Interview: Mystery Jets
After a cancelled flight, Mystery Jets finally arrive here for a DJ set – better late than never we say! Fresh off the plane, guitarist William Rees and bassist Kai Fish are well pooped but raring to go! With bags under their arms as well as under their eyes, JUICE catches up with the Eel Pie Island boys and finds out why people throw pencils at them.
Welcome to Malaysia! So how long are you guys staying?
Kai Fish Just till this Friday. Late tomorrow night we leave. Barely getting 25 hours here. It’s such a shame because this is such a lovely place to discover but I’m sure I’ll come back like a week or something.
What happened last week? You left a whole lot of fans here waiting…
William Rees The flight got cancelled. We were all ready at the airport. All our bags were packed and then the Emirates flight got cancelled. Think there was something wrong with the plane. We were supposed to be arriving three hours before the gig, and as the next flight was next morning it was impossible to be here.
Album Twenty One was released in March. How goes it?
WR I think the album is growing quite slowly. When it first came out, it didn’t really come out to much of a fan fair. But then over the course of a year it spilt out a life of its own and people who knew it really liked it. It started off as a very small thing and it built, and built and built so that’s kinda how it works and I think it’s the best really.
So this is the real Mystery Jets?
WR I don’t think there’s such a thing. You go on growing, changing and developing. I don’t think we want to be just one thing. We want to be lots of things. It’s like David Bowie, one minute he’s Ziggy Stardust and the next he’s making songs like ‘Heroes’. He just progressed and that’s our blueprint of this band. We want to continue to develop.
So what’s life like at Eel Pie Island?
WR We don’t actually live there anymore. It’s an island on the River Thames, this weird artist commune. It’s quite an amazing place. That was very much part of our first album.
KF For the second album, we wanted to get away from that, away from a lot of the stories surrounding the band that we felt were getting in the way of the music. So we’ve kinda stripped everything back so there was only the music left.
Is Eel Pie an isolated place?
WR Quite isolated. It doesn’t feel like you’re in London. Feels like you’re in the countryside.
KF Well, like an industrial countryside… (Laughs)
So is it true that isolation helps your creativity?
WR I think being quite isolated from London helped us form our own identity because we weren’t really aware of what other people were doing – we didn’t really care, we were just living on this island, making our own music, oblivious to the outside world.
KF We had the liberty of putting out music that came from somewhere else, coming from progressive roots while all the other bands were coming from punk. We hadn’t really heard of punk. At 15 we were listening to bands like Pink Floyd. It was kinda like our hero figure for the first album.
So flying pigs and works?
KF Yeah, Sid Barrett and flying pigs… (Laughs)
How did the DJing thing come about?
WR We started about two years ago; Erol Alkan was a big influence for us. He got his listening to all different types of dance music.
KF We all really love electro and trash. It’s not something we would necessarily be writing but it’s something we really enjoy so it becomes part of the relationship with the band.
A lot of bands are doing the DJ set thing. What do you make of it?
KF I think a lot of people frown on bands DJing because it’s easy for bands to just DJ off the back of their name to make money from it. A lot of these bands aren’t actually good at DJing. Whereas for us, we just love dance music. Also we’ve been doing it for 2 years now and we put in a lot of effort learning how to use the decks and beat matching and mixing so for us it’s like a real art. It’s not like turning up with two CDs and pushing play.
We believe you guys. You guys organised White Cross Revival Parties that attracted the likes of Acoustic Ladyland, Larrikin Love, Jamie T and The Noisettes. Tell us more.
WR Those are basically parties we put together in our rehearsing studio on Eel Pie Island. If you’re an unsigned band in London, it’s very hard to play interesting and fun gigs. Often you play in pubs and no one turns up and the atmosphere is sh*t. So the White Cross Parties were our way of being in complete control over the concert environment. We invite people to the island, we put like 10 bands on per night.Â They’re all bands that we know and who are also our friends; by hosting it we gave it our own atmosphere. Sort of like bringing people into our world. We did about 7. We started off with about 50 people and then it ended up with 700 people. When we got to that point, it started to get out of control. Then we said “Okay, let’s just stop and make another album.”
Did you like run into trouble with the police?
KF We did with the authorities. They put a noise limit on us so we couldn’t make any noise otherwise we’d be fined like Â£20,000, so we had to stop. And also some of the neighbours were beating up Henry (Blaine’s dad) … throwing pencils at him.
Your singer Blaine’sÂ dad, Henry Harrison, is in the band. What is that like?
WR Yeah, he’s still in the band. He doesn’t really play and come on stage but he still writes songs for us. He’s been in the band for 10 years now and he’s been there from the beginning, so for us it’s very natural. The fact that he’s 30 years older doesn’t really mean anything.
Do you see yourself as fashion icons?
WR Well, I’m his fashion guru.
KF (Laughs) We enjoy messing around and dressing up for shows. Our drummer is a bit of a fashion icon. He’s like the cool kid. He’s got the best trainers and boxers.
You should start a fashion label.
KF We’re starting our online shop selling t-shirts and stuff. Yeah, I think it’s nice to make clothes and design them. It’s on our myspace.
What about your own line of clothing?
KF Our drummer has. Funny, it’s a drummer thing isn’t it? Like in the Artic Monkeys. He has his own shop with his own designs. A pyjamas thingy.
Drummers aren’t real musicians, are they?
KF Not really. (Laughs)
You say you mess around with fashion, what else do you mess around with?
KF Mess around with girls, mess around with music. Pick up a guitar and mess around. Eat a salad and mess around.
What was the last festival you guys played at?
WR The last one we did was in Belgium, we met Johnny Marr (of The Smiths). We couldn’t believe we got to hang out with Johnny Marr. He’s a really cool guy. And he said he had been listening to some of our early demos. That would have been four or five years ago. We were really flattered.
KF Yeah he’s playing in The Cribs now. They sound really cool.
We recently interviewed Jas from Simian Mobile Disco. And he’s a philosophy major. Do you think all musicians are thinkers?
WR No. Some are just like real do-ers. They don’t think they just do things.
Mystery Jets are Blaine Harrison, William Rees, Kai Fish, Kapil Trivedi and on occasion Henry Harrison. Their Flotsam Jetsam EP is a JUICE fave but for the newest music get Twenty One, out at all good record stores now. They performed alongside TAG at Zouk KL on Friday 19 December 2008. More at www.mysteryjets.com and www.myspace.com/mysteryjets.
Image Zouk KL