We Were Promised Jetpacks – Interview

With the worldwide release of their latest album ‘Unravelling’, the Scottish quintet has been gaining some well-deserved notoriety for their freshly-pressed sound. I recently had the opportunity to talk with the gents about the evolution of their sound, the writing process, and what albums they’ve had on repeat.

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(FE): What does ‘Unravelling’ represent thematically, and emotionally speaking for you as a band?

I’m not sure about emotionally, but it’s definitely supposed to be a ‘next step’ for our band. We changed the way we write the songs a little. It still stems from jamming together, but we’ve tried to be less impulsive and a lot more thoughtful. We tried to make every song as interesting as possible without relying on raw loudness.

(FE): How has the addition of Stuart McGachan allowed you to explore sonically? Has this altered your song-writing progression?

It’s helped us a lot. We write almost exclusively in a room all together (we wrote maybe two songs ever in-studio) so just having keys at hand in the room is great. He’s not just “the keyboard guy” though, we all write the songs together.

(FE): ‘Unravelling’ comes across as a very full and complete evolution of your sound, after spending a lot of time touring, do you feel that the album was created with a live audience in mind?

No, kind of the opposite actually. Our last album was meant to be big and massive sounding and represent a live show in that way. We wanted people to be kind of exhausted after listening to our second album, similar to how you feel after a show. This one, though, we thought a lot about the recording as opposed to the live performance. We wanted everything to be well thought out and considered.

(FE): What’s your favorite song to play live?

We’ve just started playing ‘Disconnecting’ live a couple of weeks ago, we love doing that one. Playing all the new ones is still very exiting to us. ‘Peace of Mind’ is a corker though.

(FE): How is ‘Peace of Mind’ related to previous songs ‘Sore Thumb’ and ‘Keeping Warm’? Are the writing processes similar for these sprawling emotional epics?

The writing process is pretty similar for all the songs, but ‘Peace of Mind’ and ‘Sore Thumb’ differ in that we all built on chords that Sean brought into the room. We didn’t se out to make them instrumental (or mostly instrumental in the ‘Sore Thumb’ case) but we realised pretty quickly that they were melodic enough to not need vocals. ‘Keeping Warm’ is different though, we wrote that in the same way as all the other ones! But yeah, no matter how they’re started, we write those songs in the room together in the same way as the others.

(FE): Who have you been listening to this summer? Are there any bands you’d love to catch live?

I’ve [Michael] been listening to Pronto Mama loads. They’re the most exciting scottish band I’ve heard in years. Other than that, the new album from Bear Hands, the new Childish Gambino, Young Fathers, Earl Sweatshirt and Justin Timberlake. I’ve just heard that Run The Jewels are playing Glasgow in December. I’m desperate to go to that. Hopefully we’re not touring somewhere!

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You can buy the record from Fat Cat here, or over on iTunes.

Check out four of the biggest highlights from ‘Unravelling’ below!

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Chillwave Wednesday LI

Chillwave Wednesday: a semi-weekly shortlist of chill music around the internet.


HERO

Frank Ocean has left his management agency and all his buddies from Odd Future including Tyler the Creator to join Three Six Zero. Seems like it is working out nicely if his latest release is any indication. A four way collabo between Diplo, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon is a pretty incredible start to a new place of employment I’d say.

Frank Ocean + Mick Jones + Paul Simonon + Diplo – HERO


Cosmo Sheldrake

Twenty four year old London based vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Cosmo Sheldrake has a very delicate and intricate sound. I can’t help to think that there is some kind of Alt-J influence when you listen to his latest single entitled “The Moss” but the rest of his songs have a more curious meandering quality to them. He describes The Moss as “an ode to nonsense for its own sake.”

Buy the Ltd 7″ on paradYse/Transgressive Records paradyserecords.bigcartel.com

Cosmo Sheldrake – The Moss

Cosmo Sheldrake – The Fly

Cosmo Sheldrake – Rich (Ft. Andrea Vargas)


We Were Promised Jetpacks: Unravelling

The sophomore slump is a common phenomenon in the sporting world; after a compelling rookie season, the second effort often falls short of projections. Five years ago, We Were Promised Jetpacks released ‘These Four Walls’. It was their first full length LP, and a collection of 3-chord progressions they’d been playing since high school. They were very much a Scottish Green Day, the songs were simplistic and the delivery was crunchy and upfront. Despite the rather shallow content, the album had a lasting charm, and was a hell of a rookie debut. ‘Quiet Little Voices’ found some radio play and landed a spot on a handful of television shows, and critics were eagerly anticipating their next effort. Fast forward two years and the four-piece releases “In The Pit of the Stomach”. The tone was black, the themes were emotional, but the direction seemed subdued. Songs bubbled and frothed without boiling over, and one couldn’t help but feel like they missed the mark ever so slightly. Not to speak ill of either album, they both find heavy rotation on my iPod to this very day, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they hadn’t reached their full potential.

