AUSTRA – PART 2 Interview

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Toronto band Austra’s live shows are nothing short of magical – fans of the band will know what I mean by that. Within seconds, you will be entranced by the band’s stage presence and smooth, dark, lilting and edgy sounds. You will be impressed by lead singer Katie’s vocals and intense energy, as well as the fabulous harmonies of sisters Sari and Romy, Dorian’s tight bass and Ryan’s playful electronics. But, what gives the band its soul and sexiness are the drums – you will be seduced by the stomping beats of drummer MAYA POSTEPSKI and her laidback “I can do this in my sleep” attitude. Performing live, Postepski sits coolly at back of stage – her cockpit – pounding out those iconic Austra beats like a walk in the park while keeping the rhythms and tightness of the band in check, taking the image of the cool, sexy, talented drummer to another level. This band would not be the same without her, you will start thinking – and you would be right.

Female drummers have been overlooked and ignored for far too long in the music industry. Many have had to fight long and hard to break down stereotypes of what female percussionists can bring to the game – to prove that their gender has nothing to do with their invaluable contribution to the band and its success. Some of the most talented and iconic female drummers have suffered such terrible prejudice that they were eventually forced out of the band altogether – just look at the fate of Patty Schemel, former Hole drummer, whose life was completely blown to pieces after her scandalously calculated expulsion from the band by the then-producer Michael Beinhorn. Despite his criminal tactics, Beinhorn controversially went on to receive a Grammy nomination in 1998 for the band’s most successful album to date “Celebrity Skin” (Schemel’s face and name adorns the album sleeve even though the drum tracks are not actually hers – she was replaced during recording by an unknown male session drummer after Beinhorn set her up) – not an atypical industry story, as Courtney Love has resignedly confessed. Love later took her comments a step further, calling Beinhorn “still a nazi fuck” at a screening of 2011 documentary Hit So Hard which details the producer’s relentless bullying of Schemel and the awful tragedies that ensued. The commercial industry, it seems, continues to embrace industry males above and beyond female musicians and ethics.

Getting back to Postepski, not only is Maya one of the best drummers out there right now, finding herself ranked alongside other iconic drummers, she is a powerhouse of energy and productivity – a master remixer, producer, multi-instrumental percussionist. In addition to Austra, she has been a key member of TRUST, and continues her own project Princess Century. Ever humble, we get to know her better in this interview, where she tells us about her passion for the drums, sleeping in ex-asylums and why singer Katie Stelmanis saved her life.



Well, let’s get to know you a bit better – we like to have the artists speak openly about their backgrounds and what drives them. So much of mainstream journalism is just regurgitated information…
I don’t know why people do that. It’s like: just use your brain a little bit…

Well yeah, exactly.
I’d never become a journalist if I wasn’t actually interested in investigating things. But anyhow, that’s another discussion…

So, what’s your family background?
My family’s from Poland and I was born in South Africa. My parents were working there – they lived there for like 10 years and they had me. It was getting really weird there, so they were like, “We need to get out of here.” They applied to emigrate to Canada and Australia, and Canada just responded a couple months faster… So, I would’ve either ended up in Canada or Australia, but I ended up in Canada…

If they’d moved to Australia, do you know which city?

So, it’s that path of life that never happened and that you’ll never know…
Yeah, it was kind of random. I was thinking maybe I’d be a surfer or something! Or maybe I’d end up a drummer, who knows?

Your parents are both Polish by origin?

Did they speak Polish with you?
They did when I was a little younger, but I think they really tried to assimilate themselves into the new country. So we still spoke it a little bit, but when they were in Austria my parents spoke German, and when they lived in South Africa they learned Afrikaans. So, I guess they’re just into being wherever they are. It’s kind of cool – I guess I respect that because if I moved to Sweden tomorrow, I’m not going to just get by on my English just because everyone speaks English – I think you have to try to get into wherever you are.

Are your parents inspirational for you, in terms of branching out, not staying in the same place?
Yeah! I mean, without getting too political, I think a lot of cultures get stuck in themselves. I found that a lot of Polish kids at school wanted to be my friend just because I was Polish, and I was like, “That’s kind of not a good reason to be my friend…” It is if it’s because you’re an artist or writer or whatever, not because you’re from a country. So I find that kind of a small, closed-minded way of thinking about things. And yeah, I guess my parents were always kind of international and interested in other places and other things, and they were never scared of that. They ran away from their country because it was communist and they hated that. So yeah, I think that they are brave.

Talking about being an artist, you’re quite the musical multi-tasker. But, how did you get into music and why did you decide to focus on the drums?
Well, I went to this art school when I was a kid – all through high school, actually – so it was for kids who were into music, dancing or acting and stuff. I was really lucky to go there, because it was a very untraditional education and I remember it was like a fantasy world – it seemed like we could do anything we wanted. I took mime class when I was like 8 – that’s pretty weird. And I had been playing piano since I was 3 or 4, so I had this strong musical background. And when I was 10, I had to choose what major I wanted to go into, which was your class that you do for 4 years. So, you choose art, drama, dance or music, and then there was a brand new category this year that I started called “percussion.” And I was like, “I don’t want to dance, I don’t want to sing, I don’t want to paint, I don’t want to act, I don’t want to play violin…” Then I was like, “Huh, what is this percussion thing?” I honestly took this form to my mum and I checked “percussion” and she didn’t even know what it was – she was like, “What IS this?” But she signed it for me and I just went to this class honestly not knowing what the hell I was going to do.

My teacher Adam was awesome, and I was really intuitive with the drums from the very first day. He did this very simple exercise where he played a rhythm and we played it back – we went back and forth and there were only like 8 of us. So we were just playing, copying him, and I was getting the rhythms perfectly because I played piano and it’s highly repetitive, but all the other kids didn’t get it and I got it straight away every time. I was actually very proud of myself. I thought, “I’m very, very good at this,” and when you’re 9 years old that’s a really big feeling. I was terrible at math, I was terrible at writing, I didn’t really care about that stuff, and so I was finally good at something at school and I was like, “Wow!” It just felt so good to be exceptional at something, finally. It just felt like I was special all of a sudden.

Yeah, it’s important, isn’t it, for kids to have access to the arts and to know they can excel in anything, even something different from the norm?
Yeah, it makes me so sad, because later on I started teaching drums to kids privately. I didn’t do it for too long – maybe for a year because then the band picked up. They were so interested in learning and practising and they were telling me, “I never do anything at school – I don’t feel challenged.” I was like, “Man, this sucks!” Kids are like sponges – all kids, no matter what they do or where they’re from – they just want to do something they’re good at, whether it’s dancing or singing or anything, you know? And so, if I have kids someday, I think I’m going to have a non-traditional education for them. The public education system’s just not good enough – I mean, there’s just no money in it, right?

