The Mystery Jets
By alexander laurence
The Mystery Jets are probably the best new band from England this year. They
are four young guys from London who play the most original melodic music. They
also have one of their dads in the band. He was the main songwriter in the
band, but he has taken a backseat on the second album. Their first American
album is called Zoo Time. They did their first tour in America this September
2007, supporting the Klaxons. I got to talk with Blaine and Will before their show.
Blaine Harrison: Vocals, guitars, and keyboards
Henry Harrison: Vocals and guitar
William Rees: Guitar and vocals
Kai Fish: Bass and vocals
Kapil Trivedi: drums
AL: It took a long time for a proper album to be released in the USA. We had
been hearing songs for a while.
Blaine: We just released Zoo Time which a compilation of old songs that we
still play and some new songs we did with Erol Alkan. We are doing the new album
with him. That is the American album. We figured that when we came over here
that many people would already have our earlier stuff on import. I buy a lot
of stuff on Amazon from America. It’s so easy these days. You might as well
give them something different. We had different artwork, took off some songs, and
put on three new songs.
AL: You originally put out a few self-released EPs. How did you get from
Transgressive to 679 Recordings?
Blaine: Transgressive just did the single of “Zoo Time.” Then we did “You
Can’t Fool Me Dennis” with 679, and then we did the album. That took us to the
end of 2006. We were touring in England so much. We did five or six tours in
England from 2005-2006.
Will: We were on Warners Bros in America. Apparently they are pretty poor at
the moment. We want to have the same presence in America that we have in
England. In England, what we have is a grassroots following. We have always
released a lot of singles. We have interesting b-sides. We have made the artwork. We
use all that to inspire the fans.
AL: I got the Mystery Jets “You Can’t Fool Me Dennis” remix single. How did
that come about?
Blaine: We were lucky because the people at our label were helping Justice
get over to London. They gave Justice our record. They said that they would do a
remix of “You Can’t Fool Me Dennis.” At the time they had a low profile, and
it was the second remix they did.
AL: It seems like an odd combination?
Will: Us and them? Yeah, at the beginning we didn’t know how lucky we were to
have Justice do a remix. We didn’t know anything about the French dance
scene. We didn’t know how popular it would become in a year’s time.
Blaine: It worked really well. Out of all their remixes, it is the only one
not made for the dance floor. It reminds me of “Rocket Man.” It’s like a piano
ballad. It’s a pop song. It’s really cool because it shows that they can do
that as well as the other stuff.
AL: That dance music from ten years ago seems like it’s making a comeback.
Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, and Underworld are all back this year. Were you
guys every curious about that?
Will: I recently bought pretty much every Chemical Brothers record. I was
trying to figure out what they were about. I think many people our age are
checking out dance music and what it was like ten years ago.
AL: But you guys seem to be more inspired by records from the 1970s?
Blaine: We didn’t listen to dance music at all. It was really my dad, Henry,
who introduced us to all these bands from the 1970s like Pink Floyd and King
Crimson. Those were records he listened to when he was a teenager. Henry was
one of the founding members of the band.
AL: Much of that prog rock is very complicated music.
Will: That is what is interesting about it. It’s not straight songwriting.
It’s music with real imagination.
Blaine: That is what caught our imagination. We almost tried to replicate
those bands. We did some elaborate prog songs on our first EPs, and we never play
them. We have sort of outgrown them. I am glad that we got to music that way,
because we have always set out to be different. We just naturally grew up
with different things. I was never into punk.
Will: We love stuff like Oasis and the Beatles. The simple stuff.
AL: What are you doing now?
Blaine: We wanted to do our second record with Erol Alkan. I don’t know if
you know him over here. He is known and respected within British dance music.
You see kids with t-shirts: “E.R.O.L. keeps kids dancing.” He is one of the
guys who have made dance music credible again. He made records that are exciting
and not about record sales. We did a session with him. He was waiting to do
stuff with bands that were outside of dance music. We were one of those bands.
He has worked with Klaxons and Long Blondes. We have taken seven or eight
months to do this new record. We are desperate to get back on tour again. Some
bands take three years to do an album.
AL: With some of the prog bands they are more about making albums than making
singles. What do you think of Secret Machines take on that concept?
Will: We like their first record. That was wicked. We like records being
about an hour long. Their live show is amazing. If you have had a few spliffs and
put their record on it enhances the experiences what they doing sonically.
