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Mystery Jets - Diff'rent Strokes

Author: Andrew Weaver
Monday, 7 July 2008
3D's Andrew Weaver chats with Blaine Harrison of UK indie act Mystery Jets about their second album, Twenty One and learns he's just a big Strokes fan, really.

Jettisoning his father for the first time, Mystery Jets frontman Blaine Harrison now travels the world on his lonesome.

If you'd ever heard the stories, they were true: Mystery Jets really were a father-son team, with Blaine being joined in the group by his dad, Henry. To a certain extent, the group still is a familial affair - while Henry has stepped down from touring duties, he was a presence at the band's recording of their second album, Twenty One.

The album has been generating some of the very best responses in the band's career - while their debut, Making Dens, was laudable for its effort, Twenty One is a much more fully realised release.

'I guess we're pretty pleased,' Harrison avers. 'For what we did - which is an indie record - we're very pleased how people have received it.'

It's a much more straightforward release, taking the pop elements found on their 2006 debut and amplifying the direct nature of some of the tunes. Gone are the prog references that, while interesting, ultimately took away from the more immediately approachable ones.

'It was definitely something that we all wanted to do,' he confirms. 'Straightforward is an appropriate word, really. We all felt, after our first album, that we wanted to change our sound and in a way put ourselves across in a more bold, digestible way. The background we had was listening to a lot of progressive rock, and '60s psych, and we never really saw ourselves as a 'pop' band.

But for the second time around, Blaine says the first record that actually started making him think differently about his own music was The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr's first solo record.

'I liked The Strokes,' Harrison continues, 'but listening to that album I realised I wanted to write love songs - I didn't want to write songs in a language that was purposefully going to go over people's heads. That idea seemed crazy. When we were younger we felt like we wanted to make an impression upon people, and however we made that impression it needed to be extreme.'

Mystery Jets were, in their early days, famed for doing things their way - instead of going the normal route and playing support slots to bigger bands, alongside the likes of Jamie T, Laura Marling, and others besides, they grouped together to create mini-festivals dubbed the White Cross Revival Parties, held on Eel Pie Island.

But, now, Mystery Jets are comparatively normal. 'There's nothing to feel bad about writing four-chord songs,' Harrison claims. 'I listened to a lot of ABBA - not that this is a disco-inspired album! But hanging out with [producer] Erol [Alkan], I felt we had very similar ideas about what direction we wanted to move in - we agreed there were older songs that were buried beneath layers of arrangements and keyboards to the point where you almost couldn't tell if it was a good song underneath it. We were adamant to the point that the songs would sound good on a piano or an acoustic guitar, which is how most of the songs were written.'

WHO: Mystery Jets
WHAT: Twenty One through 679 Recordings/Warner
WHEN: Out 12 July