Meet Sydney quartet The Jezabels - a band unafraid of fervent emotion, colossal choruses and skyscraping ambition. Fusing stadium sing-a-longs with mysterious macabre, their music recalls the bittersweet lovelorn of Fleetwood Mac, gothic romanticism of Kate Bush and flashes of The Temper Trap's sonic anthemia.
Made up of front woman Hayley Mary, keyboardist Heather Shannon, drummer Nik Kaloper and guitarist Sam Lockwood, the band have released a trilogy of EPs since they formed four years ago: 2009's The Man Is Dead, She's So Hard and last year's Dark Storm. As those dour titles might suggest, The Jezabels aren't the jubilant summer-pop you'd normally expect from an Aussie act - if anything they're a reaction to all things exultant.
Garnering an immediate fan-base after the release of their captivating EPs, The Jezabels have been touring extensively in order to fully evolve as a band. In a time where it's easy to hide behind laptops and visuals, this act are dedicated to the unique experience of an intense, emotive and traditional live show.
"We see it as a really important part of our identity as a band and sometimes take it a little too seriously when a show doesn't feel great. Performing gives us a chance to explain the songs in a way that can only be hinted at on record. We are, however, a band that really draws on the environment we're playing in," Hayley says, "I've never believed in frolicking about like a madman when there are only two people there, and we really thrive when a crowd is into it, but we always try to give it a kind of sincerity, such that is fitting to the room."
It's this passion for performance, as well as the success of their recorded material, that's flung the quartet from the insular Australian music industry out into the rest of the world for us to feast upon. Tegan And Sara, Katie Noonan and Josh Pyke have taken them on tour, crowds at South By South West have celebrated their magnificence and now it's time for them to cement themselves as one of the most soaring acts of 2011.
"I have been called histrionic as a front woman. It was intended in a negative way, I think, but it's exactly what I am trying to do," Hayley explains. Like all truly great performers; Debbie Harry, Alison Mosshart and the aforementioned Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush, Mary is unafraid of uninhibited expression in order to fully communicate her band's music to an audience. "On stage I aim to be melodramatic, histrionic and to embody those qualities, which are often seen as negatively feminine."
Just listen to the intoxicating, gothic tale that unravels in 'Mace Spray', and you'll recognise a band who are unafraid of towering and cinematic soundscapes - only The Jezabels manage to remain credible whilst doing so, "It's a fine line. I think Kate Bush achieved that and I loved her for it when I was growing up."
"I find myself looking for a sense of romance or nostalgia in music, whether it's new or old. I should also say, though, that the band all has pretty different tastes, so we pull each other in different directions when we write."
As well as having different tastes in music, the band thrive from the tension created through a conflict of opinion. Since meeting at university in 2007, all four members have battled with their own ideas and imaginations to create their emotive pop, "We instantly clicked but there's always been a clash and tension with the sounds and I think that works."
"It's very democratic and equal and fair. But we do have very different tastes and so we can have arguments it's a matter of compromise from everyone - nobody gets their pure desire because everyone has such strong opinions on most things. We all value each other's opinions the compromise is where we get our best ideas from."
This vigor is certainly translated in their music, their sound is full of heart pounding intensity. Hayley admits that her key influences have been the likes of pop heavyweights Abba and Queen - not so much compositionally, but for their pure essence and energy. Soaring, dramatic, euphoria: doused in a humane vulnerability and frustration. "It's my opinion that Australian culture celebrates masculinity more than femininity. It's not difficult to feel alienated as a woman, or a girl by the music, sport, and language surrounding you," Hayley says of the band's inspiration. But skeptical onlookers needn't be deterred, The Jezabels' music isn't militant or self-righteous in its message; it is the genderless and universal sound of emotion.
So far The Jezabels' determination and reputation has seen the quartet celebrated in the Triple J and CMJ charts as well as topping the Australian iTunes charts, not once but on all three of their EPs, an accolade achieved through word of mouth and their DIY approach to getting their name known, "We have this group of friends now who are our team, they're producing and recording our songs, making our music videos and artwork. They're our little crew. We've never felt part of any kind of scene though, I guess that's why we don't really sound like that many other bands right now."
The Jezabels' debut album 'Prisoner' reached number 2 in the Australian charts, and the band continue to be much in demand on the live circuit. The prospect of their future is still gradually sinking in -"There is the occasional moment when you think about how surreal it is to actually be in some of the places you go, playing to people on the other side of the world…It never ceases to amaze us when someone has even heard of us!"
Something tells us they'd better get used to it.