Every band can be appreciated in slightly different circumstances. There are few
bands that do the progressive thing very well. I like Secret Machines and Mars
AL: So, with the new album are you trying to redefine yourselves?
Will: Yes, I think we are trying to redefine ourselves. We are trying to
shake off some of our old influences. We are making an album that is more focused.
It gets to the heart of things very quickly. It’s an album of ten or eleven
songs. It’s very straight the way it’s put together. There are no grand intros
or outros, or instrumental parts. It is literally what you see is what you
get: eleven songs. From where we are coming from, that is a new thing.
AL: How does the songwriting go in the band?
Will: The first album was written over a period of ten years, because we were
a band for a long time. This second album was written more quickly, and it
was more of a collaborative effort.
Blaine: The principal lyrical writer of the first album was my dad. He wrote
like 80% of the lyrics. This album we have written lyrics together. When I
have written lyrics, I bring them to him, to see what he thinks, and visa versa.
It’s totally heads together. That is something that I want people to realize:
that although he is not touring with us, he is an essential ingredient to the
AL: He’s become like Brian Wilson?
Blaine: If you like. Yeah. That is something in his head, he could see
happening. He used to joke: “One day, you guys are going to kick me out of the
band.” He’s not being pushed out. He is there when we are writing. He comes to
practice. We had a song with a sample from a Third World record. He said: “Let’s
use that sample, and write our own chorus.” That is what we did. He is part of
the decision making as anyone else. One person comes up with the chords and
the lyrics, and it’s the rest of us to make it into a song we can be proud of.
AL: When did Henry decide that he wasn’t going to tour anymore?
Blaine: It was last year. We all sat down and talked about how we were going
to move forward. He is cool with it. He leads a double life. He has a whole
other career as an architect. He is an artist. He has only been playing since we
started the band.
AL: Did you go to University?
Blaine: We dropped out. We both went to art school. I would like to finish
but we have very little time left.
AL: If you go to school, people are going to go: “I am in a class with that
guy from Mystery Jets.”
Will: Do you know Jah Wobble?
AL: Yeah. I did an interview with him.
Will: He used to work for the London Underground, after Public Image. He used
to drive the trains, and would go “There’s the guy in Public Image LTD.”
Blaine: It’s funny that. You see Daniel from Television Personalities all
around London. We have rode together on the night bus. You don’t know that this
is the guy who wrote “Part-Time Punks.” What people do after bands may be
quite funny. We did a few shows with Television Personalities.
AL: Where would you like to live in the world?
Blaine: I would like to live here in Los Angeles. I think that a lot of
AL: A bunch of British bands come over here and do their records here. Dirty
Pretty Things are in town at the moment.
Blaine: We saw them last night. They said it’s going really well. They are
working with some guy who was in the Prodigy.
AL: What other bands do you like?
Blaine: Mostly bands that we have toured with: Futureheads, Bloc Party. Those
bands rubbed off on us when we were doing the first record. Klaxons are
AL: You did a remix of Futureheads?
Blaine: That was something that our label arranged. At the time, they had
bands like Futureheads and Death From Above 1979. There was a lot of
AL: Do you have any hobbies?
Will: I like to run.
AL: Are you still doing art?
Blaine: We do the artwork on the first record. For the second record, we
found these amazing photographs by Hans Bellmer.
AL: With the dolls?
Blaine: Yeah, with the dolls. They are photographs of his dolls. Some of the
photographs are less known. Some have this color tint. Some are blue and red.
They look amazing.
AL: Hans Bellmer was a Surrealist.
Blaine: Yes. He escaped from the Nazis. He was an exile.
AL: Have you read any good books?
Will: Yes. J. G. Ballard “Crash.” Just read it.
Blaine: I don’t really read that much. I am a slow reader.
AL: If someone wants to meet you?
Blaine: Come backstage after the gig.
AL: When will the record come out?
Blaine: Hopefully it comes out in February 2008.
AL: Who else would you like to work with?
Blaine: John Cale. He did that record with LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy is a
AL: Didn’t you play one of those NME Shockwaves tours?
Blaine: Yeah. In 2006, with Arctic Monkeys, Maximo Park, We Are Scientists.
We did really well. That was when it was getting really intense for Arctic
Monkeys. There was a bit of a scandal when they were supposed to play before
Maximo Park in Sheffield. I think that Maximo Park let them headline.