The video for ‘Greatest Hits’, new single from British indie-poppers Mystery Jets
’ forthcoming album Radlands
, sees the band making the rounds at every kid’s fantasy: a deserted funfair. They trawl through the bowling alley, play shooting games, get thrown about on flaily rides and cruise the merry-go-round. By the end, the viewer is left feeling like the band themselves are merrily going round the music world in a whimsical daze, propelled by catchy hooks, cheerful guitar riffs and a collection of good hair all around.
Everguide chatted with frontman Blaine Harrison recently, and it soon became apparent that as sunny-happy-poppy as Mystery Jets may be, they aren’t a band resting on their laurels or sailing along on their follicles.
Forming in 2004, they’ve since released five albums, their latest effort Radlands
coming out this year. They create zany, offbeat music videos, like that of one of their biggest singles, ‘Young Love
’, which features some sweet harmonies by Laura Marling and some even sweeter symmetry reminiscent of a synchronised swimming team in the Olympics. The band and Marling sing at us, lying flat on their backs on skateboards and shot from above, while being propelled around by men in white suits and masks. It’s super fun, high on colour and low on explanation. There’s no time for that.
“Its just crazy the speed these things travel,” says Blaine, referring to the ease of putting videos online now, of the viral culture enveloping the media and music industry. “It’s fascinating the ways ideas are stirred, and people take each others ideas further and add to and remove from [them]. The whole thing is…people passing on information to each other in a very rapid, cross-media way.”
Certainly while a video like ‘Young Love’ may seem tantamount to the trend begun by OK Go! and their viral ‘Here It Goes Again’ treadmill video of 2006, Blaine points to it being “its own thing”, and it is clear to see that the band are marching in their own direction, with the occasional cameo from dreamy blonde folk singing starlets. If you were to take the funfair analogy and run with it a little further, they’d be the dodgem cars: vivid, purposeful and letting no man (or steel mini-car thing) stand in their way.
Example USA: The band recorded in Texas for Radlands
, halfway across the world from their roots on Eel Pie Island in London; similarly, Blaine illustrates a shift from the continuum of synth-pop that Mystery Jets have been giving us to something a little wider, a little further from home and a little more epic.
“[The move to Texas] influenced our sound in the sense that Texas is such a big place, you know? It’s this massive square in the middle of America, and has a very rich musical heritage with the culture of country and folk music,” he says, adding that they didn’t want to make music that sounded like it was competing with the size of Texas. “I guess if we made very loud, condensed music it wouldn’t have evoked the space, and that’s what I found we really needed to do: create limitations for ourselves and actually use a lot more space in the music. I found we could be a lot more evocative of how the place felt by playing like that.”
Blaine speaks about how he “certainly [doesn’t] think our time in America is over.” He seems more than ready to go back, and gives life to the possibility of more music similar to Radlands
being made. As a band they may have a touch of wanderlust, but it isn’t at a cost of forgetting where and from whom they came. They are a band who, by Blaine’s own admittance, probably wouldn’t be where they are today without the guidance of his father, Henry.
“Henry’s always been a part of what we do. He bought me my first drum-kit and taught Will how to play the guitar… he’s the reason the band exists, because he put it together,” he says, and Blaine is also doubtful of whether they would have found music on their own without his father. “He’s just a really great role model for us and he’s someone that’s done exactly what he’s wanted to do in his life. He’s very driven and that I think is, in the early days, what propelled this band forward, and what still does to this time.”
I can’t let the interview wrap up without enquiring about Eel Pie Island, because a) nobody likes eels, let alone eating them, right? (I avoid the lake at the Melbourne Botanical Gardens like it houses the plague) and b) really? Eel Pie? The things don’t even have any limbs to be made into pies.
“Once upon a time eel pie was a staple, rather than a delicacy…” begins Blaine, and what follows is actually a very interesting history lesson on Eel Pie Island, Henry the 8th and the questionable dietary habits of 16th century royalty. You can’t help but be left feeling that this bumper car of a band does things thoroughly.
Thoroughly enough to actually try some pie, though? “No…no, no, God no. It is definitely not on the tour menu.” The band may be more adventurous in travel than in cuisine, but some things are just a lot easier to stomach than eel. It’s at no cost to their music either - Mystery Jets remain just as sunny and hooky as ever, and overwhelmingly stomachable themselves.
MYSTERY JETS TOUR DATES:
Thursday 20 September – Capitol, Perth
Sunday 23 September – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tuesday 25 September – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane
Wednesday 26 September – Corner Hotel, Melbourne