Unfortunately, Sydney has become the punchline to Australia’s prevailing arts and culture debate.
The visually spectacular city has accrued a reputation for going to bed early, for its sensitivity to noise and for its sometimes yuppy leanings.
Despite this growing rep, the city is responsible for some of the country’s most currently successful musical exports.
Heavy music has constantly bellowed out of the cities crevices, with acts like Polaris and Justice For The Damned gaining ever-growing acclaim in Europe and the States. Pop punk pundits Stand Atlantic and Yours Truly are crushing worldwide with their fresh takes on the genre.
Hip hop is booming in Sydney’s west, with Kwame, Triple One and Lil Spacely spitting scorching bars, doubling down on rattling trap beats and ultimately creating a culture of creativity like no other.
It takes a lot of hard work. People are working against a lot of anti-forces in the government and in culturally – it’s a tough city to do art, I’d say, Sydney, in general.
Art is always birthed out of necessity and an authority to kick against – and that’s exactly what seems to be happening in Sydney right now. With iconic venues like Goodgod Small Bar and Blackwire Records having closed down in recent years and the prevailing war on festivals, its clear things aren’t perfect – however, it’d be even easier to admit defeat.
For those whose lives revolve around the unadulterated joy of live music, they’ll stop at nothing to ensure their peer’s voices are heard and more importantly, will fight to continue to foster that inexplicable connection between listeners – a notion Hayley of The Jezabels wholeheartedly believes in.
“Sydney seems like it’s always been under attack, in that way. Even from like the 80’s and the 70’s it’s always like their heyday was in the past and it’s getting worse and worse, but we started a band and everyone was saying you should move to Melbourne, it’s much easier for bands there.
And I think that was the reason why we were like, “no that’s why we should stay in Sydney”. I think it kind of – not to say that we shouldn’t be fighting against the changes or whatever, but it also inspired resistance, which is kind of cool,” said Hayley of The Jezabels.
“We’re from Sydney and the live music industry in Sydney is struggling at the moment. But it’s also like there are some green shoots, which is good. It takes a lot of hard work. People are working against a lot of anti-forces in the government and in culturally – it’s a tough city to do art, I’d say, Sydney, in general.”
The Jezabels are an Australian indie-rock staple. For over a decade, the band have cemented their status as one of the country’s most moving and vital live acts, releasing chart-blazing albums that have found a home in the essential indie rock canon. They’ve conquered the stages of Splendour in the Grass, taken their gripping and emotional sound all over the world, they’re well acquainted with the ins and outs of live music and performance.
Having cut their teeth early on in Sydney’s indie scene of yesteryear, they’ve witnessed years of change in the music industry, spent hours slogging it out in the studio and have ticked off just about every milestone an Australian act can.
I don’t think you’ll ever kill live music or music. It’s like rock and roll, it goes up and down, it fluctuates.
Watch: The Jezabels talk live music, first gigs and nostalgia
“I don’t think you’ll ever kill live music or music. It’s like rock and roll, it goes up and down, it fluctuates. But you have to work pretty hard to play live music in Sydney and I think it just kind of – what’s the word – weeds out, weeds out anyone who thinks it’s going to be easy, that’s for sure.”
“I think it just sucks for the accessibility, it’s like if something is accessible, people – you have to be in a clique or in the know, to get into these illegal parties, and so that means certain people miss out on it.”
Sydney can feel exclusive at times – just last year it was revealed that the city was now more expensive to live in than New York and London, with its nightlife reflecting that. Sometimes it can only feel as though neon-lit clubs with $40 entrance fees and the hi-rollers room at the casino – which is why The Jezabels wanted to get out give back with .a run of free shows.
“Well, that’s kind of the point. That’s exactly what I was going to go to. That’s why it’s so good to go to like, even if you aren’t in some kind of cliquey city scene, it’s like, go out to a real town.
This is kind of a political topic and it feeds into other political topics. It’s always good to be in a niche, sort of –what’s the word – metropolitan attitude about art and stuff and then looking down on regional towns in the context of today’s politics. There can be quite a bit of branding and industry crap that you can get caught up in with music and when you go out to tour to real people and fans, you’re like ‘oh this is actually it’.”
Resistance has always been a part of The Jezabel’s DNA. Having grown up in Byron Bay, Hayley recalls feeling ostracised by its at times “bro-ey” hardcore culture, spearheaded by legends like Parkway Drive, explaining how it inspired her to find her voice.
“Well actually, it comes back again to that resistance idea for me, personally. Heather and I grew up in a surf town and it was dominated, like most regional towns in Australia, were at that time by like hardcore punk rock and it was a bit of bro-town thing.
And it’s this mixed bag of being like really inspired by these guys doing this movement that’s like energetic and everyone is dressing the same, it’s cultural and exciting, but then also feeling really segregated from it for the gender reasons, which is not every movement, but that particular movement was a bit like that. And so we’re inspired by them but also inspired to resist them and sort of counter it a bit.”
For The Jezabel’s, finding solace and community in like-minded individuals is what live music is all about, and why they’re pushing on despite the odds.
“I’ve always felt – our music started out being quite strange. It’s kind of normal now because we became kind of popular. In the context of small regional towns, I never liked punk music. I admire the culture and that sort of stuff. I think live music is that as well. It finds people in sort of cultures that can find each other.
I’ve actually sort of formed my identity through going to certain bands and making the music that we make. Because I was a bit turned off by the heavily masculine culture in Byron and coming to see Hayley and Heather and to play music with them, it’s really good. That’s what you can do, you can do your own thing.”
The Jezabels, like all music fans and musicians, have one goal – pure, unadulterated enjoyment, something no law will ever squash.
“It’s collective. If it works in the room and everyone feels the same way and once the audience gets into it, we get into it more. And it’s like this symbiotic situation.”
Watch: Endless Summer – The Jezabels
The Jezabels continue their Corona Sunsets national tour this April, with all gigs completely free. Check out the full tour schedule below for more information
Corona Sunsets Presents The Jezabels
Thursday, March 14th
Clovelly Hotel, Clovelly, NSW
Friday, March 15th
Republica, St Kilda Beach, VIC
Saturday, March 16th
Torquay Hotel, Torquay, VIC
Sunday, March 17th
Florida Beach Bar, Terrigal, NSW
Thursday, March 21st
Sunroom @ Cronulla RSL, Cronulla, NSW
Friday, March 22nd
Walkers Arms Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Saturday, March 23rd
The Grand Bar, Glenelg, SA
Sunday, March 24th
Lorne Hotel, Lorne, VIC
Thursday, 28th March
Hotel Steyne, Manly, NSW
Saturday, March 30th
Beachfront Hotel, Rapid Creek, NT
Sunday, March 31st
Queens Wharf Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Wednesday, April 3rd
Potts Point Hotel, Potts Point, NSW
Friday, April 5th
Coogee Bay Hotel, Coogee, NSW
Saturday, April 6th
Mullaloo Hotel, Mullaloo, WA
Sunday, April 7th
The Lookout, Scarborough, WA
Wednesday, April 10th
Gilligan’s Backpackers Hotel and Resort, Cairns, QLD
Thursday, April 11th
The Island, Gold Coast, QLD
Friday, April 12th
South Beach Social, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday, April 13th
Sandstone Point Hotel, Sandstone Point, QLD
Sunday, April 14th
The Beach Hotel, Byron Bay, NSW
Head here to check out all the dates