Yeah, talking about education in Canada, the student protests this year were really intense – some very brave people over there looking out for the kids of the future…
Yeah, that’s all happening in Montreal with the university students – that’s really cool. But that’s Quebec: that’s like totally different, because Quebec has its own spirit. It’s incredible! They’re just so revolutionary – they’re so not afraid to just get into the streets and make a noise.

So, when you were drumming as a kid, did you already envision making music your future?
Yeah! All I remember from when I was a kid was that I left this class the first day and I was like, “I’m going to do this with my life.” I was a 9 year old girl playing the drums and I had this realisation. I don’t know, I guess other people have had that too when they’re young – just this overwhelming sensation that you’ve found what you’re supposed to do. I didn’t really care, I knew that somehow I’d make it work. And now that I’m a little bit older… yeah it’s tough and it’s been a long, hard road to get here, and I’m still not entirely satisfied with every part of my career, but you just have to keep going. What I always tell myself too is: if this ends, that’s fine – at least I tried and at least I got somewhere. There are always going to be normal jobs out there – they’re just not going to go away. So if I’m 36, and I have to go back to school for a couple of years and become a real estate agent, I’m fine with that. But I try not to think about that. You get hung up on that stuff like, “Man, I’m not making any money, I’m not having any savings, I’m just kind of living like a pirate…” but you have to not think so much about that, otherwise you can drive yourself crazy.

Yeah, it’s really tough. You made a brave decision.
It’s not a good future – I still don’t know if I’m going to ever make any money from this – REAL money – but I’m okay with that right now. It’s tough, but you just have to keep going and I’ve always believed that people who work hard will be successful and so far it’s paid off.

Did you have any role models, growing up? Anybody who spurred you on…
Yeah, in high school I was in this jazz band and this guy Arden was really, really good – he was always practising after school. He was like, “I’m going to do auditions to be in an orchestra” and I was like, “Wow, that’s so cool!” So, I would practise after school with him sometimes, and eventually I had the same teacher as him and did an audition to go to the University of Toronto to study classical percussion for orchestra. I got in, so I stayed there for 4 years, got a degree in percussion, and that just really made me go to a next level – you learn something about listening, I mean REALLY listening. I feel that a lot of musicians don’t really listen to who they’re playing with – they’re kind of in their bubble: “I’m playing drums, I’m going to listen to the drums…” You should just listen to everybody because it’s incredible. Playing with different people over the years, you start realising that most musicians don’t know what they’re doing.

So, are you quite fussy now about who you play with – can you tell straight away if it’s clicking?
You can tell within the first 10 seconds.

Wow! That’s fast…
But, there are also different objectives with every band. I like to play with people who are really listening and play really ‘in time’ who are willing to practise really a lot. I’m quite strict with rhythmic things and it’s hard because that’s not what everything is about. So I’ve had to learn to loosen up a little bit about that, because I’ve become a bit of a perfectionist after practising with an orchestra for 4 years – you get into a really nitpicky mentality: “That pianissimo violin note was just a hair too soon…” even though 99% of the audience won’t notice. Being in a band is a totally different mentality – there are different goals: you want to create a vibe, an ambiance, a feeling rather than playing a ‘perfect song.’ So, I’ve learned to compromise and just loosen up a bit.

So, does that mean you get to be a lot more creative now?
Exactly. And when you’re working with a strong singer, you start thinking about the song as an overall mood, rather than these little pieces of information that all fit together perfectly. It’s also a smaller ensemble, right? When you’re playing to an orchestra, there are like 50 people sometimes so you have to worry about each little ant being in the perfect place, whereas with 4 to 6 people it’s more about “Can we make this feel good?”

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So, what are you up to right now?
I’m in a small town in Michigan with Austra – we’re recording in the middle of nowhere. It’s a really cool studio that our manager told us about and there’s all this old gear and analogue synthesisers, so we’re just kind of messing around. We’re just sitting in the studio all day because it’s like 50 degrees outside and we’re just playing with all this old crap…

Nice! So, are you actually recording or just trying stuff out?
Well, there’s a lot of that but we’re actually recording, yeah. We’re just kind of making demos. We don’t know if we’re going to keep everything but we’re definitely going to try and keep stuff.

So, what’s the recording lifestyle like? It must be pretty different from being on tour…
It’s funny because we’re always together in close quarters for 24 hours a day on tour, and we’re kind of doing the same thing right now. I mean, it’s a little different, because we all have our own bedroom and we sleep in the same building – it’s kind of like we’re at summer camp! And that’s cool because it means we don’t have to stay in a hotel and we get to go swimming in the lake – we’re going swimming every day. Today is our last day here, so we’re just going to review everything we’ve laid down and do a rough mix to take home with us. And tomorrow we’re going to drive home and keep writing. Maybe we’ll go for a swim later!

And at least you get some sleep, right?
Oh my god, I’m still in my bed right now! We’ve been sleeping SO MUCH lately. This is like early morning for me. I’m in a bunk bed right now – just me and 2 giant bunk beds. We’re barely like an hour and a half outside of Chicago, but that’s like nowhere in America.

Wow, so it’s very intense…
Yeah, but it’s really good. I feel like we’re all working at maximum efficiency because there’s no driving to the studio, meeting up for coffee… we all just roll out of bed and make a coffee and work.

And when you’re on tour, you make a point of not staying in regular hotels? When we talked in Manchester, you said you were excited to stay somewhere in nature…
Yeah! Sari, one of our backing singers – her job is to book us hotels. She always tries to find us weird places to stay – or weird hotels that were converted from insane asylums into hotels! There’s one in Amsterdam that’s really, really cool – we stayed in this room once with 8 beds. We were checking in and we’re like, “So, there’s 7 of us” (because we have a tour manager) and they were like, “Okay – so you’re staying in this room.” And we were like, “Um… but there’s 7 of us…” but they were like “Yeah, yeah.” And we were like, “What the fuck??” So we get into the room and there were 8 little single beds all in a row… and they’re all connected! So we all slept like little matchsticks next to each other!

They were connected?? So you couldn’t even move them around?
No! And the bathtub is like really deep – it’s like you can drown in it. It was so cool…

And this was a converted asylum or something?
I think so. But when I met you in Manchester, we were staying in the Peak District.

How did that go?
Well, it was pouring rain all day when we stayed there, but we just stayed at this inn in the middle of the Peak District. It was like a pub, so we just drank cider all day and went to bed at 8 o’clock drunk – because we couldn’t go outside.

You’ve done quite a bit of moving around on this tour, but which city did you particularly enjoy?
It was really nice to be in Barcelona actually at the very end of the tour, because my girlfriend used to live there, so she showed me around and we stayed in an apartment, and I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. It was my first time really seeing that city properly and I really love it – I think it’s amazing.

