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- Posted on May 18th 2010 12:00PM by Barnaby Smith
Mystery Jets are fast becoming something of an English institution. Once a bounding, youthful bunch enthralled with the pastoral pop of early Pink Floyd, the Twickenham five-piece are now on their third album. 'Serotonin' is released in the UK on July 5, their first LP on new UK label Rough Trade. Their music has made distinctive strides forward since their 2006 debut, 'Making Dens,' dealing with more complex lyrical themes and exploring what lurks outside of their sonic comfort zone. Now with frontman Blaine Harrison's father Harry firmly back in the songwriting fold and attracting producers of the standing of Chris Thomas (the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols, Roxy Music), Mystery Jets may just be settling themselves in for the long haul. Spinner speaks to guitarist Will Rees about the past, present and future.
How is 'Serotonin' different to your previous album, 'Twenty One?'
Lyrically, it's more abstract. Whereas on 'Twenty One' you've got songs that were very autobiographical, where the singer is always the protagonist, with this record the songs are personal but the feelings are expressed through invented characters or invented situations.
For example, we've got this song called 'Lorna Doone,' named after the novel. Essentially it's a love song but it's told through this cryptic 'Lorna Doone' narrative. That's an example of what we're doing lyrically now, which is expressing our feelings in more abstract ways. It's basically less autobiographical.
Do you regard 'Serotonin' as marking a new maturity for the band?
Yeah. I think it's a record which is quintessentially Mystery Jets. It doesn't really reference any sound too strongly in the way that maybe the first and second records do. I think it has been a kind of coming of age for us, but hopefully I'll be able to say that about every record we make.
How did you come to record with such an illustrious producer as Chris Thomas?
His son, Mike, is a big Mystery Jets fan and he put us in touch with him. Chris hadn't produced a record for a few years and was keeping quiet. Then Mike took him along to a gig we did at Shepherd's Bush Empire and he really enjoyed it, and the relationship grew from there.
What was he like in the studio?
He's great. He's not very hands-on, he's not technical and doesn't know too much about gadgets and devices. He's much more of a listener and his greatest skill is his ear. He's only got one ear that actually works, the other one's deaf, so he sits listening to the speakers with his one ear. His approach is really simplistic. He's a lot of fun as well, he's a lovely chap.
In the past you've acknowledged your debt to Syd Barrett. After three albums, does his music still have a bearing on your songwriting?
No, it doesn't. Syd Barrett was someone we fell in love with when we were growing up, when we were 17 or 18 and first put the band together. I'll always be a fan of him but in terms of how we write our songs, he's not really at the forefront of our minds now.
How did you come to sign with Rough Trade?
They've always been interested in us, they wanted to sign us for both our previous albums. When we came out of the deal with 679 after the second record, Rough Trade were still there and still interested. We thought if these people are going to be there for us like that, then these are the right people for us to be working with.
Finally, what's the situation with 'Serotonin' and the USA, will it get a release there?
It's going to be released in America but not at the same time as in Britain. When that will be I don't know. But we all feel very drawn to America, there's even talk of doing the next record out there. We've all spent too much time in London and want to spread our wings a little.
Mystery Jets will play at the 2010 Dot-To-Dot Festival in Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester on May 29 to 31.