Blaine Harrison reflects on a great year for Mystery Jets.
Mystery Jets are basically one of the bands of the year whenever that year has an album of theirs released in it. Because they're great, you see. 2016 has seen the release of their latest effort 'Curve of the Earth' - so here we are, nearing the end of December and pestering frontman Blaine Harrison about his previous twelve months, and what he's up to this weekend.
Hello Blaine! How are you today?
I’m very well thank you. I’m at Jets HQ today on Eel Pie Island have a big window in front of me and the river is bathed in a wonderful golden light. I’ve just finished a new song so I’m feeling rather bouncy.
How has 2016 been for you guys? Has it been a good year?
Ironically, it feels as if things have come together very nicely for us this year, we had a great summer of shows and a lot of fun touring either side of it. I say ironically because it feels like chaos everywhere else I look. I could go on about the madness that has been grating on us all but I feel actually people are very conscious of the world we are living in for a change. Maybe the purpose of music is not to comment on that but to provide an escape from it. Records are like books, if you believe in them, a whole new world opens up where anything is possible. We need to feel that kind of hope to see how to change the situation you've gotten ourselves into.
You released both an album and EP - were you pleased with how they were received? Did they open any new doors?
The release of Curve' came as a huge relief. We started writing those songs while we were still touring ‘Radlands' in America in 2013 so from start to finish it was over a three-year creative process. We amassed quite a substantial amount of material in that time and it wasn't until we invited Richard Formby (Wild Beasts, Spacemen 3) round to hear some music that he pointed out we were essentially already producing the album ourselves. We had an excellent co-pilot in Matthew (Twaites co-producer) and building the studio ourselves was essential in getting the sound that we were after. In the past, we've always been quite precious about holding back outtakes and tracks that didn't make it, but in this case, the songs that made up ‘The Whole Earth EP' were just as important to us as the ones that had made it onto the album. I think we played everything off both the Album and EP live at least once on tour.
What would you say is your absolute favourite thing about ‘Curve of the Earth’?
In the nicest possible way, I would have to say the feeling of being able to step away from it. Getting some of those songs out was almost like an exorcism. And now they're out there, they're not our problem! We had this saying all while we were making it - ‘no song is safe'. In other words, everything on there had at least one other song on it's back, fighting for its place. I can't tell you how many times a song like Bubblegum or Saturnine was almost put back on the scrapheap. Towards the end of the recording process, it was very much like we were living in a vacuum, half the band working all day, the other half turning up for the night shift. Some days we'd only cross paths over dinner.
What’s your album of the year?
I love the Lemon Twigs album. It’s such an intensely musical record, which sounds obscene but it’s the only way I can describe it. I’m sure they’re sick of hearing this but I couldn’t believe it when I read how young they are. We started early too but the chops these guys already have make you wonder what the hell you’re doing with your life! They remind me of when jazz guys in the 70s started wanting to get laid so set about writing pop music, which is how bands like Steely dan and Toto came about. But there’s also this kind of baroque, music hall extravagance to their songs. Jonathan Rado from Foxygen produced the record and I think he’s set for great things.
Are you planning to take a break over Christmas? How do you guys recover from the band’s busy periods?
We are on roll right now so I don’t think we have any intention of making 2017 a fallow year. I’ve taken a couple of months out to have some surgery but that’s given us a great chance to make a start on the next one. We don’t like waiting around. We’ve also always got side projects we’re working on with other artists. A little film work at the moment. That’s actually the great thing about the studio, from one week to the next there’s always interesting people coming through, we like to work with other artists whenever we have time.
What’s at the top of your Christmas list this year?
I’ve recently taken an interest in soldering out of disgust at how expensive guitar effects pedals are becoming. After taking a few apart I thought it looked easy enough so had a go at making some from scratch but I keep on melting the components. I would gladly appreciate some training on this matter if anyone with a C or above in Electronics is reading this.
Are you going to buy your bandmates presents?
It’s not very sexy but I’m gonna buy them books. But not just any old books, magic books. I live round the corner from the delightful Watkins Books on Cecil court in Covent Garden (aka Diagon Alley) so that’s where the order will be taken this year. There’s a little man who sits in the window reading palms for a fiver so I’ll probably consult with him before I put slap any cash down.
Who’s the most famous person on your Christmas card list?
I don’t like famous people, they make my eyeballs twitchy.
Do you have any plans for 2017 yet? Are there any festivals you’d especially like to play?
We've still never been to play in Russia. Or Chile, or Peru. We've got fans out there but are still waiting for the invitation. I'd love to set up our own version of the BA executive club, whereby fans are awarded Jets avios based on how far they travel to see us play. You would be able to spend them on things like a free soy latte at our favourite cafe or a sag paneer at a curry house of our choosing. We'd be in the app store. If anyone in tech with too much time on their hands reads this you know who to call.
Who do you think will be the biggest new band of 2017?
I think The Garden are clearly made for Rock stardom. They're two identical twins from Orange County who dress how I would imagine Bros would look like after an Iowaska binge. Actually, I just read that Bros are reforming for a massive arena tour next year so maybe someone should pull some strings and get these guys on first. They're like a millennial Lemon Twigs for girls.