Having just released their third album, Unravelling, We Were promised Jetpacks are heading out on tour across America. Before they went, 17 Seconds caught up with guitarist Michael ‘Mike’ Palmer, to hear about being mates with the Twilight Sad, people getting married at their gigs, and how their dream collaboration is Dr. Dre…
17 Seconds: First things first, how the devil are you?
Mike: Pretty good! I have a few days off between tours and have decided to spend this time moving flats, so I lied just there about being pretty good for the sake of politeness.
17 Seconds: You’ve got a new member for this album, Stuart McGachan. How did you meet, and what prompted you to change the line-up after ten years?
Mike: He’s been our pal for years. Me and Adam [Thompson, singer and guitarist] were in primary school together and Stuart was in a different class in the same school year. Adam and Stuart’s parents live on the same street pretty much, so he’s been a pal since always. We decided we need to shake things up a little, so we got Stuart in because he’s good at playing keys. We’d been playing the same live show for years and were just starting to write the songs that are on Unravelling. So we felt that we needed someone who could play the keyboard parts from the first two records live. We also felt we could use another voice in the room when we’re writing to make sure we weren’t treading the same ground as before. Bringing in Stuart ended up solving both of those issues.
17 Seconds: You recorded Unravelling with Paul Savage at Chem 19, having used Sigur Ros’ studio for In The Pit Of The Stomach. What prompted you to work with him and how did it affect how you approached this album?
Mike: We knew we wanted to record in Scotland, at home, with regular hours. We didn’t want to lock ourselves somewhere far away and work 20 hour days like we have done in the past. We wanted to go in to the studio in the mornings, and work until a specific time, then go home to our girlfriends in our own homes. So, once we figured out we wanted to work in Scotland, it just made sense to work with Paul. He’s fantastic. We did a lot of pre-production work with our guy Andy Bush (our live engineer who we recorded In The Pit Of The Stomach with) so we had his input for a lot of the songs, so once we took on Paul’s input as well we felt really confident that the songs would work.
17 Seconds: The sleeve for Unravelling…are we meant to see something if we stare at it long enough – or is the joke on those of us trying to read too much into it?
Mike: You mean aside from the face? There’s a face in there that you’re supposed to see! Other than that there’s nothing extra. Other than the big face. [NB For the record, 17 Seconds can see the face. Just about.]
17 Seconds: In your early days you toured with Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. Do you still see them -and what do you think of their recent albums?
Mike: We do! In fact, we’re taking the Twilight Sad on tour with us in America in a few days! We can’t wait. We love those guys. We’re a little nervous about playing after them to be honest, but it’ll be great fun. I love everything those bands have done. I’ve still not heard the newest twilight sad album actually [Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave]. You’d think that being on the same label would mean you get to hear it early, but I’ve still not. I’m thinking now I might wait and see the new songs fresh on the tour, or I might send James [Graham, the Twilight Sad’s vocalist] an email and get him to send it to me. I haven’t decided yet. I bet it’s amazing though. [For the record, 17 Seconds has – and it is amazing.)
17 Seconds: What new acts have you heard recently that you would recommend people check out?
Mike: Pronto Mama and Man Of Moon. Both scottish bands. Man Of Moon haven’t recorded anything yet so keep your ears peeled, but Pronto Mama have two bangin’ eps out that you should definitely seek out. [for the record, these are Lickety Split and Niche Market, which you can check out via bandcamp.]
17 Seconds: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a gig?
Mike: Hmmm. A couple got married during our LA show once, but we weren’t really aware of what was going on until afterwards. We had a run of shows where people kept coming onto the stage. It was seriously like five in a row or something. Why would you do that? They got kicked off right away, but it was still a little scary. What if they stand on a pedal or knock my drink over? That would be a nightmare!
17 Seconds: It’s now ten years since We Were Promised Jetpacks formed. What are you most proud of as a band in that time?
Mike: The old answer used to be playing Coachella. That was incredible. Then recently we headlined Webster Hall in New York which was our biggest ever headline show. Playing to that many people who had actually paid money to buy a ticket was special, but the new answer is Unravelling. Our new album is the thing we’re most proud of. I know that’s a shitty answer but you’re all just going to have to live with it.
17 Seconds: Who would be your dream collaboration, either to work with as individual members or as a whole band?
Mike: Dre. we’d like to have been on 2001, but it’s too late for that. Maybe he’ll do a guest verse on our next album. We’d have to ask him nicely enough and have a song about running away from the police or something, but that’s not out of the question, I suppose.
17 Seconds: Finally, what ambitions do you still have to fulfill as a band?
Mike: We’d like to keep doing this. We don’t have a bucket list of things to achieve, really. We just want to keep writing and playing with this band. It’s not polite to talk about money, but we’d like to have enough that we can keep doing this when we’re in our thirties and not be embarrassed to tell normal people that we get drunk on tour for a living. That’s it, really!
Unravelling is out now on Fat Cat.