Can you see yourself relocating one day? Or does it depend on what’s going on with the band?
At this point, if I suddenly was to buy a house, if I had money, I don’t know where I’d want to live. I feel like after travelling around the world so much, you just want to live everywhere. I mean, I love Toronto, which is where we’re from. I just feel like I don’t know at this point – it depends on where my life is when I get there I guess. I like everywhere! I want to live in this corner, in that corner… I could live in Sydney or New York or London… I don’t even care anymore…

It sounds like you’re really into the big cities?
Well, I don’t know why I said those 3 things actually because I feel like I would have to live in the country! I mean, I’d like to ideally have a small flat in a big city like London and then live in the country.

And only go into the city for work or shows?
Yeah. The thing about being an artist or a writer is that you don’t need to be in the city all the time.

In fact, it may drive you a bit crazy being in the city the entire time…
Yeah. I grew up in the city – I love big cities, it’s a vibe I really like. But the older I get, the more I appreciate the stillness and quietness and isolation, in fact. Not forever – I just appreciate those things after all this moving around, you know?

Yeah, definitely. So let’s talk about your creative relationship with Katie – you’ve known each other for a while…
Yeah, we’ve been working together for like 9 years.

Almost a decade!
It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had with a girl! It’s like our joke.

It’s so inspiring to see creative relationships that work well and evolve, where you respect each other and don’t end up in some massive breakup…
Yeah, I don’t like that. I’ve recently gone through one of those with my other band, Trust. It’s so awkward and sad and drama, whereas Katie and I kind of keep it real all the time.

It’s pretty difficult to find the right collaborators and you’ve worked on different projects. You were also in another band with Katie before Austra…
Well, when I was 17, I met Katie and our friend Emma and we started a band called Galaxy – it was a riot grrrl band, so we did that for 3 or 4 years. Then we broke up and Katie started doing her solo stuff and she wanted me to play drums live with her. So, I didn’t write any of that stuff, but I always kept going with her. And then eventually after a few years, it became Austra and we added more people. So, that was kind of lucky – Katie and I just met and we never stopped working together, so we kind of grew up together in that way. And we had all those shitty tours that we went through – sleeping on people’s floors, dragging gear across Europe on boats and trains. It was hell, but also at the time we were so motivated. If I had to do that right now, I’d be like “Fuck this…” and I’d probably never do that again. But I’m 5 years older now and you get comfortable with all of the luxuries, right? Like now we stay in hotels, have a driver and a tour manager. Now we’re just these lazy princesses, even though, by any normal human being’s standard, it’s not nice.

Was Austra a natural evolution or did you guys actually plan the band’s concept and setup?
No, it was like Katie doing her weird music and then she picks this weird band. Like, I was at one point playing stand-up drums, marimba and glockenspiel and singing backup – it was just a circus! And, we had this awesome guitar player. The band switched around so many times, and so now the 6-piece that we have is a very kind of ‘normal’ setup: 2 backup singers, a bass player, a key player and a drummer – it’s WAY more traditional in my mind, even though it’s still kind of ‘out there’ by most people’s standards. Most people were like, “Who IS this? It’s like a circus…” So it was never calculated. It was all just like, “Oh, we met Dorian the bass player… Oh, and then we met Ryan…” – it was super natural.

Austra has gathered a very loyal following because you’re known now for your brilliant performances as well as the music – you’ve got the whole package. Were you aware that the crowds love the setup?
No, it makes me really happy to hear that, because I think that my band is really great and everybody in it is really special. I’m glad to hear that people like us together.

Yeah, for sure! People are really appreciating each of you individually in the sound and on stage…
Yeah, it makes me happy that people know that it’s a band and it’s not just Katie with a bunch of studio musicians.

Yeah, talking about musicians not receiving credit, drummers – especially female drummers – have tended to be overlooked or boxed by the media which makes it hard for them to be taken seriously by the industry. Do you think this is getting better?
I don’t know. I still watch music videos and even concerts sometimes. I try not to watch anything to do with us, because I find it kind of weird – I don’t like to read press or any of that stuff. But sometimes I see videos of us and it’s not anything to do with the band, it’s just a stupid camera person who only focuses on Katie’s face – that’s not interesting first of all, by any aesthetic standard, and then it’s just weird how camera people don’t cover the whole band… It is a project that incorporates all of us, so it’s weird to me when people with cameras only focus on one person.

Let’s talk about you on stage. You all look like you’re having so much fun, and you’re probably the most laidback drummer I’ve seen live…
I think that on stage I just try and relax and have fun, and just enjoy playing my instrument. I really love playing drums so much that I think it’s kind of relaxing – it’s like having a glass of wine and a cigarette.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a musician talk about being on stage like that!
It is! And not because I want to seem casual, but I just feel calm and so happy, you know?

Yeah, that’s impressive. So, if that’s your relaxation, what stresses you out? And what else do you do to blow off steam?
There’s lots of stress on tour. I like to do lots of stretches before I play and I like to go for a run usually after soundcheck before dinner. And yeah, I kind of like to be alone, because there’s so little alone time on tour. Before I get on stage, if I have a lot of things to do, I get a little stressed out – if I have to do some little photo thing or do my makeup, or if there’s lots of friends backstage, I get stressed out sometimes.

I guess that’s the good thing about being a band and not a solo artist – you can understand and help each other, especially I guess with Katie?
Yeah, the whole band is really intuitive with each other at this point. It’s like we don’t even have to speak to know what we’re feeling. Everyone in the band is really sensitive to everything, really gentle and open.

Now there are a lot of electro bands coming out of Toronto or Montreal, Austra is one of the bands heading that new wave electro sound. But, I heard that when you and Katie started up, you found it tricky because people didn’t really get what you were doing…
People thought we were like freaks! I think people thought we were really interesting and they could appreciate that Katie’s really good at singing and that I was good at drumming, but they were kind of baffled by us as a duo – they were like, “What the fuck are these girls doing?” But, when I look at an old show I’m like, “Wow, we were total freaks.” Now the band seems so much more dumbed down or traditional or something… I still feel like Austra’s going to go back there though. I think in the future it’s just going to go crazy – it’s just going to go into full opera mode! If we could get like a set designer, I just think it’s going to go crazy!

The Austra opera – it’s doable. Electro opera!
People love that stuff!

Yeah, it’s true. Your performances now are so honed and tight that it’s exciting to imagine where Austra’s going to head in the future…
When we first released Austra, I was like, “I don’t know what people are going to think of this – it could go one way or the other.” But when “Beat and the Pulse” comes on, it’s like we’re really cool… It’s like “the nerds made it!”

