ARTICLE BY CHERYL CHENG
PHOTO BY ADI PUTRA
FEB. 21 | LOS ANGELES—As the Scottish indie rock band We Were Promised Jetpacks prepares the release of their still-untitled third studio album, the band members are also touring North America to promote live album E Rey Live in Philadelphia, which will be released Feb. 25. Kicking off this current tour in Los Angeles, We Were Promised Jetpacks took some time before the show at El Rey Theatre to talk with The Scenestar about the upcoming third album, keeping busy, and their favorite thing to do in L.A.
SS: Congrats on the live album! How did the idea for it come about?
Adam Thompson: Our label suggested that maybe we should do something, because the last album came out a long time ago—November 2011. And we put out an EP [The Last Place You'll Look] between our first and second albums, and what else can we do? And we thought: live album. We thought it would be a fun thing to do. We recorded the live album in May 2012 and we got it mixed six months ago, so it has kind of been done for awhile, but it's nice to have it released now.
SS: Does this tour interrupt your work on the third album? Or is it a nice break?
Sean Smith: It's quite good. I've been looking forward to the end of the studio relaxation period. We've not quite had that yet because we're not quite finished recording. We're still mixing the record, and we will be until the end of next week. We're getting emails, and it's like, "Oh, it's not finished," which is quite stressful, but it's nice to be on stage.
Adam: It's nice to be busy! We're usually not that busy. (Laughs)
Sean: It's nice to just finish recording and be on tour for a purpose. As opposed to, "Oh, we're not really promoting anything."
Adam: I can't wait to begin promoting the next album. It all feels like we've got a plan.
SS: Are you incorporating a lot of the new songs on this tour?
Adam: We're trying like four or five. We've not played a lot of new stuff for quite a long time, so we feel a bit bad coming back to places and playing a similar set. It's really nice for this tour to change it up. I think by the end of this tour, we'll feel more confident with the new songs.
SS: Let's talk about the third album. What can fans expect?
Adam: There's not so much that dense guitar sound. For the first album, we really wanted to write an album that was rock and heavy to play for live sets, and I think we did that. But on reflection, it was just an hour of "Ahhhh," you know? So it definitely gave us a path for this album of not doing that. We tried to get a few different sounds and a few different feels, and the way we wrote was different. We demoed quite a lot for this album, and we talked through songs with the guy who produced it, Paul Savage. The whole process was different, and I think the songs are slightly more considered and not just "let's make a racket."
SS: Could you talk about the band's creative process? Adam, are you still the primary lyricist?
Adam: Kind of. Maybe a little bit less on this one. Quite a few songs just started with us playing together. But for quite a few of them, I'll have just a verse and a chorus and another part of the song. And then we'll put it all together and everyone makes their parts. The lyrics are very much last minute.
Sean: We actually just heard the lyrics about a week ago. (Laughs)
SS: Have you decided on an album name yet?
Adam: It usually becomes obvious. We have a couple of things we're thinking about, but I don't want to say out loud.
SS: When I first saw We Were Promised Jetpacks, it was back in 2010 at the Troubadour. And now the band is performing at progressively larger venues. Is it an adjustment?
Adam: It's a slow and steady one, almost so much so that we haven't really noticed. We have no idea. We don't notice because it's so long in between tours that you forget.
Sean: It has been really gradual. We've played to 200 people, and we've played to a thousand people…and we've also played to every number of people between those two numbers.
Adam: It's a big mix. We'll play a big show in New York, and it's like "Yesss!" And then we'll go to Richmond, Virginia—no offense to them—and play to 100 people. We've done so many shows now, we can fit into anywhere now. Tiny stages, big stages, so it's quite varied.
SS: The band has been to Los Angeles a few times now. What is one of your favorite things to do here?
Sean: We don't really know if this is a really classic thing to do but we've been to that Lucky Strike bowling place a couple of times.
Adam: We don't have good bars and bowling alleys at home.
Sean: They don't come together...ever. You get a bowling alley and it's really a horrible place.
SS: In preparing for this interview, I read that there's no real meaning behind the name of the band. How did you come up with it?
Adam: It was so long ago. I can't even remember.
Sean: We were at uni, and we had a list of band names.
Adam: We used to be called The Winkles.
SS: After Henry Winkler?
Adam: No, should have been. (Laughs) It was just a guy in our high school called Winkle. That was where we were and we needed anything…so Jetpacks stuck around. I hate telling airport security staff and folk who are cutting my hair when they ask what my band is.
Sean: Or taxi drivers…
Adam: I'm so embarrassed. Nobody hears it the first time. They're like, "What?" And you've got to repeat it. "We…Were…Promised…Jetpacks." And sometimes (mimes a jetpack on his back) and sometimes you've got to do that.
SS: It's a really memorable name though. And easy to Google!
Adam: It totally helped us at first. People were going to see us because of our funny name. And it's great in that starting period; it helps you get noticed. But the thing i hate about the name now is it's a "get to know us" name. And that's not really what we're like.
Sean: We want the most boring name ever.
Despite the band members' reservations about their band name, when We Were Promised Jetpacks took the stage at El Rey Theatre tonight, it was clear that the audience was beyond the "getting to know" period. During such These Four Walls classics as "Quiet Little Voices" and "It's Thunder and It's Lighting," many in the crowd were heard singing along, knowing the lyrics from memory. The energy between the band and the audience was palpable, keenly on view by the number of people bouncing about on the dance floor. Fans are obviously eager for the third album, and the next time We Were Promised Jetpacks visits Los Angeles, they'll likely have to book a larger venue.