On a toasty September afternoon, obscure enough without the ambience of a bongo-bashing man and a feisty flock of geese prone to attack as background music, Mystery Jets frontman Blaine Harrison breezes an easy “Hello” down the phone, and just by this mere utterance, I can confirm that their bestowal as Indie Dreamboats™ is one that’s hardly rocket science. “I don’t think I’m much of an Indie Dreamboat, that’s certainly a statement best suited to Jack [Flanagan, bassist]. I’d take great pride in being the Indie Dreamboat’s wingman, and make sure he maintains his dreaminess and that he scrubs up in the morning; if you want to thrive in this world, you’re going to need a fantastic wingman, aka me.”
Hailing from Eel Pie Island in Twickenham, Mystery Jets were initially a whimsical fantasy of Blaine’s father Henry, who is described as a ‘mystical elder’, and undoubtedly the coolest man of all time. Blaine, a feeble 12 year old at the time, who “thought he had a hyper-sixth sense of hearing, but it was just tinnitus” and a voice that hadn’t quite yet cracked, took centre stage, where the fire in his belly for music ignited. “Music’s all I ever wanted to do,” he explains, “it takes on different roles throughout your life and I’m as much of a listener as I am a maker. Creating music is my way of making sense of the world around me and it’s something I’ll always do in some capacity”.
Naturally, if he wasn’t cultivating the soundtracks for a coming of age Generation Z, he would be looking after monkeys (specifically chimps, as orangutans are a tad too Chewbacca for his liking apparently). “Although I’m a bit on the fence as to whether I agree with zoos, the chimp enclosures are always fascinating for me, it’s like a microcosm of the human world in the sense that they look after and care for each other, it’s quite like an animal soap opera.”
Creating music is my way of making sense of the world around me
In the fickle and outlandish ways that musicians garner inspiration, monkeys could’ve definitely been the musing behind 2006’s Zoo Time, but where else do Mystery Jets retrieve the cartoon lightbulb for ditties such as Alas Agnes and Sister Everett, which tackle stories far more than your average love song? “Observation is any songwriter’s best friend. Sitting in a café people watching is the blasé answer, but it’s incredible what you can take from analysing. On our album Twenty One, we created characters that we could project our own experiences onto, like avatars of ourselves, which is something you tend to find in books. Authors create improved yet warped versions of themselves, but with our latest LP [Curve Of The Earth], we wanted to pull away those layers and take away the disguises and present something honest and real. Although when someone criticises it, it feels like a bit of a school yard attack!”
2016’s Curve Of The Earth surfaced in January, a boldly galactic and empirical record that bared Mystery Jets at their most pure and vulnerable, weaving through tales of nostalgia and interlacing the astrological pull of Saturn with human emotions, shaking off the somewhat indie quirk for an eccentricity that still enticed long-term fans, but allowed them a little peek into their tightly kept universe from the past four years. It was also strangely recorded in an abandoned button factory. “You wouldn’t believe how many buttons were in there! It was piled to the bloody rafters, and we could probably make a fortune with them. We could give away a button with every record…or perhaps a record with every button?”
As a decade has passed since debut album Making Dens was released, and there’s been many a line-up alteration, have the dynamics for the band been completely refreshed? “After you make a few albums, it does feel like you’re subconsciously creating a chronological account of your life, it’s sort of what records are. They don’t need to be autobiographical, but it transports you to a time when those songs meant the most to you, and I don’t like to listen back to them very often, but when I have to, I realise they’re part of an ongoing discourse, and they all link up in a charming manner.”
From recently DJ’ing in Freddie Mercury’s old suite at Pikes Hotel in Ibiza (“We bashed out Another One Bites The Dust, a pretty defining life moment indeed!”) to throwing illegal parties to create a vivacious hype, Mystery Jets have always encapsulated the fun side of the industry. About to embark on a tour of the UK, which takes in Newcastle’s Wylam Brewery on Thursday 6th October, I wonder what reality is actually like when you’re always giving it six nowt in front of thousands. “Coming off tour is similar to being an Olympian, except you are unhealthy and wildly alcoholic! You’ve experienced this unnatural high and it’s difficult to adjust back to the drawing board, but it’s necessary.”