Mystery Jets front man Blaine Harrison sounds quite wistful as Jim Murray describes the blood red sunset from a Fitzroy rooftop as they chat about how much he’s looking forward to playing festivals and several headline shows in Australia over the New Year period.
Harrison explains that he’s just come back from an extended tour which ‘well, took us all over the place. We started in Canada, went down through the States, then across to do a month in Europe and then about a month in England, which ended … well it ended last week.’ Harrison says ‘we’ve got a show in Istanbul, then it’s straight down to you guys. I’m really looking forward to it’. Heading Down Under on Boxing Day, he’s resigned to there being no break with family for Christmas. ‘When you’re in a band you’ve just got to accept that there are times when you have to be on the road and that kind of becomes your family. Being in Australia’s going to be a lovely way to see in the New Year.’
As we move on to discussing the band’s 2010 release Seratonin, we reflect on the buzz bands circa 2005 when the Mystery Jets first caught the public’s ear, and how many have since fallen by the wayside. While not reaching stadium heights, Mystery Jets have steadily grown in popularity. Harrison observes ‘it’s true. I look back to the time when we first came out and the other bands that were around us, they all seem to have ceased or are now new bands. I think it’s a shame because it can often take you a few records to be where you want to be, and certainly in our case we’ve grown over the past three records and I think Seratonin has been our most complete LP to date. I’m appreciative that we’ve had the chance to make three records.’
He also reflects on the necessity of making records. ‘We were adamant that we wanted to make lots of records – we wanted to be an album band. Not a career band, I don’t want to make it sound like it’s a job but we just wanted to have longevity. I think when I look back to bands that were around when we started, you know, I think it’s a shame that a lot of them don’t exist anymore. I mean there’s people like Futureheads, they’re still going, they’re still going strong actually. I actually feel we’re like kindred spirits because they had a similar experience to us. They were on the same label that got sold to a major record company and both bands got dropped, and I think we’ve both bounced back in our own way and actually are selling more records than we were in the first place on independent labels. I think that’s our reality at the moment, working with that infrastructure and not having a massive budget to play with but having fan bases cultivated over the years.’
Harrison is also conscious of the need for bands to tour in the face of plummeting record sales. ‘I think touring, that’s become our bread and butter. That’s where there’s still a lifestyle to be had. As long as you can subsidise your costs, if you can tour records for as long as possible, you can survive off the money you make touring. As you said, people are giving away music for free and that’s just the reality of the state the music industry’s in. And it’s a very odd one, I don’t think there’s one solution to it.’
Discussing the importance of having good songs to connect with fans and ensure people want to come and see bands play, Harrison says that although Seratonin had a darker underbelly than the sparking pop of predecessor 21, it’s important that the pop songs are there. ‘I think there’s a lesson there. They were both pop records and exploring … writing about the experiences we were having and writing about all things that were around us. I think previous to that we were all in to psychedelics growing up, and space rock, and not caring too much about real experiences or what other people thought. I think with pop music you have to have an awareness, of wanting to connect with people, some empathy – to respond to what you’re writing about.’
On that note, as we finish up. Harrison gives a few clues as to what direction the band’s next album will take. Saying that they’ve ‘completed a chapter’ with Seratonin, ‘it’s opened the door for us to go somewhere completely different and that’s actually what I feel most excited about. Although we don’t write so much together when we’re on the road, when we do get a chance, we get in a room together and we jam, and there are all these ideas coming out which are very removed from what we’ve been doing the past few years. I actually feel very excited about it’.
MYSTERY JETS HEADLINE SHOWS
Mystery Jets are also appearing at Rhythm & Vines Festival, NZ 29th Dec, Pyramid Rock Festival Melbourne 31st Dec, Field Day Festival, Sydney 1st Jan, Soundscape Festival, Hobart 8th Jan