For a while there it seemed as though we'd lost We Were Promised Jetpacks.
The much-loved Scottish group were crisp of riff and heartening of lyric, the kind of indie rock experience that makes the lungs swell up with the oxygen of life.
Releasing three stellar albums in five years, the band completed that triptych in 2014 with their 'Unravelling' full length.
And then… silence. Taking a step back, We Were Promised Jetpacks underwent a number of subtle changes – completing their Fat Cat Records deal, finding new management, and reverting to their original four-piece line up.
Newly signed to Big Scary Monsters, We Were Promised Jetpacks are set to leap into a massive trans-Atlantic tour this Autumn.
Clash had a quick chat on the phone to frontman Adam John Thompson, discussing their new plans, those live dates, and the prospect of fresh material…
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Let’s start by paraphrasing T2: Trainspotting – where have you been for the past five years?
Been in Scotland! About two years ago we did a big US tour, and the plan was after that to not really tour any more until we had got together a bunch of songs that we were happy with. I think we got a bit bored of playing the same songs… and it felt like were just accepting gigs and then going out and doing ‘em. I know that’s what a band is meant to do but it felt like we should just stop and make sure that we really, really want to do the band.
Our record deal with Fat Cat was up, and it was the first time when we were able to really take a breather and say that it’ll take as long as it takes. I think it was really important that we took a break, and that we worked out whether the music we were doing made us happy and if we’d be happy to tour it for a year. It was nice to have that luxury.
There were a few times when we looked at booking a studio, but I always said, let’s just wait until we have all the songs finished. I think the last couple of records we had half the songs finished, and half of them un-finished, and we thought, och, we’ll do them in the studio. But I don’t think that’s really how we work best. It was definitely a conscious decision to… just relax!
You were always very successful in North America – the upcoming tour dates start there – and that alone must be exhausting.
It’s also really fun! Just because it’s 50 states, and it’s like a bunch of different countries. Over the years we picked up pals in different places. You always have to drive through places you’ve never been before, which is also fun. It really is crazy drives – you do end up doing eight or nine hours a day, every day, for six weeks. We’re lucky that we’ve always had good crew with us and we all get on. It’s never too much of a struggle.
We’re very grateful to have been able to tour out there as much as we have, and it’s good because the country’s so big you can miss places one tour and then go back there the next. It’s really good to be able to do that.
Are you itching to get back in the van now?
Yeah that tour has been sitting there for quite a while, and it was exciting when it got introduced. It feels good to have that out there, and see people writing that they want to come… It feels nice.
With the movement from Fat Cat to Big Scary Monsters and the renewal of that original four-piece line up did the process of returning feel like a reset, in a way?
I mean, a little bit. We always enjoyed working with Fat Cat but when our record deal with them was over we spoke to them and said, we don’t really know what we want to do. We were in no rush. I think we all accepted that it was a crossroads for the band and we needed a bit of time to think, and have some space.
When we came back around it was like, yeah, we need a fresh start, to move on and do something different. Our management changed, most stuff outside the band has changed. I think it was important for us to think, look, we need to make sure the four of us are happy doing this, and to make sure the shit that we’re selling we like. I think we realised that we had to be happy within ourselves to build up a team to start us going again. I feel revitalised, rejuvenated, ready to go!
We’re told new material is incoming…
We first started recording in Philadelphia. We were looking for a producer, so we gave a list of people to our new management, reached out to a few, and ended up Skyping with Jonathan Low. He works out of the North East of the States, in The National’s studio, built by Aaron Dessner.
We Skyped him and had a good hour-long chat with him – he seemed relaxed, a younger dude, and he was doing a lot of work with The National, The War On Drugs, Sharon van Etten. Everything he’d done we felt was cool. He was really nice, relaxed, and bought into the vibe.
Jonathan recommended that we did like 10 days in Philly to get bass and drums, which was nice. It was in this residential area, which was really nice – restaurants everywhere, wasn’t too isolated, we ended up bumping into a friend, this film maker. We went to a bar and he ended up coming to the studio, and made those teasers for us.
We worked there, and then went upstate to work at The National’s studio. It’s really nice – it’s only been open for a few years and I’m not sure many other bands have used it. Jonathan is the main engineer, so we were able to use the space.
We stayed at the studio, there was a wee lake next to it… Just really peaceful. We got a lot of work done. It was definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences we’ve had, mostly because we had all the songs finished.
It was a weirdly relaxed experience. I usually associate albums with stress! We were lucky that John wanted to work with us. It was a really enjoyable experience.
Overall it sounds like the right decision to step back a little.
Yeah. To be honest it felt a little like we were doing the band because that’s what we do… it’s all we’ve done since we left university. It was good to step back and see if we were really enjoying it, because we hadn’t done that since we started. But I’m glad we did all decide that we like each other, and like making music together. So we’ve got this tour, and hopefully a bunch next year. We’re raring and ready to go as it’s been such a long time.
And you played Scottish festival Doune The Rabbit Hole at the weekend…
That was great! It was nice. We finished before the World Cup, so they showed it on a big screen and we watched it from deck chairs! We were worried about the clash but it worked out perfectly.
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Catch We Were Promised Jetpacks at the following shows:
14 Aberdeen The Lemon Tree
15 Glasgow Saint Luke's
18 Leeds Brudenell Social Club
19 Manchester The Deaf Institute
21 London Bush Hall
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