Radlands is the fourth full length record in six years for the English workhorse indie band Mystery Jets. A band often associated with love songs and pop melodies, the last two records’ titles alone, Twenty One and Serotonin, give the impression of uplifting and carefree music.
From this historical standpoint, it stands to reason that with a title like Radlands, Mystery Jets have once again released a record that leaves you with a spring in your step as you skip down the street whistling away. However, even though Mystery Jet vocalist and guitarist William Rees admits that the title may be a little in-joke, there is little fooling around on the new record.
“The house that we lived in in Austin, we christened it Radlands, and the reason for that is because it comes from Badlands (1973 Terrence Malick film) but also the house that Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones used to live in was called Redlands. So it’s kind of a combination of the two things, Badlands and Redlands and also in a way the film and the kind of roots-y music of The Rolling Stones were some of the main influences on the record. So it made perfect sense to call the album that,” Rees reveals.
Much like Badlands — the film, Radlands — the opening title track, centres on a doomed relationship between two people trying to escape from society. Dark and brooding with powerful lifts, the song not only demands attention for it’s gripping intensity but also the shift in direction the track represents both sonically and lyrically for Mystery Jets.
“I think we were reluctant to write another record that dealt with the same themes as the last three albums or at least the last record that we did. We knew that as a band in order to survive we needed to put ourselves in an environment where we can write about totally different… subject matter. That was a very conscious decision and it was a real concern because we didn’t want to write songs about relationships or girls or love or anything, we wanted to go and explore something unknown,” Rees admits.
“When we got to America in the beginning we didn’t quite know what that was going to be but very quickly it emerged that we should write about what was around us. When you go to American one of the things you notice is how religious it is and how people have beliefs and are quite open about that and are quite willing to talk about it and experiment with it even.”
A reoccurring theme throughout the record, Rees was confronted with the ideas of religion and spirituality before the band even touched down in the States to begin recording Radlands. A chance meeting during a flight led to the song Sister Everett and served to shape the record.
“Sister Everett was actually a nun who we met on the flight over to Texas. She was a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and she sat in front of us on the plane. She had a little name badge on her black suit that said Sister Everett and the minute I saw her name I knew that, that was going to be a song,” Rees claims.
“We got talking to her or rather she got talking to us and was basically trying to get us sign up as members of her church… the whole thing was very strange because religion, at least as far as I know it, is something quite private and personal and here was this woman who was treating it like it was a business venture. You get that in America a lot and that’s very odd.”
“Salvation is something that everyone can have and everyone can strive for and she was promoting it as if I could buy it; like it was a product. So it was just very funny and that was basically our introduction into Texas.”
Radlands also signals a new direction for Mystery Jets in regards to the band’s physical makeup. Although very much a part of the writing and recording process on the new record, bassist Kai Fish left the band shortly thereafter. His absence led to Mystery Jets expanding in size, furthering the band’s journey into the unknown.
“We were kind of scared that we were losing such an important part of the band,” Rees reflects.
“What we did instead is we didn’t replace him, we got two new musicians someone on the pedal steel and someone else on the bass. So the band now is bigger than it was and it looks different and sounds very different. Instead of dealing with the problem we just kind of changed the band, which felt like the best thing to do and also the most respectful thing to do for Kai.”
Mystery Jets Radlands is out now
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