Tab Interview: The Mystery Jets
‘There’s been no knickers on this tour, which I’m a little disappointed about; I like to walk on stage with a good bundleful.’ HOLLY STEVENSON steps onto the tour bus of indie underdogs THE MYSTERY JETS.
We were sitting opposite Blaine Harrison and William Rees, vocalist and guitarist respectively, of psychedelic indie titans The Mystery Jets. We were on their tour bus. No biggie. We felt pretty cool. But, while we were trying to disguise our awe of them and their slightly odorous bus, they seemed more interested in checking out our academic credentials. ‘So are you two from THE Cambridge University?’ Blaine asked. ‘Not the Cambridge Polytechnic?’
‘Yes. We are from the genuine, bona fide University of Cambridge,’ we replied.
‘Oh my God!’ Will exclaimed. ‘Do you do punting races and stuff? And don’t you jump off the bridge in summer, on May Day?’ No, Will. May Week is in June. ‘That’s nuts!’ Will yelped. And then, once the mystique of Cambridge had been unearthed, we were able to move on.
The boys from Eel Pie Island (it’s in Twickenham, by the way) have a special affection for Cambridge. ‘We really like Cambridge. It’s beautiful,’ Blaine told us. ‘It’s great when you step off the bus, and you’re just surrounded by the really pretty river and some nice green spaces. We’ve played here five or six times; we’re old hardened tour dogs!’
They certainly are. Blaine and Will had some interesting stories from their latest European tours, to say the least. Will recalled: ‘In Italy, the audiences were all throwing their knickers onto the stage. We kept them in a bucket. They were definitely clean, though. I got Blaine to smell them.
‘But, there’s been no knickers on this tour, which I’m a little disappointed about. I like to walk on stage with a good bundleful. English girls are more restrained.’ Sob.
Their best memory from touring, however, was not being bombarded with Italian underwear, but their very first performance at Glastonbury, in 2008: ‘That was a very high moment … quite literally,’ Will laughed. ‘It was the first time a lot of us had actually been to Glastonbury, and it was a bit overwhelming. We had two days there before we were due to do the gig, and we ran round the festival, got really lost for about 24 hours and re-found each other about ten minutes before the gig. It was really good.’
Blaine cut in: ‘All our energies somehow collided in exactly the right place at the right time, and everyone turned up to see it. It was the moment when our second album really got launched into the world; when it clicked with people. I think it was something to do with the ley lines. The mysticism of Glastonbury definitely did something.’
The Mystery Jets certainly look as though they would fit in well with the druids of Glastonbury, and there is undoubtedly a connection that runs deeply between them: ‘It’s almost like we share the same blood,’ Blaine explained. ‘Because my parents and the bass player’s parents were best mates when they were our age, the band is like a family tree. We got into music when we were kids and stuck with it. We’ve had the name since we were children.’
And for Blaine, the band are literally his family. His dad, Henry, was one of the founding members of The Mystery Jets. But, was it weird to have a father-son relationship in the band? Blaine claims not: ‘To outsiders, it seems very weird because there aren’t really any bands with dads in them. But it’s a really sweet thing for a father to want to play music with his son, because it’s a way of communicating. It’s no different to kicking a football around in a park. My dad is still very much part of the fold, though he doesn’t tour with us any more. It’s the only way it’s ever been with us, so it’s not weird at all.’
The artists that the band collaborate with simply become part of an extended family: ‘Our collaborations are never planned,’ Will asserts. ‘They always come from having a friendship with another musician. Kai (the bassist) lived two doors down from Count & Sinden, and just out of that a piece of music emerged. It’s never a career move; we don’t try and set up something with La Roux to be popular with the electro kids. It’s very organic.’
The Mystery Jets are the critics’ darlings, but, oddly, they’ve never really smashed the charts. Their highest position in the singles chart was number 23 with The Boy Who Ran Away in 2006. So, do they see themselves as indie underdogs? ‘I think we’re the biggest band on the planet!’ Blaine joked. ‘I do think there’s a lot of truth in that label, but I also feel incredibly lucky because there’s a lot of bands who were around when we started who aren’t around anymore, who had more success than us on paper. But then, how do you measure success? How do you define it?
‘On our third record we’re playing bigger shows than we’ve ever played before. It’s been a gradient, and that’s what’s encouraging to us,’ Will explained. ‘If the radio takes to your songs: brilliant. But that’s never what we’ve set out to do. Maybe we’re not a massive band, but we definitely punch above our weight. The people who go to our gigs are not there because of a single; they’re there because they like the whole experience. They’re the kind of people that really get into a record, and might like track six, or a really weird, progressive track.’
Both Blaine and Will were contemptuous of the current charts: ‘I look at the charts and it’s boring; it’s bollocks. It’s all T4, Hollyoaks shit and all the stuff from America like Taio Cruz,’ says Will, spitting out the latter’s name. ‘Who are they? They don’t feel like people to me. They just feel like holograms of people that pop up and can do good dancing; they’re people that aren’t going to last five years.’
So, it seems that if you can’t beat them, you should wear techni-coloured outfits and dance on the ley lines. Judging by the legions of happy fans at their gig later that evening, you’d be in good company.