Twickenham based synth pop group Mystery Jets turned heads in 2005 with the release of their debut album Making Den, but it was three years later with the release of a trio of singles ‘Young Love’ featuring Laura Marling ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’ showcasing their fun loving pop side that a generation of indie disco goers could have a good dance to. Their latest album ‘Radlands’ has recently been released and shows a change in direction for the band.
Becky Pye and Jack Graysmark catch up with guitarist William Rees before their Sound City performance, down at the Academy of Arts.
Jack Graysmark This is your first time in Liverpool since 2010, how does it feel to be back for Sound City?
William Reese It feels good, I like Liverpool a lot, it’s a great city. I like walking around and seeing all the crumbling buildings and stuff
JG You’re playing Brixton Academy tomorrow, how does it feel to play such a prestigious venue?
WR Yeah it feels great, it feels like everything we’ve done as a band or as musicians has been coming up to this moment. I mean every moment builds up to the next, but this is definitely a big moment, the biggest moment possibly we’ve had so far and we’re thrilled to be doing it.
Becky Pye What drew you to Liverpool for Sound City? Do you have any choice about what festivals you play at?
WR Erm, probably a promoter somewhere, I’d imagine. Yeah we do have choice, we get offers and we say yes to them or no to them depending on how big the fee is (laughs)
JG You’ve been on a national tour for your latest album, Radlands, how have that been received, have the fans liked it?
WR I think they have yeah, and we toured, we did a tour before the album came out and we played a lot of new songs.
BP Give everyone bit of a teaser about what was coming out?
WR yeah, it’s always quite frightening as you don’t know how people are going to react to things, especially when they’ve never heard it before, but I think they liked it. It’s very reassuring, you think like ‘we’ve made the right record here’ you know, and now it’s come out and we’ve done a few gigs and we can really see that people are starting to know it, which is great.
BP I know a lot of people know your older stuff, you’ve got quite a lot of fans from the older days. Do you still play some of that stuff or are you focusing more on the new stuff now?
WR No, we play stuff from our second and third album and the new album, we don’t play anything from the first record.
JG Is there a reason for that at all, or are you just moving away from it?
WR We’ve got too many songs and we’re much more inclined to play new material as it’s more exciting, but it’s nothing to do with how we feel about the first record. I think we all love it, it was an important record for us, but you know, there’s just too much other stuff.
BP On the topic of festivals, do you have any embarrassing or favourite moments from festivals you’ve done in the past?
WR Let me think, there are so many to be honest. Well the first time we did Glastonbury, was also the first time any of us had been there and we all ran into the festival and got lost for two days and me and Kai (past member) commandeered a little rave tent, called the slumber rave, and we basically took over and ran it and served people drinks. You have to dress up in a dressing gown and slippers when you come in, because the rave is on beds and people were having pillow fights and stuff. So we did that for two days and two nights and got pulled out by our ears by our tour manager, dragged on stage to do the gig.
JG That’s brilliant. At this particular festival, Sound City, are there any bands that you recommend?
WR Peace are really good, they’re sound checking now, they’ve been supporting us, they’re worth a check.
JG Recently we’ve had two venues close down in Liverpool and there was one closed down just before Christmas. How important would you say is keeping live music going?
WR Massively important, hugely important. I think gigs are a great way of bringing people together and I think the playing of music is incredibly important. It’s also one of the only ways for bands to survive financially because records don’t really sell anymore, so gig tickets and merchandise have now become the main way to do it. It’s always really sad when venues close down, as some of them have got a lot of history. Amazing bands have passed through their doors and they get replaced and turned into shopping malls or blocks of flats, it’s quite depressing.
BP On the topic of your music, the change of the sound from your previous albums, being more of a synthy, pop feel and Radlands, your new album, has moved away from that. Was there a reason for that?
WR There were lots of reasons for it. I think that we felt after Serotonin, we had reached the end of a trilogy and that trilogy was kind of an exploration in pop music with synthesisers and putting all our influences together into a melting pot and making albums that try to take on lots and lots of territory and do lots and lots of things in forty minute time period. I think having done that on three albums, we realised that we were basically confusing the hell out of people, and what we needed to do was streamline it and come up with a kind of recipe that was much more simple, and hopefully much more powerful and effective. To do that we moved to America, we moved to Austin, Texas, and used nothing but our guitars to make the music on. So we limited ourselves in a lot of ways.
BP You mentioned influences, what are the main influences for the music that you make? Any people that you listened to as kids?
WR We grew up listening to Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Queen Jimi Hendrix and music that’s very, like rock music but very symphonic or grand. At the start that was very much what we were about, whereas on our latest record, Radlands, we were listening to American country music and country rock, things like Neil Young and harmony music like Crosby, Stills and Nash. So it changes on each record, but that’s the kind of flavour we’ve been up to recently.
JG For anyone out there that doesn’t know about Mystery Jets, how would you persuade them to come and see a Mystery Jets gig.
WR Why should you go and see a Mystery Jets gig? Erm… you might enjoy it. I don’t know, I think we’re different. I think we’re kind of… I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet… erm.. we’ve got a kind of message that’s not explicit and I really couldn’t give it to you in a soundbite, but we have an idea about what we’re trying to do, and we’re quite uncompromising in pursuing that.
BP Finally, any advice for new bands?
WR No advice, I mean you just have to do it your own way and learn from your own process of doing it. It’s an experience and throw yourself into it. Don’t follow other people’s advice, make it up as you go along. That’s the name of the game, the best things that happen are just when people go in there and light off a bomb, it just explodes, people are like what the **** is that, a new sound that hasn’t got its foot in the past at all.
Edited by Rob Dewis, Interview by Jack Graysmark and Becky Pye