EP Walkthrough: Hayley Mary dissects her remarkable second EP, The Drip
The stunning collection of tracks solidifies the talents of the The Jezabels frontwoman, ahead of shows planned throughout the year.
Header image by Marcus Coblyn.
One of last year's most striking releases came from Hayley Mary, a new solo project from the lead singer of The Jezebels, who was introducing herself on a more intimate and individual level with the release of her debut EP, The Piss, The Perfume. Preluded by a breakthrough single of the same name a year prior, the EP was a five-track exploration of Hayley Mary's already exhibited craft as a songwriter, and how she was able to twist it into a new, recharged sound with the turmoil that followed the release of The Jezebels' last record, 2016's Synthia.
"It was a bit of a lost period," she told The Sydney Morning Herald in one of the many in-depth and intimate interviews that accompanied the EP's release. "[It consisted of] wandering and drinking and not caring and being self-destructive... [It was] a pretty low few years."
Skip forward a year, and the aimlessness of Hayley Mary's life following The Jezebels' hiatus has seemingly cleared, with the solo project allowing her to channel her creativity and passion into a new driving project - one in which she's smack-bang in the centre of. That isn't to say there haven't been lowlights - I don't think any musician has had a joyful time in the last 12 months, with their income slashed to near-nothing and the isolation of it all - but there's a sense of revitalisation in her newfound work, and the appreciation that comes alongside it.
It's something that's deciphered across the course of her second EP as Hayley Mary, titled The Drip - arriving last Friday. It's a captivating seven tracks that soar to greater heights than her debut EP in both sound and theme, exploring notions of identity and time as she gazes through a reflective period of her life with the charisma that's long accompanied Hayley Mary's musicianship, both as a band member and as a solo musician.
Singles like EP highlight Sullen Kink dance with a brighter outlook that transcends much of the EP's sound, even the moments more bare-boned and stripped-back in nature. Much like her debut EP, there are nods to the powerful women of rock'n'roll that inspire Hayley's sound - Chrissie Hynde as the frontwoman of The Pretenders; the late, great Chrissy Amphlett of Divinyls - but on songs like the EP's title track, Hayley doesn't so much re-affirm her love for these artists as much as she builds on their momentum, further establishing her presence while solidifying herself as a newfound inspiration, one already weaselling their sound into the greater, Australian rock canon.
It's something we've always known, but The Drip EP if nothing else is a moment for Hayley Mary to greater express her individualism and the talent that brings it to life, capturing the heart of her sound - and the history that backs it - as she brings new energy into rock's already multi-faceted nature, and explores future routes worth travelling down. The Drip has many of those moments - some of its tracks could be easily extended out into seven-track EPs of their own, and still feel fresh - and it's clear that Hayley Mary is a master of bringing them to life.
The EP comes ahead of a string of shows throughout 2021's second-half (and you can find them all below), but in the meantime, take a dive into The Drip below, and bask in the glory of Hayley Mary as she breaks down the EP one song at a time, dissecting its themes and creation as she goes.
I was sitting in the window at my tenement flat in Leith when the phrase, 'it was a dirty grey day, there was a constant drizzle'. I knew there was a song in it, but it was not until a year or so later, back in Melbourne, that I found my shoebox of napkins. It sparked a nostalgia for Scotland and I began piecing them together and filling in the story and a romantic yet cynical, addiction riddled figure who I'd known in a lot of people, including myself, who was killing himself slowly in a mundane, everyday sort of way.
There was also a violent drip on my windowsill when it stormed, which haunted me in the night like the Raven of Edgar Allan Poe, and a leaking tap in the kitchen I just couldn't seem to get around to fixing, that seemed to represent everything I was letting slip by. I'll admit I don't know entirely what the song is about, or whether it's the ramblings of an optimist or a nihilist, but I think it's my favourite of mine so far.
Sullen Kink is a vague spoonerism for Scottish soup called ‘Cullen Skink’ which my partner and I joked over, while enjoying a bowl in a pub one day; another way of saying ‘sad twist’ or ‘sombre turn.’ We wrote the song when we’d returned to Melbourne and were in lockdown, so I guess it’s a bit of a reflection on bitter-sweet nostalgia for the past before life took such a sad turn for everyone. But also the awareness that a love for the past is always going to have a bit of twisted sadness about it.
