Once a quirky band of gawky teenagers, The Mystery Jets hit the big time following the release of their album 21. Now they're in Dubai.
Time Out Dubai staff
Time Out has an apology to make. Back in April this year, we, acting in very good faith, booked Razorlight to DJ at the Time Out Comes Home festival. We were excited, very excited. Razorlight, with their almost perfect indie pop, should have played a sublime set of off-kilter, but commercial classics. And Johnny ‘What God Complex?’ Borrell wasn’t invited, so he couldn’t ruin it with his sub-Bono, white-trousered posturing. But the two Razorlight miscreants – not Johnny or the one with the inordinately long face – were shocking. Abysmal. And we apologise, whole-heartedly, for their set of ’80s pop pastiche. But with bands like The Futureheads, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand making moves on club land, it raises an interesting question: are bands getting greedy?
World domination, an innate – and often directly inverse to your attractiveness – ability to attract members of the opposite sex and enough money that you can swim Scrooge McDuck-style through your own moulah-loaded swimming pool, isn’t enough now, apparently. They want to play their music collection of obscure Aztec Camera b-sides in dens of iniquity the world over and be lauded as the new generation of deck-heads. Where do the Mystery Jets fit into this?
‘We’ve been lucky enough to work with some great dance producers so we’ve had some brilliant teachers,’ says Kai, not at all fresh following a post-gig session with The Kooks the night before. ‘We made the first album with James Ford from Simian Mobile Disco and the second one with Erol Alkan and they were both a big inspiration. We went to Trash [Erol Alkan’s legendary night at The End in London] for years until its demise, and watching him in action introduced us into a new world. We’ve increasingly got a lot more confident about playing, and that shows in the music we play and the gigs we get offered.’
Indeed. Kai and Will – the two members who have temporarily ditched their bass and guitar for decks – are playing in Kuala Lumpur prior to their Dubai debut, while they’ve also DJed at prestigious London clubs The End and Fabric, and Singapore super-club Zouk. And in James Ford and Erol Alkan they’ve had two of the scene’s most respected and pre-eminent decknicians showing them the DJ ropes. But Alkan hasn’t only been responsible for their flourishing careers as DJs. Brought on board to work with the band on an EP, the Jets loved his style so much they brought him on board to produce their second album, 21. Gone were the spiralling, prog- choral epics that made their first album Making Dens such a challenging, but captivating listen and in came a new sound that tamed the Jets’ idiosyncrasies. It was, as the name suggests, a real coming of age for the band.
‘Definitely, it’s something that I think we were always looking for and Erol brought that out,’ says Will. ‘It almost feels like the second album is our first – we were so young on the first album and there was so much learning going on. Erol actually used to play our first tunes at Trash, and they were quite proggy music and had these big choral sections crashing around. Erol would drop them and the crowd would have this quizzical look on their faces and not really know what to do apart from leave the dancefloor.’
There was another factor that inspired the new dancefloor friendly direction, however. Back in 2005 when the band were throwing legendary free parties at the Eel Pie Hotel, which, back in the ’60s, played host to incendiary gigs from The Rolling Stones and The Who, they were a five-piece with a soon-to-be jettisoned drummer complementing the father-son axis of Blaine and Henry Harrison. Fast forward three years, and the band now perform as a four piece, the founding father having been axed from the line up. Kai is quick to point out that’s only a live transition.
‘It was a mutual decision, and we just felt the band would work better as a four piece for the second album,’ says Kai. ‘Henry is still very involved in most of the aspects of the band. the relationship hasn’t changed at all and he’s still writing great lyrics. And we still work together in the studio, and he was on tour with us in Europe. It must have been a bit like the bird leaving the nest for Blaine and Henry, but it was the right thing to do.’
Beyond the band dynamic, though, there lies a much more pressing requirement for Henry. His son and band lead singer Blaine suffers from spina bifida and often has to walk using crutches – allowing him to relay many contrived rock’n’roll stories to unknowing fans – and Henry is often there to help Blaine out with the physically draining tour process.
‘It’s something you really do forget about,’ states Kai. ‘He’s dealt with it all his life, and he just gets on with life and the band. There were a few periods this summer where things weren’t so great, he had a few cuts on his legs that took quite a while to heal because of the spina bifida. But in terms of what we can do as a band, it’s not restricted us or the band in any way. He has to watch his health a little more than the rest of us. We want to carry on doing this for a long time, so he needs to be in good health to do that.’
For now though, Kai’s thoughts are on the two sold-out gigs they’re playing with The Kooks in London, before the mini DJ tour they embark on. What can we expect from his and Will’s set this week?
‘We play a lot of electro, some old disco, dubstep, some early house tunes – a whole mix, to be honest,’ says Kai excitedly. ‘We like to have a lot of fun with the music, and we’re a little bit tongue in cheek at points. I’m sorry, but you do need that sense of humour, alongside the big tunes.’ And, unlike Razorlight, there’s really no need to apologise for that.
Here are five mysteries for the Mystery Jets
(see what we did there?)
1 Why aren’t bankers being lynched in the street following the financial meltdown? That’s a good one actually. That is a mystery. I think it might have something to do with the bigger picture: there’s something not right when people are in a position where they can have an effect. From the little I know, Australia has dealt with it well as it has a much more closed system. I think we need to look at how the financial set-up works, rather than blame the guys at the bottom.
2 Why was Bush re-elected in 2004? Why was he elected at all? We followed the elections and Sarah Palin is another mystery. She does resemble a cartoon character, and she’s almost a parody of herself.
3 Have aliens ever landed on earth? Who knows, it would be very interesting if they have. Is the truth out there?
4 Who did it in the Scooby Doo episodes? [After much procrastinating] I don’t know. It must have been over 10 years since I watched Scooby Doo – I’ve got no idea I’m afraid.
5 Why are the Ting Tings so popular? It’s very accessible music, and it’s very easy to get into. They’re great live, especially as there are only two of them. You get what you see with the band.
The Mystery Jets DJ at See You Next Thursday at Alpha on Thursday December 18. Ladies are free all night and men Dhs50 with free guestlist from www.platinumlistdubai.com