HAYLEY Mary's two experiences at Festival Of The Sun with her band The Jezabels couldn't have been more different.
"We were on first and nobody else was there except this bobcat dragging sand across the field," she laughs, when remembering the 2008 show in Port Macquarie. "We were literally playing to three people and this bobcat."
Six years later The Jezabels' reception at FOTSUN was completely different. Following the Sydney indie four-piece's acclaimed debut Prisoner (2011) and its follow-up The Brink (2014), they were among the hottest bands in Australia at the 2014 festival and they received the appropriate reception.
A clip on YouTube shows Mary crowd-surfing on a sea of hands while singing, before plunging head first and then re-emerging moments later.
"The next time we came back there was a massive crowd and it was great to see that turnaround," she says.
Mary is gearing up to return to Festival Of The Sun next week, this time as a solo artist. Since the release of her debut solo EP The Piss The Perfume in 2020, Mary has steadily gathered momentum through her subsequent EPs The Drip (2021) and Fall In Love (2021).
The sparkling British indie-rock sound - inspired by the likes of The Pretenders - has been a significant shift away from the anthemic new-wave of The Jezabels.
The disruption of COVID has meant Mary has had limited opportunities to promote her music, but her infectious songwriting is beginning to create momentum.
"The whole solo project has been under the mushroom cloud of COVID," she says.
"Now there's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel and things have opened up, I'm definitely starting to feel like the groundwork we did with the solo stuff, with consistently releasing songs and staying on the radar, has really paid off."
Last month Mary supported rock band DMA's - featuring her fiancé Johnny Took - at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion and Melbourne's Margaret Court Arena to rave reviews. She's also supporting indie duo Holy Holy.
Then there's the long overdue reunion of The Jezabels in June for their first national tour since 2016 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their breakthrough album Prisoner.
"We never called it quits, we just stopped making new music and new music is the thing that tends to drive touring," Mary says.
Prisoner, led by the single Endless Summer, launched The Jezabels into the mainstream after their three beloved EPs and introduced Mary's stunning vocals.
Prisoner's brooding elegance earned Mary and her bandmates Sam Lockwood (guitar), Heather Shannon (keys) and Nik Kaloper (drums) the prestigious Australian Music Prize. The album remains close to Mary's heart.
The upcoming tour will also be the first time The Jezabels have performed Prisoner in its entirety.
"Sometimes it's hard to go back and play old stuff because you've changed and you mightn't agree with the perspective you had then," she says.
"There's moments of that when I think, 'Wow I'm a completely different person to when I wrote those lyrics', but what I'm proud of is that we made it vague and poetic enough that you don't have to interpret anything literally.
"You can make your own meaning and the music is beautiful. I don't feel like I'm stepping into something that's dated."
Mary says The Jezabels have not ruled out releasing new material in the future and that "there's probably a desire to on most people's part, it's just finding the time".
All four members have separate musical projects and Mary is in pre-production for her debut solo album, which she hopes to release by the end of the year.
Mary and Took are also planning to move to the United Kingdom and are trying to find time to organise their wedding.
"DMA's have a bit of stuff coming and I've got a bit of stuff going on, so we're not rushing into it."
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