Would You Throw A Diamond?
Would You Throw A Diamond? started as an old idea of my boyfriend Johnny’s that he had all but thrown out. I could see it was a proper diamond in the dirt that just needed brushing off and shining up.
I changed up the vibe and added some new parts and lyrics to bring out the idea of thinking first before throwing away a thing of inherent value, just because you’re not sure what to do with it right then and there. You never know what new element is around the corner that can bring out the best in something old. So, we named the song Would You Throw A Diamond? in the spirit of what the song was about and the process by which it came together.
A Boy Called Rock n Roll
The inspiration for A Boy Called Rock n Roll came about many years ago when I was living in London and I noticed a very strong culture of groupies hanging around guys in bands, that I hadn’t really thought was still a thing. One particular girl in the scene had a certain sadness about her. Her love for these guys and their music was never going to really be reciprocated; watching her around them could bring a tear to a glass eye. She reminded me of the song Ruby Tuesday; her 60’s inspired glamour; always staying in a different room, floating, rootless. I got the feeling she cared more about the music than anyone in that scene, and contrary to appearances, they needed people like her more than she needed them.
Unholy Winter was written the first day I moved to Scotland from Sydney. Jet-lagged at a concert in Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh, I decided to have a quick nap in my mates’ tour bus, but woke up at 4 AM when the bus was leaving for Germany and had to flee with my guitar and suitcase into what felt like the coldest darkness I’d ever been in. Edinburgh Castle, magically gothic, loomed over me. The wheels on my suitcase tumbled loudly over the wet cobblestones as I found my way down to a B&b in the more affordable area of Leith.
I hummed a verse; something about being ‘under the sun…,’ which I was, very much, not. Once I got to the shelter I finished it on guitar. I was trying to capture a feeling of euphoria that comes from leaving a chapter of your life behind, and starting to write a new one. Intangible, but exciting and a little victorious.
Young & Stupid
I hadn’t realised they even had a landline. It was like a ghost calling through the hallway with that old school ring. ‘Who the hell even calls you on that?’ I asked. ‘Only Nana,’ my partner replied. As it was in the middle of the worst part of COVID, there was a certain vibe around; of everything that had been taken for granted; of the preciousness of life and the fragility of the old, mixed with a pronounced concern with where technology was going to take us. We reflected on the probability that when the last landlines in the world stopped ringing it would only be because a certain generation was gone.
The night I wrote The Chain, the pandemic was erupting around us all. Venues were closing and I received the news that my flights and headline shows were cancelled. I sat in my apartment in Melbourne staring at my suitcase. Not quite ready to start unpacking and let go of the momentum of my little rock n roll dream, I picked up the guitar and wrote what felt like, at the time, the saddest song I’d ever written. Sonically and melodically, however, it’s one of my most uplifting.
It was a feeling I’d had before akin to depression that there is some kind of invisible magic chain holding me to the earth and keeping me from moving forward or climbing higher, which if I pull too hard on or try to escape from, seems to have devastating consequences behind or beneath me. But this time it was an odd sort of happy-sad because for the first time I felt like the chain not only held me down, it connected me to everything and everyone else. For a brief moment, everyone could see it and feel it at exactly the same time.
Fri 18/6 - QLD - Brisbane, The Zoo (supporting Tyne-James Organ)
Sat 19/6 - NSW - Byron Bay Music Fest
Sat 3/7 - NSW - Sydney, Waywards (24 Hour Party)
Fri 30/7 - VIC - Melbourne, Workers Club (EP launch)
Fri 13/8 - NSW - Sydney, Paddo RSL “Rissole Rampage” (EP launch)
Sat 28/8 - VIC - Yarraville, Kindred Studio (Solo)
Sun 29/8 - VIC - Geelong, Sweetfest (free event) (solo)
Sat 11/12 - Port Macquarie, Festival Of The Sun