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Interview: We Were Promised Jetpacks

26th August 2011

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Once upon a time in Edinburgh, a band called We Were Promised Jetpacks won their school’s battle of the bands competition. Eight years later, they have already released their first album These Four Walls and are about to release their second album In the Pit of the Stomach. On top of that, they are soon to head off touring Europe and the US.

Surely then, they were always aiming to make it big?

“Absolutely not” lead singer Adam Thompson tells me. He and his band mates are about to soundcheck, but he has taken some time to talk to me a little about the past and present of the up and coming band he is a part of.

“We have always wanted to do it and, I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but we’ve always been confident. We always said it’d be great to do a tour and an album, but we never really spoke seriously about it. We never had big, great ambitions but opportunities come up and we have done our best to grab them”

So it just sort of happened?

“Yeah yeah,  I mean, Fat Cat (the record label WWPJ signed with in 2009) got in touch and even then we didn’t realise we’d be touring America and, I don’t know, it happened very slowly and naturally, but I like it that way”

In their early days as a band WWPJ moved from Edinburgh to Glasgow, the origin city of many internationally recognised bands, including Franz Ferdinand, Belle & Sebastian and Glasvegas. However, for the young band members the move had more to do with going to university somewhere new than making a strategic move to promote their music.

“It had to do with moving out of Edinburgh, we fancied living somewhere else”, Adam says, “It’s a bigger place and there are more small venues which is good but I don’t think the divide between the two cities is that clear-cut, there are good bands from both places”

Adam admits that the home gigs are still a little bit more important; “When you’re away you don’t know anybody, you get into a routine and you’re just banging away, but when I’m home I have got friends texting and phoning me asking me when we are on”

He explains that their friends have always been a great support, they come to the gigs at home but some have also travelled across the pond to catch the gigs in New York.

So has there been any main musical influences that formed how WWPJ sound today, any specific bands you look up to?

“Not really”, Adam tells me, “I only like a band if they dress like normal people” (No big Lady Gaga fan, in other words), “I get annoyed at bands that I see that do certain things, if they do something really wanky that’s only going to sound good for six months.. It really annoys me! (Laughs) I got a lot of anger I think!”

Fair enough, but what did you grow up listening to? Surely that would have an influence...

“I used to listen to Elvis a lot when I was like five; I went through a big Elvis phase! It sounds a wee bit gay I guess”

Oh that’s fine, any other artists?

“When I was 14-15 I listened to Bloc Party, The Futureheads, Stereophonics and Oasis, you know, all the bands you were supposed to listen to when you were that age”

About your own music, how have you developed over the years, does it feel like you’ve come a long way?

“We haven’t come that far, have we, from where we were” Adam laughs, “Just a wee bit, we moved away from being this disco indie band, matured a little bit – nothing drastic. We’re not trying as hard anymore to make people like us, you move on and you get more confident”

What about listening to your old songs, is it fun or does it make you cringe?

“It used to sound like I had a really posh accent; I’m not quite sure where that came from! (Laughs) We have a few old EPs that are quite fun to listen to, they sound a bit shit, but it’s fun”

About your albums, how does the first compare to the second?

“Our first album was done in a short space of time, we had all the songs and we just went into the same room and recorded, it was done in like eight days. With “In the Pit of the Stomach” we knew 5 or 6 months in advance when we were going to record and we realised, people are actually going to be listening to this. With the first album we didn’t have any expectations; we were just going along with it”

What’s the best way to do it?

“I reckon the second way”

We live in interesting times. Is there any social or political commentary to be found in your lyrics and music?

“It’s more personal, I’d feel a bit awkward, and I don’t think I could ever write anything bigger than me. I’d feel a bit what am I doing, I’m an idiot, I shouldn’t be saying anything about this! The lyrics are mainly little pictures I have in my head”

So you’re about to go on tour around Europe and then later the US. You will be playing several nights in a row, you eat together, and you sleep under the same roof... Do you ever get sick of each other?

“Not at all, it’s like the best holiday you could ever have! We have a really good crew with us, a good tour manager here and in the US. I like travelling in a van and we just watch Extras and Superbad all the time, have a good laugh and take the piss out of each other. Then you have to go find something to eat, you play a gig and it’s all good fun. We have worked with other bands that seemed really awkward and tense and it seems horrible. But we’ve all been friends for so long, so it’s all fine”

Where’s the best audience?

“We’ve always had a great time in New York, they’re very loud and a good support. Once we played a gig in Germany, in a small town outside Dresden and there was no one walking about. Then all of a sudden there were 600 kids that came to our show, totally unexpected! Some places are just good to play, I can’t explain why”

What is the plan for the future? After tour, will you have some time off?

“I’m not sure, we’re pretty much planned up until next summer I think, with tours, going away and coming back. Then, slowly and gradually we will be starting to think about our next album”

So the vision is to continue, become bigger and better?

“Yeah, I mean, we play some big venues but most venues are only 3-400 people. We really enjoy those ones but we can’t really make a career out of it, realistically. We just want to make money and make it a living, we don’t have to be rolling around in cash but I kind of want to make it out of my parents’ place, that’d be nice”

We Were Promised Jetpacks new album In The Pit of the Stomach is out in the UK on 3rd October

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