by Alannah Wiliiams
A member down, and a foray into softer self-reflective songwriting, We Were Promised Jetpacks’ frontman, Adam Thompson, talks through the band’s new record, Enjoy The View, and the hope found in difficult times
Sharing a zoom call from apartments on opposite ends of the world has become a welcome ‘pastime’ of the COVID-19 pandemic. New York to Preston – 5530km, a 10-hour flight, a four-hour time difference, or just the opening of a laptop and the connection of wi-fi to bypass the distance and time.
Traversing via a Zoom call, I chatted with We Were Promised Jetpacks’ front-man, Adam Thompson, about their upcoming full-length offering, Enjoy The View.
Forming almost two decades ago, jumping through a handful of line-up changes and releasing a half dozen albums, We Were Promised Jetpacks are one of the forerunners in the Scottish music scene and it’s easy to see why. The current line-up consists of frontman Adam Thompson (vocals, guitar), Sean Smith (bass) and Darren Lackie (drums).
On the unique and intriguing band name, Thompson divulges that it was concocted by former band member, Michael Palmer, loosely coming from a caricature-based podcast. After briefly being called The Winkle Experience, the boys settled on We Were Promised Jetpacks, and although it’s not a name they grew to be particularly fond of – having made their decision based on memorability and wackiness – The Jetpacks were born, and they wouldn’t change it for the world.
Taking inspiration from the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro amongst other Scottish acts in their early formative years, their rock influences are ever present through their sonic meanderings that have garnered them a steady following of fans. Thompson lends an insight into their inspirations, noting that they’re all hard-working bands that take pride in their heritage and ‘sing in their natural accent; – something that artists often try to cover up.
WWPJ wouldn’t be the band they are today if they weren’t Scottish and I ask Thompson to comment on what he thinks the line-up would be like if they were from London instead, ‘I’d be wearing tighter trousers and leather jackets,” he jests, ‘being Scottish has definitely shaped the sound of our music and approach to being in a band for sure. It’s a funny little country, but I love it.’
With this new album, Thompson mentions that the band were looking to explore the softer side of their sonic maelstrom, slightly diverting away from the rock genre with a more in depth and dynamic listening experience. ‘Enjoy The View is an album that we made when I arrived back in the UK on the day that lockdown started in March last year. We planned to record the album that year after doing some more touring, but it became pretty apparent that we couldn’t do that,’ Thompson comments. ‘I feel lucky that we got to concentrate on the album for the entire length of lockdown up until now. It was a very strange time; I live in New York with my wife, and I don’t have my green card yet, so I was stuck in the UK. It was weird to be back home and not be able to see any friends or do anything, but it was really nice for me, Sean and Darren to work on it together – it kept us busy.’
Although the band found themselves in a creative whirlwind during the pandemic, it was also an incredibly brutal time for the trio. Being stranded in different countries and away from loved ones was a scary reality that rang all too true for the boys, but they got through it together by making music and expanding their musical catalogue. Not having to work their ‘day’ jobs meant that all their energy could be siphoned into Enjoy The View, and their sonic adventure has more than benefited from it.
At ten tracks long and sprinkled with positivity and themes of overcoming whatever life throws at you, the band hope that their listeners take heed of these messages and know that, despite difficult times, there’s a ‘way out and life can be good.’ The most recent single to be released from the album, If It Happens, just so happens to be Thompson’s favourite as it encompasses the themes of the entire record and ‘is like the vibe we were going for. It had every bit from the album in that song.’ Featuring insightful lyricism and wonderful instrumentation, If It Happens signifies a turning point for the band – a member down and writing tracks that are wildly introspective and self-reflective.
Talking on the rest of the album, Thompson notes that his other two personal favourites are What I Know Now and Blood, Sweat, Tears. With the latter running through themes of ‘not being too harsh on yourself,’ and stopping to take a look at how well you’re doing in the moment – Thompson expands that maybe ‘you wouldn’t have been so hard on yourself back when things were great.’
Despite their constantly changing line-up, the band have managed to focus their energy on creating new and exciting music, despite the hole they all feel after losing fourth member Michael Palmer. ‘It’s definitely weird for us, we’d always written songs, or finished sounds, the four of us. We all had our roles within the band so it’s definitely strange losing Michael, and I’m not too sure how it’s going to sound live yet – we haven’t had the chance to really rehearse it that much. But I think when we come to play Enjoy The View live, it will be pretty heavy, pretty rockin’.’ The Jetpacks are eager to continue as a trio with a touring member as it allows for flexibility without the musician feeling ‘the burden of being in the spotlight.’
With the end of the pandemic almost within reach, the band have a string of UK tour dates planned for the end of the year to support the release of their album. I asked Thompson how he felt about getting back on the road, and what it was that he missed most about the touring experience – ‘It’s strange to be in a band and not gig, the thing we’re meant to do, so I’m really excited to be doing something worthwhile. Obviously, we were told to “retrain” early in the pandemic, but we’ve stuck with music and I’m really looking forward to spending all day with my pals in a band and meeting all the lovely people that say nice things to us online and meeting them in real-life! I’ve missed going out for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a month; it’s so good – you get to try lots of different foods!’
Thompson concludes our chat with a message for the group’s fans. ‘You are all absolute legends. Take care of yourself and we will see you soon!’
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