Jet Set: Mystery Jets Interview

"We used to be soppy, now we’re bitter and cynical.”

The Mystery Jets are hung over. Early afternoon, just after sound check, it’s rock star o’clock, and the band join me in Manchester’s Big Hands bar on day three of the Dot To Dot Festival. As they order cocktails, and enjoy the attentions of the two female fans that have joined us, I can’t help but feel a bit jealous.

But it’s not all plain sailing for the four-piece from Eel Pie Island in South West London, who were dropped last year by 679 Records, after the relative commercial disappointment of second album ‘21’ and have developed a reputation as indie underdogs.

With their third album, ‘Serotonin’, out this month, the pressure is on, and it feels like make-or-break time for this closely bonded, aspiring band of young musicians. Bassist Kai Fish sees the past few years as a gradual learning of their art.

“I think if you look at much more interesting bands, they only reach a ripening a few albums down the line,” he reasons. “If you blow your load on the first album and there’s nothing else to back that up, it’s not that interesting. If you find your feet over the course of three or four albums, to be a great band, I think you’ve got to do that.” When asked what they hope for the new record, they’re enthusiastic.

“To take over the world,” replies Kai, with a mixture of wry humour, and raw ambition. The sentence hangs in the air. If Kai is the joker in the pack, singer Blaine is very much its leader, and he continues when I ask if there is a desire to raise the profile of band.

“Yes. I think it feels very rewarding to do something like this and headline a festival,” the charismatic vocalist explains. “We have been around for quite a long time, and it can be hard to get the recognition when so many of the young bands have so much hype around them. It feels like a celebration for us to play these gigs. It feels really good”.

The new album is an expansive sounding entity, which sees them come out of the shadows of their earlier prog rock influences and gain mastery over them. They credit the influence of acclaimed producer Chris Thomas for their newfound confidence and maturity in the studio. “He’s been involved with so many classic records,” Blaine says of the recording veteran, whose impressive credits include playing on The Beatles’ ‘White Album’, and co-producing The Sex Pistols’ legendary debut LP. “To work with him was such an honour.”

How do they feel about ‘Serotonin’? “Really good,” explains guitarist Will Rees. “I think we feel like we’ve made our best record,” he says, going on to explain how their approach to songwriting has matured. “I think on the second and third album we’ve put so much effort into crafting and learning how to write songs. In quite a traditional way.” The approach marks quite a departure for the band, who as teenagers used create chaotically, jamming out ideas and bolting them together to make songs on their first record ‘Making Dens’.

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Lyrically also there’s signs of growing maturity. “I think it’s interesting to compare the lyrics on ‘21’ with this album,” suggests Will. “The lyrics on ‘21’ are quite painfully in the flesh, quite painfully first person.”

Henry, Blaine’s dad and the band’s rhythm guitarist, thinks ‘21’ began with a process of having fun with songwriting. “I think with ‘21’, we started having fun lyrically. Blaine had this idea for ‘Hideaway’, a tongue-in-cheek song about a three-way love affair, and it was great, bringing a bit of humour to the lyrics, and I think we’ve carried that on. Now I think we’ve found a bit of a middle-ground, with a song like ‘Flash A Hungry Smile’. I think there’s a lot of humour in those lyrics, but behind it…it’s maybe a little bit sad. We used to be soppy,” he says. “Now we’re bitter and cynical.”

Indeed, it’s those dualities of conflicting sounds and happy/sad emotions that is at the heart of great pop music, and, on album number three, the band do appear to have nailed it. The question is, what’s next for the band?

“I want this record to take us to countries we’ve never been to,” suggest Blaine. “It’s too easy to get a little bit lost in England, obsessing over getting bigger in the NME-world.”

Will says the band are attracted by the idea of going to America. “Just something about the size of it, and the vastness of it. It feels like you could go there and reinvent yourself.”

Blaine continues: “I think the album after this will be about us ripping up the book,” he says, looking ahead. “[Changing] everything we’ve done so far, which is to an extent what we said we’d do. Moving abroad would be the first step towards that.”

Words by Abbas Ali
Photos by Steve Baker

Read ClashMusic’s review of the new album from Mystery Jets, ‘Serotonin’, HERE.

Jet Set: Mystery Jets Interview

Clash Magazine Issue 52

This article appears in the 52nd issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from July 1st.

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Jet Set: Mystery Jets Interview

Big Chill Festival 2010

Mystery Jets are performing at this year’s Big Chill festival. Join Clash on the road to the Big Chill Festival with news, interviews and features. Visit ClashMusic’s Big Chill hub for all the latest news on the festival HERE.

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