Music writing can sometimes get repetitive. There are only so many ways you can ask a band about their current tour/album/music video/nagging drug habit. So, imagine my horror when I learned that Down Under indie darlings, The Jezabels, a four-piece alt pop act that has been gaining accolades in their native Australia and abroad, were returning to Whistler only four months after their first show here.
Not wanting to bore our faithful readers, not to mention my interview subject, drummer Nik Kaloper, I decided to sprinkle in a few unorthodox queries on top of the regular, humdrum questions that animate most band interviews.
Here is the Q&A, edited for length and content. The Jezabels play the Longhorn Saloon Sept. 13. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show kicking off at 9 p.m.
Whistler is a popular destination for Aussies. Did the town meet your expectations based on what you’d heard from your fellow countrymen? To be honest with you, I’ve never really grown up in areas where there’s snow, so these snow towns or ski towns, I guess you’d call them, how they all have a village at the foot of the mountain with the shops and the restaurants and the bars, it was all just more picturesque than I could have fathomed.
You didn’t get to go skiing last time? I’ve never gone skiing and I thought, ‘I’m sure to fall over.’ I’m 6-foot 5 and I blame it on a very high centre of gravity.
And you probably need your arms for drumming?
Arms, legs. I need everything.
Aussies can garner this reputation here of being a little abrasive, and a lot of drunk. What are some views that Australians have of Canadians?
If anything, the fact that you don’t really have a reputation in Australia is testament to the fact that you guys are well-mannered and friendly.
(Laughs)Any time you go to Canada, you run into the friendliest people you’re likely to meet… You guys don’t drink til’ you vomit in the streets like us.
What are your views on vegemite?
It took me six years to like it… [Ed. Note: Kaloper lived in sunny California until he was 15] North Americans have a habit of, when they see peanut butter or jelly, putting as much as possible as you can on the knife and you spread it thickly over your toast. If you do that with vegemite, you’re in for a world of hurt… At most, you want nickel-sized dollops on your bread. The key is having it with plenty of butter.
What are some of the benefits of being a famous band in Australia?
The benefits are much the same as being a famous band anywhere, I guess. Last time we did a headline tour in Australia, we did some 5,000 capacity venues, which was by far the biggest thing and the most nerve-wracking thing that we’ve done to date. Getting to that point in Australia is incredible… It’s almost a necessity for us to be that big somewhere, otherwise we’d never be able to afford to come out to towns like Whistler.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about Australians?
They ride kangaroos to school.
I’ll tell you one and it’s a blatant one. I’ve never seen anyone with a can of Foster’s in their hand in Australia. Every Australian will testify to that. No one knows why Foster’s is Australian for beer because I’ve never seen anyone drink it.
Your guitarist, Sam Lockwood once called your music “intensindie.” What does that term mean to you?
It was funny how that blew up. We said it in passing, sort of as a joke one day in an interview and somehow it’s come back ever since. It was almost a year ago. Sam just said it as a play on words, you know, “intensity.”
We consider ourselves sort of indie, alternative music, but we have this habit, whether we like it or not, we always end up writing these songs that are…intense. We never chill out when we’re writing songs. We always seem to gravitate towards making them as intense and sort of melodramatic as possible.
I read that you had a song appear in HBO’s True Blood, and were in talks to have one appear in the Twilight series? Do vampires like the Jezabels’ music? I don’t know if trendy is the right word, but vampires are very in right now. (Our music) isn’t vampiric necessarily, but we have been referred to as gothic pop, which I don’t mind the sound of. Especially the first song of the album, which sounds like you should be wearing a cape in some sort of abandoned cathedral, hanging from the roof. I guess some of the darker aspects of our music lend itself to more vampiresque visuals but it was never something deliberate.
What can people expect from your show? Well, it’s only been four months since we were in Whistler last, so we haven’t written any new songs or anything. Don’t write that. (Pause). Well, they can expect the same four awkward people sort of bopping around on stage trying to play as good of a show as they ever have.
The Jezabels’ latest album, Prisoner, was released in September 2011 and is available in stores now.