Saturday, 21 March 2009

We Were Promised Jetpacks

interview for The Mill magazine

High-fives all round for the FatCat scouts who brought us The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, two brilliant Scottish bands who've flourished with a little help from the Brighton-based independent label. Now they tell us they've found another great band from roundsabout here, and we're predictably salivating: FatCat's latest Scottish project are four-piece We Were Promised Jetpacks, discovered by none other than the aforementioned fearty bunny.

Singer Adam Thompson explains: "After a gig at Barfly in March last year I think the Rabbits phoned FatCat and said they should think about signing us." The groups had met previously while sharing a bill for an Is This Music? night and quickly became pals. "I've always imagined it to be like the bit in Back To The Future when Marty is beasting out the solo and the guy with the cut hand is on the phone telling his cousin to sign him. I hope it was like that."

Of course, record deals don't usually come with 'recommend a friend' promotions on the side, but FatCat obviously saw enough in the young quartet from Edinburgh's outskirts to keep listening, and eventually to sign. If there's something special about the Jetpacks, it's probably in the way they use rhythm: not as an unimportant wallpaper to the tune, nor as a herky-jerky fast-track to punk-funk cliche; but as a catalyst to every song, adding a restless urgency to Adam's vocals that add to their sincerity. Ian Curtis used to spasmodically dance when Joy Division's Stephen Morris locked into his groove: with the Jetpacks it's almost as if Adam is persuaded by the rhythms to gush out his innermost thoughts, his tongue flailing around like Curtis's arms.

"We do spend a long time getting the drums done once we have the skeleton of a song," Adam says. "They take ages [to get right]. It's a shame cause everyone with the stringed instruments yells at Lackie to play better drums and we all play the air-drums to help describe what we want it to sound like. He just sits there like he's about to greet!"

It's been a long road to get to this stage, with the group now recording a debut album for a growing expectant fanbase. After meeting at high school, the first ever Jetpacks gig was in April 2003. "We certainly didn't bond over a common love of a few bands or anything like that. Our drummer was into Blink 182 and screamo, Michael [guitars] didn't start liking guitar music for ages, and myself and Sean [bass] were content going to see the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Obviously as time has passed we have become much more passionate about music and are a bit more focussed now."

Luckily for all concerned, they sound nothing like a Blink/screamo/Chilli Peppers hybrid. Tastes can change a lot in six years, especially through school and young adulthood, and with the benefits of regular gigging and paying customers who won't hold back from offering a scathing critique where it's needed. "A guy came to one of our early gigs purely because of our name. He then heckled us and called me a farmer!" Adam complains, but with that they dropped their Wurzels influence, so all's for the better. Recent gigs have been going much better. They made a schoolboy error in selling out Nice N' Sleazy's -- "We had to turn friends who had bought tickets from us away, Sean's sister had to sneak in after we started!" -- and thoroughly enjoyed their September performance at Edinburgh's The Mill. "Yes that was great!" Adam says. "We were a bit suprised that it was so busy for us that night. It was great fun."

Now for that debut album. "We've recorded everything we've got! We're very pleased at how it's coming along. We feel it's a great interpretation of the live show: loud and quiet at the same time. We've done a bunch with Ken Thomas, who produced a couple of Sigur Ros albums, and M83, and they're getting mixed right now by Peter Katis, who's done Frightened Rabbit, The National, and Interpol."

And along with these opportunities, these esteemed names legitimately dropped, comes just a little expectation. I ask Adam about the Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit albums, which both won Album of the Year in The Skinny. "Yeah we completely love those albums. It's a bit scary because they are both soooooo good and Scottish and we are on the same label. We were joking about having to win The Skinny's Album of the Year now, you've put us under so much pressure! And now, of course, it'll go to Merriweather Post Pavillion because it's glorious. We're doomed!"

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