I think that Adam Thompson just said “food-pitch.”
He was telling me about how he wanted to make more than a standard live record – he would also like food-pitch. And then he moved on.
Moments latter, he says what sounds like a similar phrase, although now I hear “citradge.” “Citradge,” to the uninformed, is a combination of “citrus” and “cartridge,” and it is not a real word. But I’m pretty sure it just came out of this mouth.
Later, playing back the recording of this conversation, I will realize that he was saying “footage.” He would like some footage. He would not like food-pitch.
All of which is to say that the frontman of We Were Promised Jetpacks has a molasses-thick Scottish brogue, and while that imbues the words he sings with a certain exoticic gravitas, it can also muddle a transatlantic conversation.
When I reached him three weeks ago, Thompson was in Blantyre, a civil parish eight miles outside of Glasgow. We Were Promised Jetpacks was in the fifth week of making its third LP – a record that the band would subsequently finish before embarking on a U.S. tour in late February.
The footage he was discussing was from the band’s recently released live album and DVD combo, E Rey: Live in Philadelphia, out now on Fat Cat Records. Thompson was kind enough to fill us in on the new record, the live record, and the slog of endless touring.
We Were Promised Jetpacks plays DC’s Black Cat on Friday night and NYC’s Webster Hall on Saturday. And hold onto your butts, because BYT has a pair of Black Cat tickets to giveaway. For a chance to win them, complete the following sentence in the comment section: “I’mm let you finish, We Were Promised Jetpacks, but ______ had the greatest live album of all time.”
How’s the new record coming along?
Really well. It’s really nice. This is the first time that we’ve recorded in a studio where we can go home every night. We made one of our records in London and the other in Iceland. For this album, we’re working Mondays to Friday, and then we’re off for the weekend. Everyone can go home at night. It’s really nice. This is our fifth week. It’s been a really nice experience.
We got to do some per-production with Paul Savage, who’s engineering it and producing it now. It’s been a good process. We’re the most prepared that we’ve felt when doing an album.
Five weeks feels like a long time.
Yeah, we recorded the first record in nine days. The second one was three weeks, but we were also working every single day. That was probably about the same total time as this one, because we’ve done tracking for four weeks and then we have two weeks of mixing. The first one was quick, but this is the right amount of time for us to fix the rhythm and choose the right chords and record them.
Recognizing that you’re in the thick of it right now and there isn’t a whole lot of distance, how would you describe the album?
You’re right, it’s hard to know how it is a whole, because we don’t have the tracklisting and we don’t know the names of the songs. But it is a different thing for us. Our last album was very dense and guitar heavy. There wasn’t much light allowed in. And that was what we had to do at the time, but looking back, it’s all a bit much. We wanted to have a slightly different sound for this record – not just heavy guitars all of the time. We wanted to have more varied sounds. And we have another member now. There are keys and guitar. That’s changed how we right, which has been really nice.
We just got the first mix back of the first song, and everybody’s really happy with it. It definitely sounds like us, but it’s a good progression and change from the last two albums.
How did you connect with Paul Savage?
Before we made the first album for Fat Cat, we did a couple of days with him, just trying stuff out, but we ended up making the album with someone else. But we really enjoyed working with him back then. It must have been 2008 or something.
And then when we were talking about where to do the next album, the whole band felt like we didn’t want to go away again. We didn’t want to be be doing it, like, fifteen hours every day. It’s really hard to get any distance from what you’re doing if you’re constantly recording and mixing. So we were keen to do it somewhere local. We just always remember he and John coming into the studio, and we liked Paul, so we thought we’d meet up with him. We had a really good chat together and pretty much right away we knew it was the right thing to do.
Paul’s worked with a lot of Scottish bands – as a part of the Delgados, and working with Arab Strap and Mogwai. You all seem to have a strong relationship with Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. Is there a kinship or bond among Scottish bands?
I don’t really know any of the bigger Scottish bands personally – I only know Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. We got on well with them. But those sort of connections is probably the result of Scotland being a small place. I don’t know the studio scene that well, but there aren’t a lot of place where you can record or a lot of people that you can work with. There’s a small number of people that fit the bill.
Were there any Scottish bands that you grew idolizing? Any that made you want to start a band?
When I moved to Glasgow, we supported Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. They were big bands for us. They were still playing small stages – places that could only fit 300 or something like that. We went to see them a lot and completely fell in love with them. It’s been great to see them growing and getting bigger. It’s great to see bands that size playing great music and looking like they’re going somewhere. Those two bands were big for us when we were only playing Glasgow a few times a month and didn’t have a real sense of purpose or directions. Those two bands really shaped our band up.
Why put out a live record?
After our first record, Fat Cat suggested, “What would you like to do next?” And we we brought them this EP [The Lasst Place You’ll Look]. And it was quite fun to do. We had recorded it very differently. There weren’t any loud guitars. We restructured a couple of songs from the first album. It ended up being quite an enjoyable experience. It only took ten days to write and record that EP. We quite enjoyed doing that.
There was quite a bit of time before our second album came out, and Fat Cat again said, “What would you like to next?” They suggested a live album. And we were like, “Yeah, why not? That might be nice.” But it was quite important for us to have it not be just a live album. We thought it would be nice have some footage and video of us laying and touring and stuff like that, because as a band, we’re not very good on the internet with putting up tour diaries or a news letter. I’m not quite sure what people know about our band aside from hearing our songs. It was quite important to have that footage to offer as well the CD.
Are there elements of the band’s sound that are best captured in concert?
We like to play the songs quite loud, but it’s quite close to the record. It’s not like we improvise and make up a lot of stuff. That’s not the way we do it. When we play, we play hard and we play fast and we play fast, and then we get off stage. I don’t think w put on much of a “show.” We just try to play the songs the best we can and enjoy the songs and get into it. Hopefully that transfer over to the audience.
What’s your favorite live record?
I’m not sure that I can think of one.
There weren’t any albums that you considered the blueprint or gold standard?
No, we just recorded a gig in Philadelphia. We didn’t give too much thought to it being recorded. We just played a usual gig. I don’t know if that’s a good or a band thing. It is what it is. It’s just a We Were Promised Jetpacks gig. We just wanted to treat it like a normal night.
Do you enjoy life on the road?
Yeah. It definitely gets tiring, and it’s frustrating sometimes when you do an eight week tour and you’re knackered and the last thing you want to do is play your songs. I always feel terrible when that happens and we feel like we’re not enjoying ourselves, because people have come out to see us, and I hope they don’t pick up on that.
But I do enjoy touring a lot. I love playing. We all do. We have a real nice time whenever we go away. We all get on really well.
Are looking forward to escaping the Glasgow winter?
It definitely gets cold. We haven’t seen any snow this year. England has had a lot of rain and floods this year, but Scotland has managed to avoid it. But it’s going to be real cold hear until the end of March.
When are you hoping to have the new LP out?
The plan is to have it out in September. We’re quite looking forward to having it out and we’ll be touring that States. and then hopefully we’ll be doing some stuff during the summer, getting rared to go in September.