After meeting at high school in Edinburgh with a collective interest in contemporary indie music, four young bairns by the name of Adam Thompson (guitar/vocals), Sean Smith (bass), Michael Palmer (guitar) and Darren Lackie (drums) started We Were Promised Jetpacks – Fat Cat Records’ latest acquisition from the ever-burgeoning Scottish music scene.
On one of the finest days Glasgow has witnessed in 2009, I was joined by three-quarters of WWPJ in Adam, Sean and Michael. Rather than sitting in the sun kissed Botanic Gardens only five minutes walk away, we descended on the bands local, which also happened to be the West End’s finest old person’s pub, fully equipped with horse racing on the big screen.
After three-quarters of the band relocated to Glasgow for university, WWPJ began to tear the roofs from many of Glasgow’s finest little venues, slowly developing a hype that has landed the band where they stand now – on the cusp of a debut album release and a UK headlining tour to boot. WWPJ can now sit gleefully on Fat Cat’s increasingly impressive repertoire of Scottish talent (alongside friends Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad), albeit only following some friendly tip-offs and record label patience in abundance.
We Were Promised Jetpacks have a sound oh-so recognisable and is heavily influenced by a range of music dating back to bands youth. Debut album These Four Walls underpins the bands influence of late nineties Britpop, combined with the style of granduesque musicianship familiar with Mogwai and modern indie markers such as The Futureheads and Bloc Party. For an album recorded in just eight days, These Four Walls is undoubtedly something to be proud of, and looks sure to propel the band to greater heights. Recorded with Ken Thomas (Sigur Ros, David Bowie), the band conceded that the initial response to Thomas’s mixes was rather sceptical, which led to Peter Katis (Interpol, Frightened Rabbit), a close associate of Fat Cat, taking the reigns.
The concept of the debut album and the necessity to ‘nail it or else’, was something that was trailing through the inexperienced minds of the band, although they insist that the end product has been wholly worth it. “The recording of the album was both relaxing and stressful,” explains Adam. “The whole time we were there I was convinced that this was our one chance to get our first album right, and sometimes I felt we hadn’t prepared enough. Now we just can’t wait to go record the second album”
Not many bands are fortunate enough to find themselves in the position that We Were Promised Jetpacks ended up in, mainly due to the patience and commitment of Fat Cat Records. “When the deal with Fat Cat came up in April 2008, our drummer was in Germany studying for five months,” explains Adam. “The label wanted to see us live before we could go ahead with anything, which of course was impossible for a few months. We asked if it would be possible to hold it off and finish university, which the label was totally fine with.” The hype that began to develop about the band following the discussions with Fat Cat, as Sean explains, was possibly the bands best period in terms of generating a fan base. “When everybody heard about the Fat Cat thing, they couldn’t actually see us live for months,” he said. “We built up this snow-ball effect type following without really having to do any work whatsoever. It was odd, yet possibly our most successful period!”
Additionally, there are not many bands that, having yet to release any material at all, would get the chance to perform at SXSW (South by South-West Festival) in Austin, Texas with fellow Scots Primal Scream and Glasvegas, as well as a gig at New York’s infamous Bowery Ballroom. Having received praising reviews from publications such as The Fly and Vanity Fair, the band admitted that they often had to question whether everything was genuinely happening. “When I was standing tuning my guitar in New York, the thought of ‘what the hell are we doing here?’ hit me pretty hard,” explains Adam. “We had never released anything and we were playing this lovely big venue in New York. It was crazy.”
Prior to the discussions with Fat Cat and the recording of These Four Walls, the band developed an admiration and friendship with Scottish label counterparts Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad. Being two highly successful bands, WWPJ may find themselves often being compared to their labelmates, although this is something that they insist does not worry them. “People who say that we are a rip-off of these two bands don’t actually realise that we were listening to their music long before Fat Cat ever became involved,” says Adam. “Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad were major influences long before any of this happened. I honestly would not compare our sound to either of them.” Sean added: “Because we have so much personal respect for the two bands, had we to put an album out on any other label at any other time, we would have been aspiring to make it as good as them.”
These Four Walls is available to buy now on Fat Cat Records.