In The Middle with Mystery Jets
Before their gig at Headrow House, Blaine Harrison and Kapil Trivedi of Mystery Jets sat down with Stasi Roe and Jessica Heath to chat buttons, vinyl and DNA.
Having been confined to my bedroom for weeks, frantically cramming in last minute revision, I’d begun to resemble a brain-dead and lifeless vampire. What better way is there though to emerge from a state of living death, than chatting to half of the Mystery Jets, Blaine Harrison and Kapil Trivedi, after the release of their fifth studio album, Curve of the Earth. Sat comfortably amongst the hustle and bustle of the stage crew setting up at Leeds’ own Headrow House, our conversation began.
It’s been four years since the Mystery Jets released their fourth album, Radlands. Blaine explains that the reason for the longer gap between the two albums was because, “we felt an element of disappearing was important for this one, to come back with a new sound.” The longer time to work on the album allowed the band to “make sure” that they were completely happy with it before, Blaine lovingly adds, “we packaged it to the whole world.”
In this time, it is undeniable that a lot has changed for the band. After the exit of founding band member, Kai Fish, in early 2012, the bright-haired Jack Flanagan took over as the band’s bass player. “When Kai left it was quite difficult and dynamics definitely changed” Kapil remarks “but having Jack in the band has definitely changed our gang mentality. We’ve got our brotherhood back again, which is nice.” Later on when the boys played their hour-long set at Headrow House, this new “brotherhood” that the band have created is echoed through their very presence on stage. Between songs, the band interact with their audience, making jokes and even quizzing them on David Bowie’s top UK hits. When playing, the audience is respectful and still, completely at one with the sound of beautiful guitar riffs, Blaine’s unique voice and some cracking bass and drums. The unification of the band members both musically and affectionately, is noted by the audience and they in turn become a part of the “brotherhood” that Kapil so fondly describes.
As well as a new band member, the Mystery Jets have also ventured on a new and exciting adventure between albums: opening their own studio. “It’s something we tried to do in our previous album, which we recorded in Austin, Texas.” Blaine reflects. “It’s a very difficult thing producing a record, maintaining objectivity is almost impossible because you wrote the songs themselves and its inevitable that you’re going to be very close to them at all times.” The studio, which is located just opposite Blaine’s house in a disused button factory in North London, allowed the band to store “all the gear (they’d) collected over the years” and create a perfect little hub to write and record music.
It was in this very studio, amongst all the buttons (and Kapil notes that the buttons definitely inspired a “cyclical” feel to the album), that the masterpiece, Curve of the Earth, was born. As with previous albums such as Serotonin, there is a scientific theme that resides throughout the album; Blaine explains, “I was rubbish at Science at school but in our songs there has been a sort of scientific illusion…with ‘Telomere’ the song came from a song that I’d wanted to write for quite a long time, exploring the idea of ancestry and if there’s traces of the people who came before us, in us. Like asking the question of where you come from.” It is only when Blaine found this word ‘Telomere’, a tiny structure found on the end of a chromosome, that he felt this idea of questioning human identity could really begin to come to life through music: “It felt like this idea and song was Telomere. It’s about the idea that the veins carry not only blood, but the very essence of who we are as humans.”
The clear thought and passion that has been put into the album is undeniable and echoing this, the boys talk to me about the renown vinyl revival and what effect the likes of Spotify and shuffle culture have on listening behavior within our society. As part of celebrating the release of the album, the Mystery Jets played free gigs up and down the country, but only offered tickets to those who bought a physical CD or vinyl copy: “I think streaming and YouTube has facilitated that people can listen to the song that’s their favourite. In that sense we weren’t pressured with this record to do that.” By encouraging people to buy a physical copy of the album, a real love is put back into the making and producing of music; it’s as if you say to the band, I respect you and your music so I want to give something back to you. As Kapil explains, “anyone who’s in a band they’re most excited about the vinyl. That’s the thing that attracts everyone.” The prospect of a fan respecting you enough to buy a physical copy, as opposed to easily listening through streaming sights, is sadly, something that has been lost in the music culture today. Bands like the Mystery Jets by going on tours such as the one they have just completed, strengthen the relationship between band and fan, putting the soul back into the music that is lost through streaming: “people talk more and more about how music has become a track by track culture…that’s why I really respect people who come to events like these, there’s a sort of vested interest there and that’s to be encouraged.”
In the society we live in tracks are becoming defined by the people who sing them and how they appear within the public eye, and we risk forgetting what it means to make and enjoy music. Speaking to Blaine and Kapil however, there is a hope that this love of music from an artistic perspective still lives on. Curve of the Earth is incredibly put together and the love and attention put into the album can be heard in every single track. I told Blaine that this album is perhaps their most ‘mature’ piece of work (which he didn’t really like because it “makes me think I’m a granddad”). But perhaps a better word is complete. Mystery Jets are complete in their brotherhood, complete in their newfound psychedelic sound and, most importantly, complete in their understanding of what it means to make music and be a bloody good band.
Stasi Roe and Jessica Heath