Yeah, what I love is that you guys also really care about your look – you have a perfect combination of music and edgy videos (“Lose It” is a surrealist’s wet dream, “Beat and the Pulse” was controversially censored by YouTube for some very tame bearing of female flesh). The UK industry has become quite stale so it’s great to have inspiration from bands from North America who invest in creative videos, style and sound…
I don’t know why a band wouldn’t do that – that’s where you can have fun, that’s where the magic is, so why make a shitty, boring music video?? It doesn’t make sense – it’s totally weird… when you could be making something fun and imaginative. I’m happy to hear that there are a lot of bands coming over from North America, and Canada has a lot of incredible talent, so I’m glad that you guys are open to it because the UK is a very important market for bands from North America – it’s kind of like if you make it in the UK, you’ll be fine for a little while.

So where do you feel you’re at? Are you breaking the UK market?
Well, it’s hard to tell – we haven’t done a huge tour of the UK ever. We did a bigger one this summer, but I just think we haven’t spent enough time out there. But, hopefully with the new record, we can make sure we’re over there more often because it’s such an important place for music. All or most of my favourite musicians, bands or DJs come from the UK. It’s such a small place in the world, but so important for our music history – for some reason, there’s such an incredible amount of talent on this tiny island!

And how is the Toronto music scene these days? I guess you don’t get much chance to be there since you’re on the move…
Over the past 2 years, we’ve been away so I don’t know any Toronto bands. I haven’t seen a show in Toronto in 2 or 3 years because we’ve been on tour, so I’m out of the loop to be honest. Every time we go to Toronto, I’m like, “Holy crap, that city’s changing so quickly… wow, that bar’s closed, there’s all these new restaurants…” I don’t know what’s going on in Toronto, but apparently it’s good from what I hear. It’s fun to be away for so long and come home, and you’re like, “Wow, it’s been 2 years…”

So do you have a timeline for when the new Austra material will be coming out?
Yeah, so we’re doing demos now, then we’re going to go back on the road one more time – we have a tour in September. Then we want to record in the fall – in October. And if everything goes smoothly, we’ll have something out in May or June… spring/summer…

It’s a long haul, isn’t it?
There’s so much lead time, right? Like press, and when you’re putting a record together a lot of other things happen

So, how are you feeling about the new album?

After this week in the studio, I’m SO excited – I wish I could tell you how excited I am! The new material’s sounding – I mean, it’s just crazy – it’s like all my dreams for Austra coming true! And also we’re collaborating more, so it really feels like a lot of different spices are being put into the pot, not just one.

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Austra is proving to be a very successful collaboration, but working with other artists comes with its ups and downs and there was some controversy with the other band you were in, Trust. Has that blown over now?
I wouldn’t say it’s over… I have a really good attitude about it – I love working with Robert, but we’ve had a bit of a falling out. I wish him the best of luck on tour. He’s a very talented person and I just want to work with him again one day, but it’s just not the right time right now and that’s it. I’m doing one thing; he’s doing another. Hopefully we’ll meet up someday again in the middle.

You sound very philosophical about it…
I’m really proud with the work we’ve done – he’s my colleague and I wish him the best. I just can’t be in 2 bands at once – that’s just the reality of it. Too bad, eh…

It makes total sense if you’re being stretched too thin. And of course your Austra backing singers Sari and Romy are doing their own thing too?
Yeah, they have an awesome project called Tasseomancy. We’ve all kind of sacrificed our own things to focus on Austra. I have a solo project called Princess Century which has been a bit on the backburner for a while, but I’m releasing a record I think in the fall. I made a record last year and it’s being made right now: it’s mastered and it’s done – I just need to get it out, and it’s coming out on a little label in London called Kennington Records.

That’s cool, we’d love to hear some of the tracks…
Yeah sure! It’s really introspective – it’s like my journal. I don’t really write a journal, so instead I just write tracks. It’s terrifying! Onstage with Austra and Trust, I’m super confident, but with Princess Century it’s the most terrifying experience of my life.

So, it’s very personal? All your thoughts go in there?
Exactly. And then if it’s a good song, I donate it to Trust or Austra!

I’ve often found that artists have 2 sides to their personality: the ultra-confident person who’s enjoying their music and the other person who’s kind of fragile and introverted. Do you relate to that?
Yeah, that’s why I’ve got a therapist! I think any good artist puts on a very good mask, and I’m trying to break away from that and just be more honest with all of the work I do, but it’s hard. I mean, the work I do is very pure – I don’t hide anything. But when you’re onstage, or in interviews or meetings with people, it’s easy to put on this shell that’s like, “I’m cool, I’ve got my shit together, I’m doing everything.” But really, I’m just like a little ant – I’ve just got a little ant inside here that’s like “Hello!” and I’m in this big shell. I think a lot of musicians are like that – they can easily pretend to be totally cool.

Yeah, it’s hard to stay confident. Many musicians suffer from a kind of creative block and go through sometimes long periods of not even playing their instrument. What would you say to artists who are struggling to be creative?
Yeah, I went through that maybe 4 years ago. I was like, “I need to get better, I need to just work, I need to write, I need to…” and I just kept talking and talking and talking about it. And my best friend, Jenna – she’s a painter and quite successful – she told me, “You just have to try every day, go into your studio and try and write a song, or try and write a drumbeat, or try and write anything… anything you do that sucks, at least you know you tried.” So, if you’re a writer: try and write a story, a poem, whatever! Even if you chuck it in the bin, eventually you’re going to do good stuff, right? So that’s what I did – I went into my studio every single day for like 8 hours and the first month or 2 was like crap… terrible crap. Then eventually, I just kept doing this routine and really good stuff happened – REALLY good stuff! And then, I started working with Robert [Alfons] and then we wrote a record. And all of a sudden, we had things happening, and it just goes and goes – it’s like a train, once it starts, it just goes…

I guess it’s like when an athlete is training…
Yeah! Like, the first time you go for a month you’re going to be stopping, but if you train for a month, you’ll be totally fine to run for like half an hour. I think it’s just discipline and not pitying yourself, and not being like, “Oh poor me.” Just shut up and do it! It’s a really harsh approach, but a lot of people talk and talk and talk… Go play your instrument and get good at it! Go write a story! Go write 25 stories and get really good at writing! Just stop talking – and do it!

Yeah, everyone really struggles in different ways and the key is to find your own rhythm that works for you…
Yeah, I made a routine every day. I like to work in the morning – that’s my power time. Some people work at 5 in the morning. I found that my best productive work was from 9am to 5pm, so every day I worked from 9 to 5 and I treated it like my job. You’re committing to yourself, you know? It feels so nice to give yourself power – like, “You know what? I’m not going to go out for lunch with my friend today – I’m working…”

Yeah, building your own rhythm and structure is really hard, and it’s important for people around you to understand that. Do you have a good balance now?
I don’t think I’ve actually found a balance. It’s really extreme being on tour because you’re giving 100% to your music all day, every day. I’ve had to teach myself to stay in touch with people and communicate better, and make sure I call my mum every couple of weeks. Time and space are so different on tour as well – anyone who’s gone on a long trip knows that suddenly a week goes by and it’s like, “Whoa, I forgot!“ I think the people I’m closest to in my life just get it now when I don’t call for a couple of weeks or don’t send an email back right away, but it’s not very nice and I’m still struggling. I think what my problem is right now is that I give everything to music, so it’s difficult for me to keep a good romantic relationship. Not just because I’m not in once place, but it’s because I’m not willing to give up all that energy, you know? And it’s selfish for sure, but I’ve been given this moment in my life to really do something that my dream is, so I’m okay with it because not a lot of people get here, and I feel like I can’t just fuck it up – I want to do it 100% right now.