Enter ‘Unravelling’. From the first few notes of the album opener ‘Safety In Numbers’, the missing pieces come together. Stuart McGachan, longtime friend of the band, makes his appearance with the very first note. A wizard on the keys, multi-instrumentalist McGachan compliments WWPJ’s signature sound with an added element of atmosphere. Be it through subtle underlaying tones on ‘Peaks and Troughs’ and ‘Moral Compass’ or the more direct lead on ‘Ricochet’, his influence is palpable. Not to speak lightly about his bandmates; as practically every element of their sound has evolved with definitive prowess and direction. Lead singer Adam Thompson has long since abandoned his room-enveloping booms and swells and supplemented his spit-hit-your-face attitude for a more subtle and poised delivery. The rhythm section is on point the entire album, and Darren Lackie’s drums on the back end round out a group of incredibly talented and mature musicians.

There is a sense of certaintude and confidence that erupts from every breakdown and lead-in, a confidence that bristles and stretches through all 11 songs of the album. Opener ‘Safety in Numbers’ froths with anxiety and comfort issues, while ‘Peaks and Troughs’ traverses the rather awkward interactions of unexpected romantic obsession. For one brief moment, the narrator seems to lose all composure before quickly reeling in his desires. The build up is spine-tingling, followed by an explosive wave of sound that characterized their second album. There is some solid instrumental genius at play, as the endnotes drag out every last lingering emotion.

Composure seems to be a common theme of ‘Unravelling’, capped rather appropriately by their second single “I Keep It Composed”. Songs are incredibly diverse, representing a wide-variety of alt-rock/post-punk influences, without any of the tired cliches. Lyrically, the album is very emotional and introspective, but WWPJ manage to escape the rather limiting stigma attached to other acts labeled ‘emo-rock’. That in mind, bright moments are few and far between, ‘Peace of Mind’ comes across as a revenge plot masked by feigned surrender, only to lead into hard-hitter ‘Night Terror’ and the band’s all time low-point ‘Disconnecting’. But these punches and lows aren’t poor efforts, nay, quite the opposite. Picture Tyler Durden bloodied and laughing as Lou punches his teeth out. ‘Night Terror’ is gritty; the personification of sleep paralysis brought to life with pure rock and roll. You can almost hear hints of Queens of the Stone Age in the final few notes, a comparison that should not be taken lightly. In keeping with the dark themes, ‘Disconnecting’ is perhaps the biggest sonic experiment the band has ever undertaken. It starts like one of Maynard James Keenan’s eclectic Puscifer efforts, except ‘Disconnecting’ is completely on point; a true marvel of their atmospheric ability. If ‘Night Terror’ was the the prelude, ‘Disconnecting’ is the elaborate nightmare. A complete mental hurricane. Thompson switches rather hauntingly to falsetto, and the tension is unbearable. ‘Disconnecting’ is nothing like they’ve ever done before, and it’s absolutely brilliant.

The bell tolls on ‘Bright Minds’, the theatrical second half of the album. Another day begins fraught with the anguish of inner monologue. ‘Bright Minds’ is a shining example of the sonic diversity embraced by the band, and much like ‘Peaks and Troughs’, slowly builds to fantastical conflict. It’s perhaps one of the strongest efforts I’ve heard from rock music all decade; a hypnotic masterpiece that swells and breaks, with the final few notes comprising of some of the most beautiful and humbling strums I’ve ever heard. The bar is set rather unreasonably high once ‘A Part of It’ starts, and unfortunately it never gets a chance to breathe.

Clouds loom almost immediately over ‘Moral Compass’, a song destined for a beautifully cataclysmic disaster. The instruments drop out completely until Thompson is left in the eye of the storm, and the end result is a whirlwind. The craft here is legendary; overlaying downtempo progressions onto a song that could seemingly tear apart buildings with vigorous fervor. ‘Peace of Mind’ follows, a beacon of optimism and sunlight. Much like it’s predecessor ‘Sore Thumb’, it’s an instrumental adventure of pure bliss. A tribute to the band’s rather honed skill of attack and release; the tension mounts and bursts beautifully. Absolute inspiration. The culmination of all things glorious. Needless to say, ‘Peace of Mind’ is magnificent. The album could’ve ended there, and arguably should’ve, but there was some more imagery left for display with ‘Ricochet’. A rather blue note to end a rather black album, however another testament to the band’s newfound elasticity.

