Interview: We Were Promised Jetpacks

I arrive at The Lemon Tree around 6pm and meet the band’s tour manager at the side entrance. If you follow We Were Promised Jetpacks through their website or their Facebook or Twitter pages then you’ve probably heard mention of Anders. He also got a ‘Happy Birthday’ shout out from the band on-stage later that night, but now I’m getting ahead of myself. Anders leads me up to a wee bar, lets me know I’ll be talking to Adam (guitar/vocals) and Sean (bass) and then leaves me and my recording device to our...well...devices. Sean turns up first and tells me about a practical joke they tried to play on Anders involving a banana skin and a door-frame that didn’t quite go to plan. Then Sean arrives and we start the interview.

Two albums in, you’ve toured extensively home and away including supporting Jimmy Eat World in the states and playing Coachella and you’ve got a fairly busy summer coming up with festival appearances – how are things in Jetpacks land at the moment?

Adam: Okay, yeah.
Sean: Good, yeah. We’ve done quite a lot of touring so it was nice to be home for a wee bit. It’s nice to do a wee tour in Scotland, so we can go home after the gigs and stuff.

Your second album, In the Pit of the Stomach, sounds a lot more cohesive than These Four Walls. There are some post-rock elements that seem to have seeped into the album, but have managed to do so without drawing attention in a ‘look at me and my new tricks’ sort of way – a more organic inclusion. Do you think the recording environment – Sigur Ros’ studio up in Iceland – had an impact on the sound?

Adam: I’m not sure. We pretty much had all the songs written before we went up.
Sean: It was maybe more just the fact that we had full access to the studio and that we didn’t really have anywhere else to go. We were staying in a village quite far outside Reykjavik so we couldn’t really do anything else, and we didn’t really want to do anything else. We were quite happy just being in the studio all day and then going to bed.
Adam: Yeah, it was a nice open space. We put mics all around the studio, sort of to pick up a lot more ambience.

Going back to something that was said in an interview with Q magazine, where you said that In the Pit of the Stomach feels like your first ‘proper’ album – if we go by the old adage that the second album is the most difficult do you think there will be more pressure on you come the third album, or is it a case of ‘crossing that bridge when you come to it’?

Sean: I think it’ll probably be fairly similar to In the Pit of the Stomach, as in we know what we need to do
Adam: Yeah, we don’t really feel pressure, ‘cause it’s just funny, being in a band’s funny. But aye, we’ll be fine.

At this point I mention the prank that they’d tried to play on Anders as I was coming up to the interview area. They’d placed a banana skin on the top of the door hoping it would fall on him but it really didn’t work. They were, to quote, ‘devastated’. There was also a lot of giggling. I notice this again, later, when they’re on-stage. They really do give the impression that no matter how serious the music sounds, when it comes to being in a band there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing and certainly no-one else they’d rather be doing it with.

So, you’ve got a few more dates in Scotland and then you’re playing festivals throughout the summer. Are there any in particular that you’re looking forward to playing?

Adam: A lot of the festivals are sort of the smaller ones in Germany and we did that maybe a couple of years ago. I quite like them, they’re small and always in nice places. In Britain we’re only doing Two Thousand Trees and T in the Park. T in the Park should be fun.
Sean: I don’t really know anyone specific that’s playing the same day as us. You always look at these line-ups and think ‘Aw yeah they’re playing, that’s good!’ and then we get there and we’re playing the Friday afternoon or something and nobody’s on until the Saturday or Sunday.

I noted on your website that you seem to really enjoy playing Germany, but is there a particular venue you’ve played, anywhere in the world, that stands out? Whether it’s in terms of fans, riders, atmosphere, location...

Adam: I don’t know if it’s like this for most bands, but in New York. It seems kind of obvious but that was the first place we played in America and it just always seems to be amazing. Specifically the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the crowd’s great.
Sean: There’s that place in Dresden as well. There’s one big venue in Dresden that we’ve played three times now.
Adam: It’s like there’s no-one on the streets at all, and then the first time that we played there they charged a fiver to come to the gig and there were loads of these young people that appeared from nowhere.

You seem to have a good relationship with your fans through Facebook and Twitter – one thing I noticed was a plea for tickets for the cup final and a lift to Glasgow. Did this actually pan out?

Sean: No, it didn’t, that was a desperate attempt. I just woke up thinking ‘why have I not got a ticket?’
Adam: It was worth a try.

So are you all Hearts fans or was there a bit of division that weekend?

Sean: Our drummer’s a Hibs fan
Adam: A dirty Hibs fan. He was up at 7.30am to go to his cousin’s to go to the game. I stayed in my bed.
Sean: There’s a photo of him [the drummer] with a beer in his hand at half eight in the morning.

There was also a lot of giggling during this.

If you could go back in time to 2003 before the first Jetpacks gig, what advice, if any, would you give your younger selves?

Sean: Get a tuning pedal.
Adam: Aye! Get a tuning pedal!
Sean: It took us so long!
Adam: Four years?
Sean: The first time, Adam... I don’t know if I had one before you but I doubt it... But the first time you had a tuning pedal was when we first played with Frightened Rabbit in Glasgow which was quite a good gig for us.
Adam: Mike’s dad brought one and we all just used to share Mike’s. But yeah, get a tuning pedal. Change your strings on your guitar.

Every time I read a review of or an article about the band there nearly always seems to be a point where the other Scottish bands on Fatcat records (The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit) are mentioned. Very much in a ‘if you like these guys you’ll love these other guys!’ way despite the fact that your sounds are so different. Do you think there’s any basis for this? A kind of specifically Scottish ethos in your music?

Adam: Scottish emo, aye. I’ve started to love that. Scottish emo.
Sean: It’s the dark brogue.
Adam: I can totally understand it. It used to be annoying, when we were a wee band thinking ‘no, we’re not like them,’ but we do sound quite like them. But it’s not a bad thing, we don’t really any more. Everyone’s gone their separate ways. But aye, Scottish emo.

With that our allotted time is up. I thank Adam and Sean for their time. Packed up. Fucked off.*


* - This is a reference to their touring blog. When they finished playing a venue they ‘Packed up. Fucked off.’