We Were Promised Jetpacks is Glasgow, Scotland’s latest pop rock offering, and their debut album These Four Walls is a delightful mixture of high-energy anthems and concave, self-examining indie fare. The band comprising Adam Thompson (vocals, guitar), Michael Palmer (guitar), Sean Smith (bass) and Darren Lackie (drums) has been a tight-knit group from the beginning when they won the battle of the bands at their school in 2003, and it shows in the form of mature songwriting and a precisely laid-out LP. Despite the success, the band’s stayed down-to-earth, and Darren hashes out a few of Webcuts’ questions for us now.
You played South by South West (SXSW) in March, it must have been a huge buzz. What were some of the big differences playing a gig like that as opposed to some of the local shows you did back in Scotland?
SXSW was brilliant, we had an incredible time there. The shows were odd because at the time we had only played a few shows outside of Scotland and there we were thousands of miles away from home playing to pretty big crowds. The audience were really nice to us as well, they always seemed as though they were there to listen to music instead of standing around having a chat.
Some bands have a hard time playing a live show but make fantastic records, and vice versa, while you guys seem to have handled both pretty well. Where do you think We Were Promised Jetpacks’ greatest strength lies, do you consider yourselves a purebred live band or do you find it just as, if not more, comfortable in the studio?
When we first started out we never planned on making a record, we just played music ’cause we were a bit bored and it was something fun we could all do. I think in that sense we are definitely more of a live band. Studios can be daunting places where everyone (especially Adam) gets stressed and starts going mental. We’ve learnt from our mistakes recording the first album though so who knows with the next one (please let us have a next one, I don’t want a job) we might be studio masterminds. Probably not though.
One of my favorite cuts off These Four Walls is the second-to-last song “Keeping Warm”. The song itself is fairly straightforward, but the track is special to me because of the excellent build-up and consequential jamming throughout the eight and a half minutes. What sort of production went into this, as opposed to the other more concise songs? Was it a result of playing around in the studio or did you have plans for this sort of effort from the beginning?
As I said previously we never planned on recording an album. So the songs were mostly written to be played live. That’s how the song has always been. We talked about whether or not the intro should be cut off from the song and put on as a sort of incidental thing (professional music word there… you see that?) before the main body of the song, but we decided it wouldn’t be the same song. As far as production goes, there was a few wee extra bits put in at the start but nothing major.
A common characteristic that seems to emanate from each indie Scottish band that I hear is passionate, emotive music, and We Were Promised Jetpacks is no exception. Is this the norm for you guys as you’re immersed in the music scene there, or perhaps this is simply a cultural difference between the seas? (Not to say other countries aren’t passionate, of course, but there’s a distinct kind of emotion that comes from Scottish acts).
I’m not really sure. Sorry crap answer. I don’t think every band sets out to be passionate and emotive like you say, maybe it’s just cause we’re all depressed fat alcoholics in Scotland. I’m kidding, I’m kidding.
Being musicians most likely doesn’t stop you from being music fans, and it’s been a stellar year for music thus far. What’s been some of your favorite albums of the year?
I can’t speak for the rest of the band but so far I’ve been a big fan of the Passion Pit record. It’s a nice wee fun album to listen to.
Speaking of albums, many music purists have argued that the Internet and, more specifically, having digital music at one’s fingertips 24/7 has essentially killed the album as a whole, making way for singles and novelties. Coming from your perspective of having so successfully used the Internet to market the band and get your music heard, such as on your MySpace page, music blogs, etc., how do you feel about the whole digital music era? Do you think the vinyl revivals we’ve seen as of late are a sign that consumers still really do enjoy a good album even though pop culture has taken us in a different direction?
Wow that was a big question. I did my university dissertation on digital music and the effects it’s had on the music industry. Small world. I feel like I should give you my conclusion and that would answer it! The Internet is pretty much the reason we were picked up by Fatcat and signed. MySpace has been brilliant for us, we used to use it to get all of our gigs when we started out so I can’t bad mouth digital music and the web. I think people still like to buy albums too, not a lot of people want just digital files, they want the artwork and the physical CD or vinyl, it makes it more personal.
Your music videos have a great raw look to them and accentuate the music nicely. Were you guys able to call your own shots with the music videos, or did you have a professional come in?
Really all we did was show up where we were told to, and did what the directors told us! We’re very obedient. We didn’t really say much so I can’t take the credit for them if you like them… gutted.
Do you have any big plans for the rest of the year, other than touring, of course. Perhaps a We Were Promised Jetpacks breakfast cereal or a holiday album?
I think we would be good at a Christmas album, we’re not all doom and gloom, but unfortunately we’re pretty busy with touring so our Christmas number one will have to be put on hold til next year. Damn.