Some people in the band have longterm, committed relationships, and I’m just not that good at it right now – I’m kind of like, “Ok, I can give 100% or 0%.” So, I’m figuring it out. I’m seeing someone right now and we’re sorting it out a little bit, but every month is different – some days are good and some days are not so good. Luckily, she’s also a musician and she’s toured so she kind of gets it more than a normal person would – she gets when I don’t call for a few days, because sometimes on tour you’re just exhausted and you can’t go on Skype at 2 in the morning after your show. So, we’re figuring it out but it’s not easy…

I guess that’s just the way it is when you’re really into what you’re doing – it can be challenging. And your mid-20s can be a very intense period if you have dreams you want to pursue…
I’m 26 – an old lady! I always wanted to be successful by the time I was this old…

Well, you’re doing pretty well!

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It’s great that you and Katie can be such brilliant role models as artists but also with being openly gay. Do you think role models are important, particularly for kids?
Yeah, I’m so happy that Katie’s so open. I think it’s important she’s a role model for certain people – I mean, she never ‘tried’ to do that, but it’s cool that she’s open and talks about it. And I think it’s really important because, growing up, I was like, “I don’t know anything – I’m gonna watch The L Word!” I grew up in the suburbs, so I’d just watch The L Word in my room. It so terrible… but it was something, right? I just wanted to see girls making out…

So, meeting Katie must have been a major turning point for you…
Yeah I didn’t have any friends in my high school. I was friends with Katie and Emma and I was like, “These girls are saving my life! They’re gay, I’m gay, and we’re in a band – this is so empowering!”

Especially as it was a riot grrl band…
A couple of years into the band, I didn’t even know what that meant. I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing…” I was just this girl from the suburbs and it just felt really cool, and these girls saved me…

I guess music really changed your life. And on that note, let’s end with a message of advice for people who want to do what you do?
Get on with it! Go do something!!





[tabs tab1=”Intro” tab2=”Garbage Tour” tab3=”Industry” tab4=”Ethics” tab5=”Message” count=”5″]

Hayley Mary is the lead singer of award-winning Australian band The Jezabels. The first time I met Hayley was backstage at KOKO in February where I had a wee chat with the rest of the band before witnessing them set the famed London venue alight. Tracking their progress, we joined them again at The Ruby Lounge Manchester a month on, where Hayley acerbically spoke out on stage against the indifference shown by British press towards the band, apologizing for not talking much on stage, having been pegged as “too Australian” for British music journo taste. This was all prior to the band’s Australian Music Prize (Amp) win and their Garbage support slot announcement of course. Since those announcements, the mainstream British media and public have been playing catchup on a band who has long struggled to break the UK but who has successfully held our attention as one of the tightest bands out there, not to mention one of the nicest we’ve ever met. Considering their widespread success in Australia, we’ve been shocked by how little radio play the band still gets and how few people have even heard of them in the UK.

The night before Manchester, we had already captured our first glimpse of the Jezabels/Garbage lineup in Wolverhampton: earning themselves a barrelful of new fans, The Jezabels impressed the crowds to make way for Shirley Manson’s dramatic entrance and killer set. Now, sitting serenely together backstage at the Manchester Academy in an unusually zen atmosphere of calm, with the comforting hum of Manson and crew in the background, smashing the stage in their typical flamboyant style, Hayley and I chat all things Garbage, women in music, ethics and top tips on how to survive the touring lifestyle. Reflective and relaxed, Hayley gets right down to dinner and chat, leaving tour manager Neil to beaver away on his laptop and fellow Jezabels Sam Lockwood, Heather Shannon and Nik Kaloper to enjoy well-earned beers after delivering a blistering opening set. Oh, and we receive an unusual offer from Sam part-way through…



So, you’re on tour with Garbage! What’s the atmosphere like backstage?
Oh, it’s pretty chilled. I mean, they’re big venues so it’s not like you’re in each other’s faces. We’ve got our own room, Shirley’s got her own room, the Garbage crew have their own room and so do the Garbage band – so everyone can have their own space if they want, but in the hallways it’s a free-for-all. They’re very talkative and lovely people, so it feels like you could go in and talk to them. I just went and stole some cokes from them actually because there was a diabetic selling merch, so I thought…

Your merch person?
No, theirs – not that anyone who’s a human being wouldn’t be fine with giving some cokes to a diabetic, but I think that if he wasn’t diabetic they would also be fine with it.

So how did the whole Jezabels/Garbage connection come about? Did you indicate that you wanted to support Garbage or were you approached?
It’s probably a bit of both. Well, I have no idea what their process is or the level of involvement they have in choosing the supports. But I have heard and did confirm with Shirley today that when you have females in the band, you have a little bit of an “up” on the other possible supports. So, it helped – well, it didn’t hinder, let’s put it like that.

Right, they’re known for that I guess.
Yeah, you can sort of tell. The more I think about it the more it makes sense, but I don’t know if they would have thought about it this much. I guess all the people working with us and them were like, “semi-pop, semi-alternative female-fronted band…”

Because you maybe have a similar vibe?
Yeah, but the music is not actually that similar so it won’t be TOO similar, so it’s good.

I guess the lineup was decided behind closed doors…
Yeah, I mean doors that I could open but I really can’t be bothered. At this point I’m very satisfied with not knowing…

It’s exciting, because you didn’t know about the pairing until quite late in the day…
Yeah, we knew there was a possibility of it but we didn’t know we would.

So now you’re actually in the midst of the tour, are you feeling more blasé about it?
It’s not blasé, but it’s all about your actual experience on tour because there are so many subtleties that could make it suck but they’re not here – all subtleties point towards it being a really great experience. Like, straight away all of them were really nice and introduced themselves and were not intimidating – I mean, they’re intimidating as musicians but not as people so that’s a good thing. With the whole team that they’ve got working for them, you can tell the niceness kind of trickles down and everyone’s nice and helpful. That really helps, because it’s hard when you just feel like you can’t ask for a bottle of water, you can’t ask for anything and you’re just there ignoring them.

Yeah, and that’s all about the atmosphere created by the headlining band, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s just about the atmosphere being really good, and the fact that they’ve given us plenty of time to sound check – normally the support doesn’t really get to sound check. They’ve just been really good. I mean, I guess it helps that it’s just a 2-band bill.

