After lurking in an arguably predatory manner at the bottom of the off-stage stairwell for some time I was lucky enough to meet the Mystery Jet’s tour manager Dan, who led me back to their mobile home-style dressing room for a succinct, spur of the moment interview.
Hailing from Eel Pie Island in South West London, Mystery Jets are a long way from home in Inverness. Known for their squeaky clean indie rock, the band were performing at Rockness amongst bands like Mumford and Sons, Biffy Clyro, Deadmau5. The band formed in 2004 and unlike countless other indie pop ensembles, they gradually built up a steady following, rather than sky-rocketing to success. This seems to have left them charmingly down to earth. When asked what brought them quite so far North of the Watford Gap the band respond: “Beautiful, idyllic scenery, more sheep than any man could ask for and of course the music,” all of which is tastefully encompassed by Rockness Festival.
The festival is somewhat incongruously situated in the picturesque town of Dores and overlooks the renowned Loch Ness (hence the name). This week the band are off to LA, so relatively speaking 600 Miles north of Twickenham is really little more than a stone’s throw. Apparently unphased by the miserable weather, Mystery Jets praised the Scots for “their ability to show their appreciation. They’re a rowdy bunch, but certainly know how to have a good time. Playing at festivals is completely different to being on tour. You never know what the crowd will be like. Sometimes it’s hard to engage with a crowd this size, but not here. You get the sense that they’re really listening.”
In spite of having recently lost bassist Kai Fish to the call of family life and a blossoming solo career, Mystery Jets delivered a praiseworthy, polished performance. New bassist, Peter Cochrane, and pedal steel guitarist Matt Parks, looked right at home alongside the original trio. With their seemingly ever-changing line-up it would be fair to assume the band might encounter some struggle for creative control, but this is not the case for Mystery Jets, “we’re all very open-minded creatively. Control itself on the other hand, well that’s another ball game altogether,” joked frontman Blaine Harrison. “We’re constantly pulling in different directions, but we all get along and on the plus side, we’ll always be coming up with new ideas because of it.”
In the unlikely event that the boys are ever faced with writer’s block, their approach is to: “smash that block up! Breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks is key. By doing that you can get through anything.” When asked if they had any tips for seeking out inspiration William replied, “it sounds cheesy, but you can’t force it. You have to let it come to you. In the meantime distract yourself with something mundane. Go for a walk or a swim. If you push too hard, you’ll only end up frustrated and idea-less.” William Rees, who began his musical journey as a classically trained guitarist, stressed the importance of listening to new music in an unbiased manner and jested about the possibility of a move towards atonality. “But seriously why not? I say bring it on! I listen to lots of atonal music and am a big fan of Webern, Berg and Schoenberg. They know what they’re talking about and achieved a lot of success albeit a different kind to ours. There must be something in that.”
Their recently released fourth studio album Radlands saw the band take a decisive step away from the synthesized, polished, pop sound of ‘21’ and ‘Serotonin’ towards a natural rawness, more similar to that found on their first release ‘Making Dens’. As for what the next big step is both for Mystery Jets and for pop music in general, the band adamantly claim to have no clue: “If we knew that we’d be millionaires and besides we certainly wouldn’t be passing that information on lightly! You’ll have to wait and see”.
So not quite ready to offer up the secret to their success, frontman Blaine Harrison draws the interview to a close with some sound advice on song writing. Although it’s hard to put your finger on what makes a song popular, “as long as you’re writing something that will stick in people’s heads, you’re on the right track”.