When the English indie band packed their bags for the great American southwest, they returned with a fourth studio album, ‘Radlands’ in their Mustang.
“We couldn’t explore themes of Southern cults or preachers from the pages of books or online back at home; we needed to be out there (Austin, Texas), taking it all in with our own eyes,” says frontman, Blaine Harrison.
This band from a little county down the River Thames known as Eel Pie Islands — England’s home to blues and jazz in the ’60s — have stretched themselves musically over the years; each album radiates an inventive glow; always different, always surprising from the last. With ‘Radlands’, think Neil Yong and Fleetwood Mac in the mid-’70s laced with the melancholy of indie-pop.
Blaine had a chat with us about Mystery Jets’ ever-changing sound, their experiences in Texas, his dad’s role in the band, and further revealed how they plan to debut a brand new set-list at their upcoming show in Singapore.
‘Radlands’ herald the return of Mystery Jets but into a very different sounding landscape. How did being in Texas affect this album?
‘Radlands’ could have only been made in Austin, Texas, where musically and indeed culturally, the past, present and future are all manifesting themselves at the same time, and that’s a very interesting place to be as a songwriter. To me, the album presents an outsider’s take on what it feels like to be dropped into the thick of modern America.
Was exposing yourselves to Southern all-American culture the plan all along or were you guys just looking for a change of environment?
We needed to kind of rip up the book after our last album, ‘Serotonin’. So we de-camped to this place where we had no choice but to be strangers, and it put us all a little on edge. I mean we had a gun at our back porch in case rattlesnakes came into the house. I have no idea what any of us would have done with it though. It certainly beat the English countryside for a change of scenery.
The band have threaded through psychedelic to indie and even branched out to dance floor-friendly varieties. Where are you guys at in terms of music now?
All I have been listening to for the last 18 months is Neil Young. That’s definitely where I am at. I bought a car just so I could drive around listening to him all day long. If I met a girl who liked doing the same thing, I think I would propose to her there and then. There’s something about the way his ’70s records sound which just makes me want to get out of town.
Making of ‘Radlands’
Do you think that ‘Radlands’ was a break from the usual pop single-releases from your previous two albums?
Yes absolutely, that’s what it was. We needed to find the next level, whatever that meant to each of us individually. I think it will probably have alienated some of the people, but I don’t really feel concerned about that. I don’t write songs to please people, I write songs because I know it is what I was sent here to do.
The process of recording the songs on the album seems pretty organic.
Yes and no. We didn’t have smoothest start to our recording sessions; partly because the guys in the band didn’t really turn up with a lot of material, and also, we decided to work without a producer. Writing from scratch together in a room was part of the plan, but it felt kind of forced to me.
I felt very relieved when everyone said they liked the song I’d written just before we left, because it was how I envisaged the album sounding in my head. And the song was ‘Radlands’. Without that song, there wasn’t really anything in the bank.
Your dad, Henry, was part of the band earlier on. How did he help shape the band?
Henry taught us, and still reminds us to this day that this is a labour of love. The band is my family. I wrote ‘Mystery Jets’ on my first drum kit when I was eight years old. I will always be a part of it, and Henry is the glue that holds it all together.
'Radlands' album stream
What can we look forward to when Mystery Jets perform in Singapore?
We spent two days last week specially planning a new set for this tour, so we will be looking to you guys first to get a vibe of how well it works.
Entertainment writer Zul Andra (@zulandra) has his finger on Singapore’s nightlife and drinking pulse. He has also interviewed hundreds of local and international artists in the last five years from the likes of Carl Cox and Lamb of God to BBC TV presenter Simon Reeve. Previously a staff writer and web editor at I-S magazine, he currently writes for major hyper-local publications, The New Paper and inSing.com. Having expanded his reach regionally with articles in Travel + Leisure and Scoot in-flight magazine, he is also considered a respected opinion-maker with columns in JUICE and Esquire. His work has appeared in TODAY, Time Out Singapore, Nylon and ZIGGY, and maintains an award-nominated blog, Kiss My Culture.