Yeah, it’s interesting because back in Australia of course you guys would be a headlining band but here you’re supporting Garbage on an international platform. What do you think you’re learning from them or even with them through that experience?
A lot. Again, when we first started touring – just little tours supporting Australian bands – you learn from the people you’re supporting about how to be good and professional, how to treat support bands, treat your crew and stuff like that. I think that kind of continues here, and you see musicians who have been doing what they do for over 20 years and they’re really nice – still! They’re not all tainted and bitter and diva-ish. I think that kind of proves that that’s definitely the best way to go about it – you’re not trying to have some power trip over people.

Especially for a lead singer, I’d assume it’s quite hard not to fall into that trap.
Yeah, it’s a struggle to tame the diva within… but we must try.

But, it’s legitimate on stage, isn’t it? I mean, if Shirley Manson toned it down on stage, people may start questioning her performance…
Well that’s the thing! She’s got to have this persona but not really BE it.

It’s the ultimate trick to be able to click into your other persona as soon as you step on or off the stage…
The stage is a powerful place. It can transform people, I reckon. Just quietly…

Are you talking about yourself or other performers as well?
Everyone. Anyone. Shirley Manson… I mean, look at when she comes on stage, it’s like, “Fuck… fuck ME!” Did you see her when she came on stage??

Yeah… of all the stage entrances…
…hers was the bomb!

Yeah, and she doesn’t even need to really DO anything …
She just walks on and like, “Yeah…”

Yeah, she just struts on and looks at the crowd as if she’s saying, “Yeah, go on then… adore me!”
I’d never seen them live – and I know she can sing on record but it doesn’t always translate live. And you know what, she came on at the first London show, and I went, “I don’t CARE if she can’t sing!” [laughs]

She can just stand there…
Yeah. That’s enough for me. And then she COULD sing and it was like, “Fuck! Alright! She’s great!”

Yeah, and she hasn’t really aged…
No! It’s mental!

I think she must love what she’s doing so much that it keeps her fit…
I think so.

And the energy she has is incredible, because it’s a long set…
Yeah, it’s a long set. It does provide inspiration when you see people you knew growing up – I was in year two: I was 6 or 7 when they released their first album.

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Before I forget, a guy in the audience wanted me to tell you that he loves your hairstyle…
Really? It’s quite bad at the moment. I’ve just let it go – I might just let it go forever…

…and he was talking about what a crazy music period the 90s was for kids in the UK, with the Britpop battle between Oasis, Blur, Pulp, the emergence of the Spice Girls…
We’re in Manchester talking about the 90s. That’s cool!

…and then there were much darker bands like Garbage and Placebo…
Yeah, alt sort of stuff – I feel like the word “alt” IS the 90s. And Doc Martens! These [points to the Docs she’s wearing] are fake because I don’t wear leather. I’m going to buy some vegan ones…

So, was 90s music a major influence on you?
I loved bands like Concrete Blonde and I did grow up with Garbage songs around – they were pretty massive, you couldn’t NOT have heard them. You see, I’m strange because I’m really influenced by the 90s, but I’m also one of those people who’s actually really into the 80s. I know that’s a paradox, but I’m really into the 80s. It’s a strange thing because – I don’t want to talk about Shirley Manson again but I did just have a conversation with her about all this stuff, and so it’s kind of relevant – Shirley was talking about whether it’s easier or harder for girls today in music, and she thinks it’s harder because something happened in the “noughties.” There were heaps of alternative girls in the 90s – the Alanis Morissettes, the Skunk Anansies (Oh, we’re also supporting Skunk Anansie by the way, which is funny…). But there were fewer females in the alt scene after the 90s. I guess the alt music and the darkness allowed women to come into a realm that wasn’t necessarily objectifying themselves – it was still sexy. But pop – where most women still are in music – is a different thing altogether. It’s arguably still objectification because a lot of them don’t write – they’re there for aesthetic purposes and I’m not saying aesthetics are a bad thing, but you know, but they’re good-looking and they sound “nice…”

So you’re basically saying that if Shirley Manson were to do now what she was doing back then, it would be harder for her maybe?
Maybe. There are still not a lot of alternative women – like, most women are still in pop I guess. I don’t know what happened. I think that maybe because the 90s was a bit of a reaction against the 80s, then there was a reaction against the 90s.

It’s very interesting because there is a timeless quality to tonight’s show….
I find them a timeless band – I do…

But BOTH bands have an air of timelessness. Maybe this goes back to the type of music? You both do quite different things but there is a connecting point, isn’t there?
Definitely. And although those things can draw from, say, a decade – like, if you looked at our band you’d probably say we draw from the 90s – musically, you can draw from everything and everywhere. I think a lot of the time people think the image of a band defines them but they often sound like a lot of things – like, Garbage are rock, pop, alternative…

…and they have transitioned a lot.

Congratulations on getting the support slot for Skunk Anansie, by the way – that’s so exciting!
Yeah, we have good people, angels watching over us…

So, is it a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle on this tour? Pampering by hotels? Warnings not to trash rooms?
No, they just go: “Breakfast isn’t included…”

That’s tame…
I think it might be different for Garbage, but then again they’re not in a hotel – they’re in a bus. I don’t know where all these things come from. I think there was a generation of rock ‘n’ roll where the systems were not developed yet – that’s where the stereotype of throwing TVs out of windows comes from. You’ve got to remember that it was the 60s – things were happening, revolutions, etc. Now, we’re all postmodern – you can sort of do what you want… So musicians have become less rebellious…

Things have really changed – the commercial and independent industries which were traditionally at war have become almost one and the same, to the point where everything looks so clean-cut and commercialized…
And Adele is the pinnacle of both. She’s the biggest independent act – she’s great. She’s indie AND she’s the biggest-selling artist in the world. I mean, what can you say? I’m sure there’s some Christian artist that I’ve never heard of that’s bigger-selling but… Yeah, I think she’s good – I think she writes from the heart.

In terms of how female musicians are doing, some female musicians do talk openly about how important they feel it is for women to make their mark in this industry, but I’m always surprised by those who insist that it’s not an issue anymore…
They’re having a laugh, I think. It’s like history existed and it doesn’t just STOP when you make it official that we’re equal – it takes a long time to transform.

