Interview with Heather Shannon of The Jezabels

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The Jezabels are four young musos who met at university, formed a group and just missed out on winning the campus ‘Battle Of The Bands’ competition. Sounds like a plot for a Disney flick, right? When Cream chats toJezabel keyboardist, Heather Shannon, she prefers to compare the situation to “a stage play” or “opera vibe”.

So what has she and her band been up to since that win? Releasing EPs left, right and centre, touring the world, and ultimately taking out Australia’s richest contemporary music prize called, naturally, the Australian Music Prize.

The panel of 40 judges saw the quartet more deserving of $30,000 than Boy & Bear, Gurrumul Yunupingu and Gotye, to name just a few of the stiff competition. The democratic vote and subsequent winner caused a bit of a riff within the Australian music scene with many reactions being of the ‘Too Triple J friendly’ type. When questioned on this, Heather’s response seems spot-on, considering her band’s music is a fabulous melange of rock, disco and indie pop.

“Maybe they should invent a new award and be clearer on the guide lines if they don’t want to include these so-called ‘Triple J friendly’ artists.”

With a strong attitude like this and a gracious acceptance letter [they weren’t in the country to accept personally] it must still slice deep when the media describes you as “beige as beige gets” and “a safe choice – not too safe [that would have been Gotye] but not too controversial”.

The award comes with not only the right for music blogs nationwide to rip into you but also 30K, which would surely be handy considering The Jezabels have remained an independent band since conception. What’s Heather thinking of doing with the cash?

“Buy some shoes. And I might buy some good red wine for once.”

Good choice, goon sacks can definitely take their toll. But if going abroad to record is also on her list, it won’t be a cherry-popping experience. In fact, The Jezabels were overseas when Cream spoke to them, touring with English singer-songwriter, Benjamin Francis Leftwich. Heather names him as one of their faves, along with a few others.

“The Tegan and Sara tours are up there, along with touring with Hey Rosetta! through Canada last year.”

When questioned about the decision between festivals and concerts the usual, diplomatic response of “I like both” was given, but with a refreshing honesty,

“Festivals are messy and I always seem to get really drunk.”

Nice, Heather, nice.

Not only does Cream give massive kudos to The Jezabels and their amazingly ability to produce miraculous music whilst inebriated but also their plight of remaining independent through it all. How do they do it?

“We got through it by being slightly innovative and doing things our way. We decided to record three EPs over two years. We also worked with close friends in the studio and people that were also learning, so that it would be a mutually beneficial situation. I think sometimes that is when you get the best results, when you trust other artists.”

Best results indeed. But should they enter the Top 10, would they mind sharing company with the likes of One Direction?

“Sorry, I don’t know what One Direction is? It sounds like some sort of political movement. Am I right?”




The Jezabels’ debut album Prisoner is out through MGM Distribution.  

Pictured, The Jezabels with Heather Shannon, far left.