Billed as a “brand new annual outdoor concert for Sydney”, North Sydney Oval will host the inaugural Party In The Park in March 2015. Topping the bill are festival heavyweights The Cat Empire and Sydney’s own The Jezabels. Party In The Park is slated to provide musically astute North Shore locals with a chance to frolic in sunshine and greenery, no doubt with a colourful drink in hand.
Sunshine, greenery and fizzy colour aren’t images you’d readily associate with The Jezabels. That is, until recently. The band initially attracted attention for writing stadium-sized alternative/indie rock tunes, often tied together with a decent chunk of brooding atmosphere. However, on The Jezabels’ second LP The Brink – released in early 2014 – the four-piece made a concerted effort to deliver something with a lighter touch.
“Basically we wanted to write a pop album,” says drummer Nik Kaloper. “We set out to do that quite explicitly – to make music that was a bit more clear and less moody and a bit more concise in its intention.”
Upon release, The Brink garnered mixed reviews – the response was neither overwhelmingly positive nor negative. The fluctuating feedback would suggest The Jezabels’ forthright shift into pop caught some listeners off guard. The group is known for having a fairly rocky relationship with the music press, but Kaloper says witnessing the responses from reviewers and fans hasn’t significantly altered his feelings on the record.
“I don’t know if I’ve reassessed anything, really. I think that we [executed it] to the best of our abilities. That’s still how I feel about it. I think there’s some cracking songs on that record, and I also think if we had a chance to do it again we might do it a little bit differently.
“I’ve never been the type to be overly confident in anything I’ve ever done in my entire life,” he adds, “so I don’t approach these things thinking I’ve ever made the best album or contributed to writing one of the best songs or anything like that. I’m pretty level-headed when it comes to these things. What I can say first and foremost is we made that record with every bit of sincerity and authenticity we had.”
Despite what certain naysayers might’ve said about The Brink, The Jezabels’ ensuing ten months have been rammed full of exceptional career achievements. Since the record landed, they’ve headlined the Laneway and Groovin The Moo festival tours, carried out dual overseas jaunts and completed a national headline tour encompassing a number of Australia’s most prestigious theatres. The hometown segment of that tour saw the band pull off a double header at Sydney Opera House, which is something Kaloper won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
“Playing in such an iconic venue to people two nights in a row was just absolutely mind-blowing,” he says. “You don’t even take that kind of experience in until months later when you actually think about it, because you’re running on pure adrenaline and concentration. Even after the show I remember thinking, ‘I have no idea what just happened.’ I could’ve been playing Beatles covers on the drums for all I knew. So that was definitely a highlight.”
This isn’t the only surreal experience from 2014 that sticks out in Kaloper’s mind. “We were able to sell out a reasonably big venue in Berlin called the Astra, which was really awesome. We got to support Depeche Mode and the Pixies this year too. Dave [Lovering], the drummer for the Pixies, said he liked my drumming, so that might be a career highlight for me. It makes some of the 17-hour drives more than worth it.”
As for the band’s next move, the four members have recently returned to Sydney and they’re planning on staying put for the next few months. At this stage, a third LP is essentially only a nominal interest. Item one on the agenda is ‘regular living’.
“We thought, if we’re going to do another album – which we have an intention to do and that’s about as far as we’ve gotten with that – we better get some more outside experience in the world to bring back into the band. I’ve been focusing on recording and doing some studio work. I’ve been picking up bits of technical know-how and production along the way in the last three or four years. It made me realise I have no qualms with sitting in front of a laptop for 14 hours a day when I’m getting to turn knobs and mess with compression and gated reverbs.”
Opting to take time away from band activities shows that, even though The Brink boosted The Jezabels’ standing on the pop ladder, they’ve no urgency to immediately cash in. Rather, in order to keep making records rooted in sincerity and authenticity, a step back is necessary.
“Since leading up and rehearsing and recording [debut album] Prisoner, we’ve been either recording, touring or writing for the last four years or so. We just wanted to take the time to regroup, I guess. Otherwise we’ll sort of be drawing from an empty well. We need to fill the well up by doing some extra-curricular things and just getting our heads out there so we can get a fresh perspective when we come back to write some more music.”