Right, but what I often hear is: “Well, we’ve got Adele now so everything’s fine…”
Yeah, but then you’ve got the argument about pop… There’s SO much to talk about… like why we commercialize “the other” – and that has been black people and women in the arts for a really long time. We’re so obsessed with buying this emotion of “the other” that maybe having successful women in the arts doesn’t necessarily suggest that it’s equal between the sexes at all. It’s like saying racism is not an issue in America because there are successful rappers. It’s just ridiculous. Rap music, black music, R&B dominates pop music but that’s arguably objectification by white consumers so it’s not necessarily significant…

And then you have commercially successful female artists like Nicki Minaj out there, who – going by her shows in the UK at least – boasts a very white following.
Yeah. Well I mean, Nicki Minaj is really white in a lot of ways as well. It’s like in the 50s and 60s when Elvis was blacking it up. Nicki Minaj is like Lady Gaga but slightly more tanned… she’s drawing on a lot of really white traditions as well. I think it kind of blurs. It certainly appeals to that demographic it seems…

Totally. But this is what you guys also have to deal with, isn’t it? You depend on people buying your music…
Yeah, you do.

So, how are you finding it in the UK now? Because when we met in Manchester the last time, you felt the press response to the band wasn’t great…
I still do, but it’s funny. It’s really because – like any human being, in human nature for some reason – insults stick more than compliments. There possibly ARE more compliments than insults, but when you get a criticism you notice it and you’re like, “Right, ok.” You don’t notice any of the good stuff. I also talked to a lot of other bands and the UK’s just hard and weird. Like, these guys [points to the other Jezabels] even in London were like, “We’ve never had a reception like this – what’s going on?” because, you know, you’ll go to any other place and people will be like, “Waaahhh!” and then you’re here and they just fold their arms.

If you look at INXS for example…
How they’re also Australian…

Yeah, they also had a rough time when they got going… It could be that Britain is difficult for certain bands to break?
It is difficult to break because it’s got a fickle industry and very critical people – I’m pretty sure they invented criticism. But that’s cool, I’m down with that. However, being an Australian in Britain, there is a kind of stigma, a kind of cultural cringe.

So do you hear the phrase “Australian band” being thrown around a lot?
A little bit. I think it came from one of our first reviews where people said, “I felt like I was watching Crocodile Dundee” or something…

No way! That’s quite severe…
And it was like, “Are you serious?? Really? Is that REALLY what you felt like – or did you just not come and know that we’re Australian?” Like literally, I don’t know how you could get that from us at all, apart from the accent and we hardly talk.

That’s just how irresponsible the media can be though. They might not even go see the band live, and might not even know who the band is…
Totally. They’ll just read a review and absorb it and that’s all they’ll know about that band. Yeah. If you read about this band, some people think we’re emos – which I find quite funny – but that’s more accurate than “Crocodile Dundee!” And I do have a black fringe, to be fair, but that’s about it…

They may have seen you at least!
Yeah, they saw a picture and they know our nationality… Exactly. But hey, it’s fine. I don’t mind being Australian, but the truth is that that whole aesthetic that people associate with Australia – the blokey, bogany Crocodile Dundee – is so wrong. I mean, Paul Hogan is to blame for many stereotypes. No one calls them shrimps, I’ll have you know! We call them prawns. And a few other things: none of us carry knives – it’s illegal; we don’t wear those hats; the majority of us live in cities and wear shoes; there are no kangaroos in our backyards; and we have women in our country – contrary to popular belief, there are some girls.

Well, now you’ve toured various corners of the globe, England must seem pretty provincial?
I love England – I love how they’re kind of bastards. It’s great. My Dad is Scottish and so I kind of have that hatred for England. But I also have love for the British people in general and how they have this dark humour and can just cut straight to the point, whereas you go to other places like America where they’re very “nice” but you’re not entirely sure of what they’re really thinking. So on any day, as much as I say it’s pretty hard in the UK for bands, you’d rather honesty.

At least you know where you stand. Like, you knew where you stood at that point, didn’t you, back in Manchester?
Yeah, we knew we were going to have to kick and scream in this country and we still do and that’s fine.

But you’re definitely more at ease this time round, aren’t you?
Well, we’re supporting…

Exactly, you don’t have that same pressure maybe…
I think we know we’re playing to music lovers on this tour. Garbage fans are a mix between alternative goths, really normal people, people who love music, and young people who’ve just discovered it and it’s not intimidating at all because it’s Garbage fans: they’re just awesome and weird – weird and awesome but also really normal. So we’re just like, “Yeah, it’s going to be fine.”

And you’ll get more attention now, won’t you, off the back of this tour?
Off the back of this, yes.

What impressed me the first time I met you guys at KOKO was how tight a team you are not just on stage but also backstage – Heather mentioned that the two of you pretty much grew up together…
Yeah, I’ve known her for probably 15 years, but we’ve been friends for about 10/12. And we’ve been doing this, writing together, for about 7 or 8 years and playing in this band for about 5.

Are you pretty much like sisters?
Yeah, it’s a bit more like sisters than friends even. It’s like… Heather.

Does that help in terms of honesty?
Not in a bad way – it’s just almost a taken-for-granted situation which is good and bad, but it is what it is.

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The Jezabels/Garbage lineup seems all the more appropriate when you look at that great piece you wrote for Q on misogyny in the music industry, and the recent report where Shirley Manson called the music industry a “dinosaur” and impressively halted an Atlanta show to throw out a male fan who punched a female fan. You’re both on a similar page when it comes to ethics…
I think that’s what I meant before. I haven’t followed her statements but I think I can just tell… You know what I mean? I mean, I don’t even know if that’s a gender issue – that’s just crazy that someone punched someone.

Yeah, she’s clearly not interested in hiding her views or hiding behind her stage persona even when she’s on stage – it’s cool that she suddenly let the “diva” fall to one side…
Well, if you can call it the “diva” element of someone like Shirley Manson, the cool thing is that it’s not a “pop” diva – it’s a “staunch” diva. I feel like that is all part of her whole thing – it just comes across. Like, I haven’t heard any quote but I already know what her views are. You know from her songs, her attitude and how she carries herself, the way she talks to girls, the way she talks to us – you can just TELL.

Do you think it’s important to ask yourself as a musician: “Who am I going to be? Am I going to be a role model for young kids? Am I going to behave professionally? Or am I going to be a brat?”
Very, I reckon. I mean there’s relevance to the rough rockstar or whatever. Because if music’s getting too sterile one day and everyone’s too professional, maybe there’ll be a wave of that coming and it’ll be very important. But I think you find out very quickly that musicians are not cool – they’re nerds. They’re very hardworking people. They might get involved in some substances at points, but generally they have to get visas all the time, be in a different country every day – that takes organisation and discipline. If you think about the actual reality of musicians’ lives, they’re not cool – they’re working very hard and not sleeping very much. They’re cool in another way but they’re not like rockstars. So I think it’s really important to realize the reality of it and how you’ve just got to wind your neck in…