So what’s the verdict for ‘Unravelling’? My immediate impression was that it was the best rock album of the decade, and truthfully, it certainly belongs in the conversation. ‘Unravelling’ marks the complete evolution of WWPJ’s sound, the epitome of everything critics expected of them five years ago, and perhaps the kind of genre-defining music that could propel the band into mainstream fame. Relentless rock and roll. A series of controlled explosions. An organic expansion of the potential we all saw from their first two releases, and a steady effort that solidifies WWPJ as one of the best bands out there.

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For those of you in Europe, you can buy the album immediately, and for the rest of us chumps, you’ll have to wait till the 14th. You can stream the entire album early over at Stereogum.

Stay tuned for our interview to follow over the next few days. For now, grab a listen to their first two singles and hold your breath for the release on Tuesday.


Cayucas

“Is that a new Beck song?” I thought to myself the first time I heard the Cayucas. And while lead singer Zach Yudin might sound mildly like Beck at first listen, the Cayucas have a different modus operandi then Beck.

The Santa Monica three piece Cayucas (Pronounced “ky-yook-us”) captures sunshine and wraps it up in an indie rock box. They don’t take themselves as seriously as most indie rockers. They create a very tightly produced “loose” sound that just oozes leisure. They’re the type of guys who find the simple things in life to be epic.

Check out their latest single “Hight School Lover” below, and pick up their debut album Bigfoot off of Secretly Canadian now.

Cayucas – High School Lover

Cayucas – Cayucos


Indie International III

Welcome to Indie International, the semi-never piece that features indie artists of all stripes and sizes from all corners of our beautiful globe. These are bands and artists fresh off popping their cherries and baking their first batches of music. So without further adieu, here’s a spoon. Let’s dig in!

Phosphene

I’ve always been a sucker for the strong female alternative fuzzrock bands. Wye Oak and Twin Sister were my first modern soirees, and now someone new approaches to the dance. Phosphene is an indie rock quartet based out of Oakland, and they just released their first LP. The soundscapes are just the type of garage-based lo-fi I love, and call me a sucker but I bet they’d be downright charming to witness live. You can check out the full album here, and if you’re feeling like paying for a sandwich and a coffee they’re gladly accepting that same monetary value in exchange for the album. For now, satiate your appetites with my personal two favorites.

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Bass Lions

Already featured in Exclaim.ca, a music mag in Canada that nobody actually reads, Bass Lions is a Kitchener-based band making some absolutely eclectic tunes. For those of you who don’t know where Kitchener is, it’s a city just west enough of Toronto to be tragically downwind. But there’s no stench afoul in these gents tunes, unless of course you count the stench of sweat and radical. ‘We Got Guts’ is their first single off their upcoming album to be released on October 22nd, so give them a follow on soundcloud and patiently wait for more ear-candy.

(just kidding exclaim, I could use a job. You guys still pay in Goldfish Crackers right?)

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Allegories

In keeping with the themes of weird and Canadian, I present you, Allegories, and their single ‘Funny Way of Loving You”. The mysterious duo(?) sent me a rather cryptic set of emails, and although I was slightly mortified it certainly drew my attention. I have no idea whether or not they’re Canadian, but music like this tends to come out of the Winnipeg area (plus the video looks like our backyard). The song itself is a rather gorgeous soundscape of down-tempo electro-pop. Like if Moby hung out with Bono and both of them decided to make better music. It’s just the flavor for a hazy Wednesday night. Be sure to watch their rather haunting video included below.

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And that wraps up tonight’s edition of the Indie International! Would you like your music to be featured on the next installment? Send an email to jarrett@thenewlofi.com (me) and include a soundcloud link and a smiley face. Maybe you’ll tickle my fancy!


Fuzzworthy: Beach Season

How in the hell did I miss this? The self-proclaimed beachiest mother fucker in YYC and I don’t even notice when something this synthetically sexual surfaces? It’s been 7 months since Calgary native Beach Season released his single ‘Midnights <3', and this is one sandwich that never got soggy. 'Midnights <3' is fucking Wonderbread, pure chemicals infused together with a gooey paste, and the true definition of 'booty wave'. Wherever this fellow is, I tip my aviators in his direction.

Make sure to stay pasted Beach Season’s soundcloud page and be the first to hear the next sensational sesh. As an added bonus, peep his most recent remix of my favorite Friday night banger, “DnF”.