The Jezabels a-rising 

Australian Music Prize indie-rockers hit Longhorn Saloon on Monday

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The Jezabels aren't trying to change the world but if it happens, well, they won't complain.

The moody Sydney-based indie rockers have cemented a reputation as rising stars down under, with a best-selling debut album and an Australia Music Prize under their belts. Their intense live shows regularly convert the uninitiated into believers so clearly they've inspired some change in people's lives.

But, as we say, it's not something they've set out to do.

"You can't really say you're trying to change the world with your music or something like that," says drummer Nik Kaloper.

The goal is, and has always been, to write the best set of songs possible. Ideally, enough people will pay attention. But the reasons why they write songs aren't easy for Kaloper to articulate.

"It's weird that you do this and you don't really know why you do it sometimes, but you keep doing it," he says.

And they've been doing well. Their debut album Prisoner, released last fall, earned The Jezabels the Australian Music Prize — the Aussie equivalent of Canada's Polaris Music Prize and the U.K.'s Mercury Prizes — cementing a reputation as rising stars down under. The album peaked number two on the Australian chart and now they've booked major summer festivals, including Lollapalooza and Osheaga.

"It all seems to be heading in the right direction, and we're really stoked about it," an understandably chipper Kaloper says.

The band — Kaloper, vocalist Hayley Mary, keyboardist/vocalist Heather Shannon and bassist Sam Lockwood — formed in 2007 while attending the University of Sydney.

Mary and Shannon had been writing and playing together in their hometown of Byron Bay. They linked up with Sam, who approached California-born Kaloper when they needed a drummer for an open mic session.

"It was awful," Kaloper says. "It was like the second time I'd been on stage for any reason, but it was so necessary."

But by the end of 2010, they'd released three EPs — 2009's The Man is Dead and She's So Hard and 2010's gold-certified Dark Storm — and were featured twice on Australia national radio station Triple J's Hottest 100 that year.

Once they made Triple J, there was an immediate spike in their fan base. People were suddenly showing up to their shows and singing along to their songs. They were booking venues they could never have before.

By 2011, they'd cemented their status as one of indie's rising stars down under. Kaloper says it's a culmination of the five years they'd spent learning, playing and growing together. It's a signpost for how far they've come and a launching pad for where they'll go next.

"We've been getting a better grasp on how we write songs as a band and what the whole process of recording an album, and what a song is," he says.

Now that Prisoner is finished and they've had time to reflect on it, he says it's been an important step in showing what they need to work on in order for the band to grow.

"If we tried to get even bigger in our sound than we did on Prisoner, I think we'd probably turn into a metal band or something, so we might need to take a left or right turn and try to reinvent some of what we do, I think."

He says there's no set plan to start writing again. Right now, they're just too busy. But when that time comes, he says there will pressure to top the considerable success they've already achieved — but not necessarily from the fans or critics.

"I don't think we've felt pressure greater in magnitude than the pressure we put on ourselves to actually try to do well," he says. "I don't think we need to pay attention to anymore pressure other than that because it's plenty to get the job done."



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