Wed, 26 Aug 2009 09:29:18
"I'm on West Broadway in New York City watching the weird and wonderful walk by," laughs JET drummer Chris Cester.
Is there a better way to prepare for a performance on the David Letterman Show? There most likely isn't.
JET just dropped their most epic and catchy offering yet, Shaka Rock. The record sees the Australian quartet evolving and growing immensely. JET are ready to take flight with an original sound that's as fun as it is fiery. However, these four young men also paint some quite poignant pictures during the album's more introspective moments, making for quite a rock n' roll ride.
As he sat outside on a busy New York day, Chris delved into Shaka Rock, why JET told the man to "eff" off, being seventeen again and, of course, whiskey in this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com.
Did you go into the album with one vision for the whole thing?
Yeah, "Fuck everybody!" [Laughs] We wanted to get off the conveyor belt, so to speak. The rock n' roll world can be like that at times, especially if you've had success early like we did. We really wanted to throw a big stunner in that big machine and take the control back. We left our record company and all of the other people that we're sort of hanging around us—for better or worse. Whether or not they were doing a good job, it didn't matter. Everyone had to leave and we had to get back to me, Nick, Cam and Mark. We also had to get away from our influences a little bit. We've always been sort of plagued by that. People would go, "Oh, this sounds like this" or "this sounds like that." Often, it's positive. We'd just decided that we'd come to a point in our career where we have momentum and we have to start getting away from that crap.
It feels like a very natural record. Would you say you're pouring a lot of emotion into songs like "Seventeen" and "Goodbye Hollywood?" What's the story behind those?
"Seventeen" is a lyric that I wrote, and "Goodbye Hollywood" was written by my brother Nic. It's funny that you picked them out. I think that those two songs are the most autobiographical songs that we've ever written. For "Seventeen," I had a moment. I was in New York putting songs together for the record. A friend had let me stay in this apartment that he was renting, and I went out to get some smokes. I came back some time later, and this seventeen-year-old girl and her boyfriend were there. I thought they were trying to get into my apartment with a key! It turned out that she was the landlord's daughter. I don't know what they were up to though [Laughs]. What started off as an autobiographical song changed at that point. I started looking at it through her eyes, and I started thinking about myself at seventeen and what I wanted. At 27, I'm here asking myself questions about whether or not I've achieved what I wanted—not financially or in terms of success, but in my soul and my life.
So it's a real introspective soul-searcher of a song?
Yeah, it is. But it's not introspective in a dreary way. I wanted it to be positive. I wanted to mark that time. I just wish I had the chance to look back at myself when I was 17 and tell myself that I was right about everything—not to worry and not to fret about things. The feelings that I had were fine. As a teenager, you can worry yourself to death. I want to go back and tell that kid that he's alright [Laughs].
It feels like you're really telling stories on Shaka Rock.
I think in the past we've done a lot of, "Oh yeah," "Hey Girl" and that sort of thing. We've gone around the world seven or eight times now. We've lived a really full life. We've had some extreme things happen to us in our personal lives and in the JET-sphere. We had a lot to say and we didn't have anyone older our shoulders this time telling us that our fans wouldn't understand it. We wanted to cut our own path and we had that freedom on this record because we produced it ourselves. It was extremely liberating, and it gives the whole world that we live in another face. In the past, you would feel trapped. Not with just the making of the record, but when you'd do interviews you're not as sure of yourself as you should be. But when you produce the record yourself and you're coming up with every single concept from head-to-toe, whether it be who you tour with to what the album cover art is going to look like, when you're in control like that, every single step of the journey is much easier because you believe in it and you put everything on the line for it. So it's really liberating.
It's a real stage-ready record too.
Man, it's funny. The guy who co-produced the record is a really good friend of ours named "Frenchie." He's showed me a couple records he's made since Shaka Rock and one of them is by this Australian band called The Art. He produced another young band too, and he did a really great job on those records. They sound phenomenal, but I keep asking myself the question, "Are they going to be able to do this live?" I really have my doubts about it. That's something we try really hard to honor. When we put a record out and people enjoy it and they want to buy a ticket to see JET play, we're going to give them that in the flesh. It was made with that in mind in a very live way. It was a lot of whiskey and a lot of good times—getting to know each other [Laughs].
That's how you're supposed to make a rock n' roll record!
That's exactly right, my man! You'd be amazed by the number of people that come out of the woodwork and tell you how to behave. When you have early success, it comes at you thick and hard. You go like a comet and then you crash like a comet. Then they all have ideas.
Well you were able to be yourselves and that's why this record works so well.
We had to create that space for ourselves though. I really feel for young bands. They're in a weird spot now where they sign a record deal and all of a sudden there's a company going, "We own your merch, we own this, we own that, we think you should make this kind of record…" They put them in a corner, which is terrible for art. It's terrible for civilization too. Where the fuck are we going with this? When does it end? How are you going to tell an artist how to behave? That's not "cricket," as we say in Australia.