Talking about keeping your feet on the ground: In your acceptance speech for the 2011 Australian Music Prize (Amp), you took the opportunity to make some excellent points on the principles behind the award, because there was really some bizarre controversy surrounding that…
That speech was actually in particular reference to the criticisms of the shortlist including us, Gotye, Kimbra – it‘s quite indie but successful indie. Do you know Triple J? It’s like the dominant alternative radio station in Australia – it’s government-funded and national. The shortlist for the Amp was called “Triple J friendly” so we were sort of getting criticised in amongst this group which a FEW bloggers called a “safe” shortlist – because it’s not supposed to be about commercial success, it’s supposed to be about excellence. But when we won that, the criticisms didn’t stop – they got worse and it was like, “Well, now you really are just picking on us…”

I guess those criticisms came from Australia, because there wasn’t much negative press about it over here…
Well here, we’re not successful – we’re just an emerging thing. Whereas there, I guess we don’t need help in people’s opinion and so they felt like we were actually TOO popular to perhaps win that award or something? I couldn’t quite work it out…

But your album did really well over there. So, if it’s an award for “excellence,” isn’t that still relevant?
This is the crux. A lot of people think that “excellence” and “popularity” are mutually exclusive. However, what I said specifically in that speech is that they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive. We recognised that there are a lot of people out there making albums, and we thanked people. Just because an album sold well doesn’t mean it’s not good, but I guess a lot of people think that if something’s commercially successful, it’s bad…?

I guess every country’s industry has different issues… But, how was the local media response to your speech? In the UK at least, the mainstream media aren’t generally interested in what artists have to say – it can even be the kiss of death for a band to voice their opinion.
See, Australia’s a little bit different. There is a little bit of a tall poppy syndrome in Australia actually, so if you show yourself to be a real person that’s down to earth and aware that you’re not the bee’s knees just because you’re semi-successful, they like you for it.

So why was it important for you to deal with the Amp criticism and put it out there?
Well, I wrote that before I knew we’d won it. They said, “The Amp’s coming up tomorrow. Write an acceptance speech in case it comes out so we can send it off to whoever, so it can come out as soon as it’s announced.” And it wasn’t really that we expected it, because we were over here and we weren’t in the hype of it all…

That’s right, you were here on tour…
But I think it’s just that you hear a lot of people assuming a lot of things about you, like: “You assume you deserve it (for a start). You assume that other people don’t deserve it. You don’t know anything about the industry. You don’t know anything about all the albums that came out. You’re just a dumb musician.” – there was a LOT of that being written. The whole criticism of the award was basically tailored to the idea that: “Musicians shouldn’t be allowed to be judges anymore because this is who is getting awarded this, and only critics and industry people should be allowed to, because they actually know what music’s about.” So, musicians were getting a pretty hard rap and so were we – we were getting really criticised and everyone was saying our album was crap. Well, not EVERYONE – this was just a few angry people. So we wanted to thank people but also acknowledge that it was a hard decision and you can’t please everyone.

But you weren’t ignoring it either, because that would certainly be tempting for a lot of bands…
Well that’s easier, definitely.

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If you were talking to yourself in the early days, what nuggets of advice would you give yourself?
Hmm… Part of me would say don’t read reviews because the good ones don’t satisfy you either.

Do the bad ones prey on you?
The bad ones annoy you because they never get it [laughs]. And the good ones, they don’t get it either because they were just ready to praise you, so it’s like, “Why am I not satisfied?” And then you realise that you will never be satisfied and that’s bad. So: Don’t read reviews.

What else have you learned, apart from keeping away from reviews?
Be nice to people …except Neil – don’t be nice to Neil! [laughs]

Your tour manager?
Find the whipping boy and only be mean to that person!! [laughs] It’s ok, it’s mutual [laughs]… No, seriously…

So, seriously, is there someone you can go rage to when things get on top of you? I guess you can’t really do that within the band, because you’re all in the same boat…
We get pretty negative sometimes. I would advise people to avoid negativity, but that’s not something I do – that’s something I SAY to do. I don’t know… I talk to my manager, I just vent and he just listens and then I go, “Sorry…” And he’s like, “That’s fine, as long as you don’t tell other people these things.”

Well, you guys have definitely won our award for the nicest band around…
HAYLEY: There you go!!
SAM: We’re actually really rude!! Do you want me to be rude to you..?? [room erupts in laughter]

Well, sure, if you want it on the record…?!
Ah yeah…

So do you always get on with each other all the time?
HAYLEY: Yeah, it’s just this all the time… [laughs]
SAM: It’s mostly like this…

So, what’s the most annoying thing that’s happened when you’ve been on tour?
Well, I think that “not-sleeping night” was good… We just recently played a show in Miami which started at 1am – we drove to the airport from the show to fly to New York so we landed out at 2:30am, checked in at 4am, flew at 6am, arrived at 8 or 9am, played at 12:30 or 12:50pm… and then we did press for the rest of the day! So, I think that when you actually book a schedule where you can’t sleep, that’s not good. That was a one-off.

So another valuable piece of advice: Try and fit sleep in.
Sleep’s good because you don’t get enough anyway on tour but when you literally don’t allow for it, that’s bad. And mealtimes – because the times when you haven’t been able to eat are the worst.

Yeah, people forget that being on stage and on tour can be very physically demanding…
You need to sleep. Yeah, sleeping and eating. And, another thing I’d say but don’t do is: Exercise – because that keeps you from being miserable.

Being on tour, it must seem endless and you must lose track of time – what do you do to get a break from the craziness?
Well, you get really obsessed with Wi-Fi. Like, if there’s no Wi-Fi you get really upset. You get quite anxious. Wi-Fi is important. And you get sick of the word “Wi-Fi” so you invent codes like “wing-wong.”

What did people do in the days they didn’t have the Internet?
Well, they were rockstars and they were known as arseholes because they slept with a lot of people, remember? Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The internet allows monogamy to exist – coexist with rock ‘n’ roll.

It’s chilled it out. Ok, so internet safety…
Well, if monogamy is saving you… but, that’s a whole new discussion…

Top tip for a lead singer?
Warm up and warm down.

Yeah – sleep, rest. Actually: vocal rest. I’m actually really bad at vocally resting because I’m a talkative person, but yeah… Don’t drink – don’t drink too much. Be healthy, actually.

Wow, this is like a new generation of musicians isn’t it? Where have the rock-n-roll-trashing-hotel-room days gone?
No Wi-Fi back then! No Wi-Fi, no Spotify… no… What else ends with “-fi”?

Well, you’re doing really well back at home and the buzz is very good over here this time. Plus, Shirley Manson is promoting you!
Yeah! She is, actually!

Has Shirley given you any great tips?
You know what? It comes back to the question about how important role models are… just musicians in general but females as well. You learn a lot just talking to them and just seeing a band that’s a lot further progressed – Garbage have been around for a while. And Shirley was just like, “Don’t worry about it.” And that’s what every experienced musician says: “Don’t worry about it – you’ll never be happy with what people say about you anyway, so you just have to keep doing what you’re doing…”