it makes them exponentially happier.

Bands who want to make themselves bigger financially or seeking success, is it healthier to pursue a more subjective desire of success rather than financial?

I think this is for a conversation about life in general, but particularly with the music industry and a lot of industries. The problem is it might be a healthier mind frame, but if you’re not growing, you seem to be shrinking, with the publicity beast that is eating up everything. Everyone has a personal brand now, it’s probably worse than in the past. But if you’re not getting bigger, you seem to be stagnating and becoming smaller.

People don’t think money should matter and as soon as they start making it, it does. No one cares about the money till there is some money and if there is heaps of money they don’t care until that money starts running out. Mode of production affects everything. It is an interesting one, I know a lot of musicians, I know a lot of successful and semi-successful ones, I don’t think the successful ones are happier. They are happy to the point to where their voice is being heard, or they get to express themselves as a human being and there is a certain freedom in that.

But I don’t think the fame to an extent makes you very happy, or the money makes you very happy, but that sounds like hippy shit. The hippies were onto something, I just think they had a bad aesthetic – it just turned the rest of us off.

How does the band feel about being nominated for the National Live Music awards?

Great! I like it because I think we’re a better live band than we are on record. I feel we’re probably more of a live band. We’ve toured a lot; it’s probably my favourite part in being in a band. It’s nice, because a lot of awards are about records, sales, production and stuff like the ARIAS. Then you get another sub-category that’s for live acts which tends to go to the act that sells the most records anyway.

I think it’s cool to have that award. It also speaks to a part of the musical community that has been a bit sidelined by DJ music. I think that’s good. I’m not against DJ music, but it’s got a lot of followers and sales and for old-school, touring musicians it’s really expensive to carry gear around. So it’s nice to be recognised, that there is a skill that’s possibly ageing a little bit. Not dying, it never dies, but it’s on the wane at the moment.

Do you think there is a wider emphasis being placed live music again?

Well I live in Sydney so think there is a lot of people going like fucking hell we need to support live music a bit more because we have had a war of attrition on it for the last 30-40 years. Not that I was alive during that time. It swings back and forth, it’s just we have a lot of electronica music right now. So there is bound to be a reaction.

There is so many female bands now and there will be wave of misogyny. So I do think there will be a renaissance of live and guitar music. I do know a lot of people are starting to value musicianship and are being outspoken about it. Not because they hate electronic music, but because it dominates and with stuff that dominates people tend to hate on it.

How does it feel heading back to Fremantle?

I feel great, I love Perth. I love particularly Fremantle, the only thing I don’t like about Perth is how expensive everything is. But one of my favourite Japanese restaurants is in Perth. I’m excited to be over there, it’s always very fresh. I think Perth has a magic to it, I always like playing there.