Talking Music and Miscellany with We Were Promised Jetpacks [INTERVIEW]
We Were Promised Jetpacks is a band that packs a powerful punch, with three albums of noisy awesomeness under their collective belt, and a relentless touring schedule delivering their energy to the masses. The Edinburgh indie rockers have been together for just about fifteen years now, and have seen it all. A full US tour is on the horizon, as is a new album. Herewith, guitarist Mike Palmer talks music, and gives us some tips on peeing before a show.
Bowery Boogie: Growing up, what was first concert you went to?
Mike Palmer: I took my mum to see a band called Mull Historical Society for her birthday, and I’m pretty sure that was the first show I went to. It’s either that or some local battle of the bands that our pals were playing, or something lame. Peter thinks his first show was either Oasis or Steps, which is pretty awesome, and Sean’s [Smith] and Adam’s [Thompson] first show was Supergrass. They went together and beforehand, Sean called Adam and asked him what he was supposed to wear. I imagine they worked it out.
BB: What makes a good show, both as a performer and a fan?
MP: As far as our shows go, I like the ones that hit a high level of intensity. I like it when someone watching us is pretty exhausted after the show. Not from jumping around or anything – I’m trying not to use the word “aurally” but I guess I just did. I mean if someone were to leave our show and immediately put earphones in and listen to more music, I’d feel like we haven’t quite done our job properly.
As a fan, I don’t like when shows are too long. You don’t want to hit that moment near the end of the set when you take yourself out of it, check the time and think “I wonder when they’ll finish?” That’s not good. Our shows are actually pretty long, but people often say afterwards that we didn’t play for long enough, and that’s usually a sign that we did okay.
BB: Have any pre-show rituals?
MP: Not really. Aside from all four of us waiting until the last possible moment to pee. I sometimes try and pee twice. Once as soon as we’re done with changeover, and then a second squeeze-out right before stage time. Is that too much information? Probably, but you asked.
BB: Ha, fair enough. What’s a memorable experience from one of the shows you’ve played?
MP: Memorable show experiences are usually bad. People talking, stuff breaking, etc. The good-memorable experiences make terrible stories. We did a show a few years ago at Webster Hall, and we all thought we played really well, and people were really into it. See? Wasn’t that boring? But bad ones make us sound ungrateful and whiny. We did a show and the people in the front row were talking loudly and I couldn’t hear what I was playing, so I played it wrong. That’s not great either, is it? We should do cooler stuff on stage so we have a better answer to this, like climb stuff or crowd surf or things like that. Maybe next time…
BB: Ever hang out on the Lower East Side?
MP: I’m not entirely sure what the Lower East Side is, but I’m going to read between the lines and assume that’s where the Bowery Ballroom is, and say, sure! We’ve played that venue a bunch of times and love it. So we’ve hung out around that area a little bit. We used to love to go to Ray’s Pizza near there but then it closed down. I imagine we like the same things about NYC that everyone else does. We have a lot of friends there (s/o Bear Hands) that we don’t get to see very often, so it has that going for it.
BB: How does the Scottish music scene compare to the US? Do you notice a difference while touring?
MP: Depends what you mean by scene. In terms of bands coming up, Scotland is great. There’s not a great batch of bands right now to be honest (there are always waves) but Pronto Mama and Man of Moon are both incredible. Doing great stuff. And in the US, we don’t get a sense of what’s happening at all. We just play our show and that’s it. But if you mean scene in terms of places to play, then US is amazing. So many venue options in even the smallest cities. The UK can pretty rough in terms of places to play, with barely any new venues opening up. Scotland is still better than the rest of the UK, though; at least Edinburgh and Glasgow are.
BB: What artist are you listening to right now that isn’t getting enough recognition out there?
MP: I mentioned Pronto Mama and Man of Moon from Scotland in the last answer, but I don’t want to sound patronising by saying they’re not getting enough recognition. They’re both still coming up and doing great. You’ll be able to see both of them play in New York at some point, I’m sure of it.
BB: Album you’d take to a desert island?
MP: Obviously none, but I’m sensing the question is really asking what my favourite album is? If so, it’s good timing as I’ve genuinely just had an important personal realisation – I’ve finally figured out who my favourite band is. After so many years of not being sure, I’ve realised my favourite band is The Lonely Island. So I’d take The Wack Album by Lonely Island. For sure. Plus, there’s the word “island” in there, which fits our desert island theme, so it all checks out!
BB: What’s on the horizon for WWPJ?
MP: We’re recording right now (Adam’s doing a guitar take as I type and he’s nailing it) so that should be out soon. (Adam just made a little mistake so he’s having another go, I’m sure he’ll nail this one, though). Then a full US tour once the album is out towards the end of the year. So that’s exciting! (Adam nailed the take, but we’re having a wee think about whether the amp sound is right or not – we’re going to nail it though don’t worry it’s going to sound great)
BB: Can’t wait.
We Were Promised Jetpacks is playing a sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom this Saturday, 9pm.