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Interview: Blaine Harrison from ‘Mystery Jets’

Mystery Jets 2016 AAA

UK indie rockers Mystery Jets have been busy! Since the release of their 2008 album ‘Twenty One’ the group’s British fanbase has transformed into an international following. For those who have wondered what in the world the band, fronted by vocalist Blaine Harrison, has been since the release of their last album ‘Radlands’ three years ago, we’ve got your answer: writing their latest album of course! We sat down to talk with Harrison about the process of composing ‘Curve Of The Earth’, his band’s latest music video Telomere, and his favourite David Bowie number.

Hey! How’s it going ?

Yeah, I’m good, thank you. Good. Just getting up for work.

I’ve read that you’re currently on a record store tour of the UK. That’s super interesting! Have you done that before?

Yeah, it’s the kind of thing that we’ve done in the past when we bring out a record, I think mainly because we really like stripping the songs back to their bare bones. It’s not the type of thing you often get to do. When you tour and play shows, you’re presenting the record as a finished piece, but I always like taking it back to the bones of the songs and showing where the songs originated from. Playing those small acoustic shows for me is a great time to do that.

Yeah, I imagine playing in a smaller, more intimate venue is pretty different than playing on a tour!

We’ve played a couple of shows at record stores actually. We’ve already played one gig in London and one in Japan. They were both great! We played the record from start to finish. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do but never had an album that perhaps demanded for that. It just feels like ‘Curve Of The Earth’ is the kind of record that can be performed in its entirety. The reactions that we got from the fans that were there were really positive. I remember looking out at the crowd in one of the slow songs and someone was crowd surfing to it, and I remember thinking that if someone can crowd surf to the slower songs, then we’ll be alright.

Wow, now I’m really looking forward to the release of the new album. I watched the music video for Telomere the other day and it was extraordinarily interesting, really different from anything I’ve ever seen from you guys. How did you come up with the concept behind the video?

Telomere is a song about ancestry. It’s about the idea that there are characteristics that we have about us that we’ve been handed down to us. The song is about asking, “Who are we? Where do these characteristics come from? Are we the way we are because of the disposition of our ancestors and will our children resemble us?” To me, it’s a song about the human ancestry, which sounds very airy-fairy, and which is why we felt that in the video we needed to address the lyrics in an abstract way. It was great because we got a chance to work with James Copeman, who made videos from our earlier pop songs like Young Love and Flakes. It was great to work with him again. As artists in our own rights, we’ve got on to do lots of different things in the subsequent years but it was a great way to get back together and share some ideas and the idea was very much his. It was inspired by a French artist who uses clay as a device to distort the human figure. That was really the concept that triggered our video for Telomere, which was in his work.

Something I noticed about Telomere, and I’m assuming the rest of ‘Curve Of The Earth’, is that it’s so different thematically compared to your younger albums like ‘Serotonin’ and ‘Twenty One’. Did you guys mean to be a little more ambitious with this album? How did you go about the writing process?

I think we did. I think that for the first time, we felt that if we were under any pressure to make the album, it was our own. That realization was quite a wonderful thing because in the past, there was that famous saying that you have your whole life to make your first album and you have eighteen months to make the second record. We were very much, as a young band, conscious of the shifting sands of time and how quickly we have to follow up our records. There was a two year gap between our first four albums. I think, while we were touring our last albums, we proved to people that we were here to make any records that we had in us. And we didn’t need to rush something in us, we could just take our time. It was four years between the last one and this one, and I don’t think it could’ve taken any less time because we really maintained that we wouldn’t stop until the songs were the best that we had in us.

I can’t wait to hear it! Any chance you guys are planning on an international tour for ‘Curve Of The Earth’? Are you hopefully looking to be on Australian soil any time soon?

I really hope so! Like yourself, I haven’t seen any tour dates yet.

And you would know, being the lead singer…

Ha, I should know but I obviously don’t get the memos! There’s talk of us coming down to the Australia in the spring. I’ve only ever been down there during Christmas time. I love coming to Australia and it’ll be nice coming down when it’s not so hot.

Well, I’m certainly hoping that’s the case. I’ve had Something Purer from ‘Radlands’ on my work commute playlist for some time now, great song! Do you have an older throwback song that you enjoy playing while you’re on tour, or are you just relishing playing this latest album?

It’s funny because for a long time, we dismissed the idea of playing anything off our first album. It almost felt like we couldn’t relate from the older songs, it felt like they were from a different place than where we were now. Just the other day, we were playing a bunch of older numbers like You Can’t Fool Me Dennis and only probably our most loyal and hardcore fans will recognize them. It felt strangely good! It now feels like enough time has subsided in order to justify bringing back some of those songs just to show where we came from. In the past, we felt that–not necessarily that we weren’t proud of our older work–but that anyone who makes music or writes probably feels the same way: you look at your old work, and you think, “This doesn’t represent me anymore. This is like looking at the work of an infantile!” I feel like that when I listen to early stuff. But now I want to acknowledge that I’m a different person and that we have evolved. It’s like we’re playing those songs almost as covers of songs written by the people we were.

I completely agree with that sentiment, especially because it seems to fit thematically with the theme of ‘Curve Of The Earth’.

That’s it, yeah.

We have a radio station in Australia called Triple J and, at the end of each year, people send in their votes of their top 10 favourite songs released in the last year. Triple J plays the Top 100 songs on Australia Day, which is a pretty honoured tradition. What are some of your favourite songs or artists from 2015?

In the past year? I’m going to pick a song called Brazil by Declan McKenna, a really great young singer who we’re taking on tour next year. Everyone should check him out. He’s young, talented, and raw. He’s like the Karate Kid.

I’ll definitely look him up later today. Speaking of radio stations though, so much of David Bowie’s tribute music has been playing lately, and rightly so. Do you have a favourite Bowie song?

I’m a huge fan. The whole band is. It’s like a member of the family who’s been there. It’s very strange that he’s not here anymore. Just like for all music lovers over the world, it’s been a really difficult week. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, actually. I’d love to go for something called Warszawa, which is that wonderful track off ‘Low’ when he made up his own language. I was shocked to find out that he was my age when he wrote that…it certainly puts things into perspective. Like, what did Bowie do when he was your age? So when he was my age, that was the track he made. Not sure how he pronounced it. War-szawa, in other words, Warsaw. It was a kind of wonderful, other-worldly, haunting moment on ‘Low’. It really is the sound of Bowie telepathically having a musical conversation, a back-and-forth between two people who understand each other on a deeper level.

‘Curve Of The Earth’ by the Mystery Jets is out now.