Blue Corner Store’s top secret team head down to Norwich’s number one hippy commune to catch up with the one and only William Rees, the ever-versatile lead guitarist of Mystery Jets.
In this interview we delve in order to find out the motives behind their current intimate UK tour, their choice to exile themselves to America in order to record their latest album and we also investigate what kind of sound we can expect from upcoming album ‘Radlands’.
Becky: Hi, how are you today?
William: I’m good; we’re all coming down with flu though!
B: Too many sweaty people in your gigs?!
B: How have you been getting on tour recently? How has the new material been going down?
W: Really well, it’s always frightening playing to crowds who have yet to hear the record. You never know how people are going to react, but I think they’ve liked it!
It’s different from our old stuff; I think you have to get to know it a bit better.
Mark: Can you gauge when you’re on stage how it is being received?
W: Yeah, you can feel it when people’s attention waivers or when they are concentrating, you can really tell that.
M: Your current tour revolves a lot around smaller venues, what was the thinking behind this?
W: We haven’t toured the UK for about 18 months and it just doesn’t feel right to come back playing big rooms, it’s nice to do that towards the end of the album campaign. It feels like you’ve earnt it a bit more and the whole project grows. If you start playing to 300-400 people a night, which is what we are doing on this tour, hopefully in 6 months it will be double that and in another 6 months maybe more than that. So it’s nice to keep it intimate and cosy and let it blossom.
These gigs are like a reccy, we are going to play lots of new stuff and work out what’s working and what’s not, hopefully by the summer we’ll have a very clear idea of what we are going to do with the shows.
M: Did you guys choose specifically the venues you wanted to do?
W: We did yeah, we’ve played here (Norwich Arts Centre) before and we really liked it. We didn’t just want to play Barflys and Carling Academies… places that are franchises. We wanted to go to places that are quite independent and that have their own identity. I think Norwich Arts Centre is a good example of that. They always have interesting bands and they even do theatre and poetry, plus there’s a cool little cafe!
M: We see you’re playing Queens Social Club in Sheffield, that’s quite a small venue with a lot of character.
W: Have you been there then?
B: Yeah, we saw a band called The Crookes there; it was a Christmas Homecoming gig.
M: Lots of 80’s Christmas decorations, it’s a really nice place!
William and co. hand out tequila shots to the crowd. What lovely chaps!
B: Also wanted to go on to the new album… It’s the first album you’ve put together outside the UK. Why did you choose to go to America to record, were there any particular reasons?
W: Yeah, lots of reasons. One reason we wanted to go to America was because everything we had recorded beforehand had been done in England and we felt that we had kind of overstayed our welcome in the UK, especially creatively. A year ago and even now there isn’t much going on for English guitar music and the records we’ve made have always come out of quite creative periods in English/London music.
When we did our first album on Eel Pie Island there were loads of bands around that area like Larrikin Love and Jamie T who were all making really great music and that record has some of their energy within it. And with ‘Twenty One’ bands like The Klaxons were coming out and there was a lot of dance music too which was on the record in a way as well. So I think we felt that after the third record we’d used up all of our London energies and it was time to find something new.
Also America’s a bit of a right of passage for musicians, it’s a dream. If you’re in a band you want to make it big in America or do something in America. So much of our music culture comes from that.
B: So being in America affected the songs you’ve created for the album?
M: We’ve been listening to your new single ‘Someone Purer’ quite a lot recently and we really like it. We’re yet to hear the rest of the album yet, so how does ‘Someone Purer’ compare to how the rest of the album sounds?
W: The new album feels like a consistent piece of Blues Rock Americana song writing, all the songs come from the same character which is America and Country Rock. It’s all nicked and borrowed from Neil Young records and musicians like Cass McCombs; so that’s the world the album lives in, but within that there are different approaches to it. I’d say ‘Someone Purer’ is quite a dark one, but also quite uplifting as well.
M: Yeah, most of your singles have always been quite upbeat and dancey so I was quite shocked (in a good way!) to hear that it had a different edge to it.
B: When’s the album out?
W: The album is out on April 30th.
M: Are there any particular songs on the album that you like personally more than others?
W: I hate them all equally!
M: A very democratic, modest answer there!
B: Also, we are going to see you at The Great Escape in May in Brighton; it’s a festival for a lot of new music. Are there any new bands that you are into at the moment that you want to give a mention to?
W: The band that is supporting us is called Peace. They’re playing The Great Escape, they’re really good. That’s really it, I don’t know that much about new English guitar music, I should know more but I’ve been away and also, I’m listening to other things really so I probably wouldn’t be the one to advise you on what’s hot and what’s not!
B: We’ll have to check out Peace later on! Well enjoy the gig, the rest of the tour and the rest of the year!
Catch Mystery Jets throughout April on their intimate tour and across England & the rest of the world throughout the summer months! The new album ‘Radlands’ is released on Rough Trade Records on 30th April 2012.