It’s early when I get the call to speak with The Jezabels, safe to say they quickly made a good impression. I have a quick introduction to the drummer, Nik Kaloper. He correctly pronounces my name, not even some of my friends can correctly pronounce my name.
Straight away I’m thinking to myself…
‘Yeah I like Nik, he’s killing it already. We could be mates.’
I ask Nik how his morning is going and he tells me enthusiastically that it’s been pretty good so far. It is, mind you, 10am and from the sounds of things he’s been a lot more productive with his day than me already.
His band, The Jezabels, have just dropped their third album, Synthia, and it has been received with universal praise, to which Nik seems pleasantly surprised.
‘You start out making an album for yourself and try to say what you want to say, if people enjoy it then that’s great. You always have mixed receptions with any album you make, however, this one does seem to be particularly positive in regards to feedback from listeners.’
Nik elaborated to me that Synthia took an exhaustive amount of planning from the band as they strove to work on expanding their sound.
‘We have most of our songs planned before recording in the studio. Once we’re feeling positive enough about them we then go into into a rehearsal room without recording equipment and just play together to see where we go with the sound. Once we get a part of a song that we like in particular, we then record on an iPhone to remember it.’
‘This is what we usually do when recording music, as it seems to work best for us’.
‘What we take into the studio never comes out the same and that’s the magic of the studio, you can do anything in there. The only issue, however, is that it is also negative in the sense that you have maybe too much to choose from, and it can get mind-boggling, so having a deadline helps.’
I can’t remember a time I actually appreciated a deadline – the editors here at Lucifer’s Monocle can attest to that.
In the 2 years since The Jezabels’ last record, The Brink, Nik tells me how with this record the band started to evolve, a process that he can see continuing into the future.
‘Our music has definitely evolved and I would be pretty disappointed if it hadn’t. The core of the band hasn't changed since we first begun, reaching high highs and low lows in sense of the dramatic side to our music.’
‘We used to just spray some notes on paper whereas now, we have lost the chaotic edge we started with, not in a bad way it’s just that we are able to be a lot more controlled with our direction compared to the first EP’s.’
That evolution expanded from the creative process to the technical aspect of the band, as the group embraced new instruments and programming techniques.
‘We did use some new programming and embraced the electronic music in the sense that we are using drum machines and synthesisers which are subtle changes.’
‘We’re not an electronic group, however, we definitely utilised the new ways of making sound in this album.’
Though for all their evolution, Nik insists that the band still tends to overthink things.
‘We tend to be our biggest roadblock in terms of always trying to make it the best it can be’ in the sense that we are trying to write songs that we like’.
‘We do have a very collaborative writing process as everyone comes to the table with an idea. Most of the songs for this album started with Heather on the synthesiser and then us working from there.’
The biggest roadblock for The Jezabels, however, has been the recent news that keyboardist Heather Shannon needed immediate treatment for ovarian cancer, a disease she had been diagnosed with three years ago. Shannon and the band kept the diagnosis private until the treatment forced the band to cancel an upcoming national tour, in which they were to play their new album live for the first time.
‘It’s been a bump in the road definitely, well it’s just really sad at the end of the day. It was sad at first but being sad doesn't get anyone anywhere and we need to focus on whatever we can before we are good to tour again’
‘Heather is such a trooper and such a fighter, you look at her and she’s resilient and if she can get through it, anyone can.’
While the band has yet to announce when the tour will restart, Nik is adamant that the band will play the new material when all members are ready to go. In the meantime, the group will continue honing their live sound.
‘We tend to go overboard in the studio and you don’t get the same tricks in a live scenario to get the songs sounding as big and dense as you do in the studio.’
As our chat winded down to a close, I couldn’t help but feel admiration for Nik and the rest of the group. Putting out a record is hard enough, yet the band has overcome great personal adversity to release a critically acclaimed record.
I knew I had a good feeling about this guy.
The Jezabels' third album, Synthia, is out now
Torika Taylor, or Trix to those who know her, dabbles in all forms of mixed media. However, you will find her work predominantly in the 'Film' and 'Artwork' sections. She secretly wishes she were a spy, however, chose to settle for the next best thing, Film studies. Her inspiration comes from Tarantino and her cultural surroundings growing up in Fiji and Melbourne. Don’t ask her what the subliminal messages behind her work are, as she probably knows just as much as you do.