"It takes a while to realise that a year’s worth of work has come to nothing..." - hmv.com talks to Mystery Jets
As they release their new album Curve Of The Earth we sat down with Mystery Jets’ guitarist Will Rees to find out about its troubled making, why they scrapped an entire LP and why they’ve sacrificed looking up to the cosmos to do something far more personal…
This is your first record for four years, what was different this time that made the gap such a long one?
“It is a long time, but we didn’t want to put anything out that weren’t completely happy with and getting to that place took a lot longer than we expected. We started writing on the tour for Radlands, but some of the songs have their genesis back in 2012, so it’s taken a long time to get here.”
You recorded the album in your own studio, what was it like setting that up?
“It was amazing. The studio is right opposite Blaine’s (Harrison, frontman) flat and we all live nearby so it’s really easy to get to. We’ve been buying and collecting bits of gear, loads of old synthesisers and amps, we had a real treasure trove of gear and now it’s got a place to live. It also meant we could work anytime we wanted.”
You’ve got a new bass player in Jack Flanagan, how did he join the band? Did you audition people?
“We didn’t audition anyone, he kind of just appeared, I’ve known of him for a few years, I’ve been at house parties with him, but I never really talked to him. Him and Blaine started hanging out at the end of 2013 and then I started hanging out with him and then, almost overnight, he was just in the band. He’s five or six years younger than us and he’s brought so much energy and enthusiasm to it.”
What was the transition like between him and Kai Fish, who’d been your bass player for a long time...
“Kai was a founding member and he’d been with us for 10 years, but Jack filled his boots very easily. I feel like we’ve found our missing link, it’s all been very natural.”
How was writing? Was it a difficult record to write?
“There were times when we’d work very hard and very quickly and then there were periods where we’d be off on our own writing songs. It was a bit all over the place, we actually recorded two albums during the process, one that was finished in the summer of 2014 and the other which you’ve got now.”
When did you decide that album wouldn’t be the one you put out?
“It was pretty quick. We got together the 11 or 12 tracks that we’d recorded and we had a playback session for our managers and some friends and we all sat in the studio and the album just sunk like a lead balloon. It was a tiring listen and we all knew that we had to get back to work.”
What do you think went wrong with that LP?
“What we did on that album was a stepping stone to where we are now, you can hear where we’re trying to get to, that album was a lot slower, the songs all clock in at between seven and nine minutes and it’s a big concept space rock record. We wanted to make that album, but when we sat back and looked at it, it was just really flawed. It came from a good place, but it was never going to do what we needed to do, there just weren’t enough fireworks.”
Did you have some time away after that?
“We had a few months off to go away and lick our wounds, it takes a while to realise that a year’s worth of work has come to nothing. But then we started writing again and we came back together.”
You ended up self-producing the record, was that your intention all along? Or was that just because the album took so long to come together?
“We didn’t intend to self-produce it and it’s huge undertaking. If you think you’re prepared for it, you’re not, it’s very hard work, but it’s the right decision, this would be quite a different record if we’d got an outside producer. We did talk to two about doing it, but they ended up not being able to commit and I think it’s worked out for the best.”
What kind of record is Curve Of The Earth lyrically?
“It’s a very personal record. That’s the main difference between the first and second albums, this is a very honest statement and that’s where we went wrong with the first batch. We were spending too much time looking up into the cosmos, what’s going on underneath your own nose is much more inspiring.”
You’ve got a UK tour next month, are you excited to get back out there?
“I’m really excited to get back, we haven’t toured the UK for three years and I’m so excited to see people and play the new songs to them.”
How are your incorporating the new songs into the setlist?
“It’s difficult, we’ve actually been playing the new album start to finish and then finishing with four or five old songs as an encore, I’d like it to keep it like that, it was made to be heard like that. When we do festivals it’ll be different and we’ll have to mix it up, but I like that format at the moment.”
Mystery Jets’ new album Curve Of The Earth is out now