William Rees had just crawled out of bed to answer the phone from an Olympic-crazed London when he casually discussed the other big news – aside from the new Mystery Jets album – that had come out of the band’s camp in early 2012.
The departure of bassist Kai Fish was a surprise on par with the group’s new musical direction. The release of their fourth album, Radlands, saw the band forgo the heavy synth influence of Serotonin and the pop immediacy of Twenty One for an Americana-themed country jaunt through the Texas heartland.
“It was strange for us and it was a tough one… because we’ve always been not only a band of musicians, but a band of great friends and suddenly not having one of those pillars there was quite tough,” recounts Rees.
To complete a whole host of changes within the band, the British outfit welcomed two new members on board; Matt Parks on the pedal steel and Peter Cochrane on the bass guitar. Speaking of Fish’s departure, Rees now seemed content with the band’s lineup changes after the announcement was made back in April.
“You know Kai left for his reasons and actually our friendship is better than it’s ever been, so it’s kind of worked out well now, but it was definitely quite scary at the start.”
Considered as one of London’s most underrated bands, 2012 could very well be identified as a turning point for the outfit. “I think now we’re just a different band in a different chapter,” offers Rees, “and I think having these two new guys helps to make it feel like that we’re doing something really different for us.”
Inevitably the changes that occurred within the Mystery Jets were going to be greater than just seeing two new faces at their shows. The shift in the dynamic of the band, while initially difficult, has been positive according to Rees.
“I think it’s made us a bit tighter as a band actually, I think that we move quicker musically, we can kind of work through ideas quicker, get stuff rehearsed quicker because the (new) guys have played in so many bands before and they can play so well,” he revealed. “It means the decisions that we make are pretty musical.”
Rees pauses for a little while, contemplating his next words: “You know – when you know someone for a long time and you know all of their good bits, but also all of their bad bits?” He asked, “That can sometimes get in the way of what matters, which is just writing or making music.”
Although he is quick to point out how integral Fish was to the band by adding that “Kai was a massive part of it and him not being there now… yeah it’s changed a lot,” before reminiscing about how “ there’s less of him jumping up on the speaker stacks, which is something he liked to do.”
But there is no doubting that the band have a new lease on band-life with the release of Radlands. Rees concludes that; “I think we feel, after Kai’s departure and having these two new members of the band, if we can do that, we can do anything in a way.” The guitarist believes that the future of the band is very open and exciting. “We don’t feel like we’re just limited to just the four original guys anymore, the Mystery Jets could go on to be really anything.”
Just how open the future for the band could be is still unclear, but Rees said it could be a number of things. “We could do a live hip-hop project or kind of a band with other musicians, that wouldn’t be a problem for us,” he says, “I think that having had this big change, having done that once, we feel that we can do it again, but in different ways.”
The band are already working on new material with Rees declaring that “ it’s looking like there’ll be another big change I think… it’s cool, it’s really nice to know that we feel like we can do that.”
The guiarist/vocalist makes his own disclaimer when further discussing how the band had been experimenting with new material, saying that he could end up being very misleading because the new album “won’t be done for a long time yet.”
Their fifth LP might even see the band use sampling, as Rees indicates, “we’ve found samples of old records from the 60s we really like,” before adding that “ we’ve gotta a couple of tracks like that and they sound really exciting.”
Mystery Jets are making their way out to Australia in September to play Fat as Butter in Newcastle as well as several other dates around the country. Rees says to “Expect the Radlands experience… because the new album’s so different from the old stuff, we’ve found that some of the old stuff doesn’t work so well alongside the Radlands material.” He does reveal however, that a few old gems would be making their way onto the setlist.
“There’s also a handful of songs like ‘Young Love’ and ‘Flakes’ and ‘Alice Springs’ to name a few that do actually work really well with the new stuff and it’s cool to play that.”
“It’s almost like we’ve gone back to some of the older material and changed it so it fits more with the new sound,” explains Rees, “and it’s cool to do that, it feels like you’re playing a new song again.”