SCOTTISH INIDE ROCKERS We Were Promised Jetpacks have somehow been both under the radar and spot on the radar since their 2009 debut album, These Four Walls. They emerged from Edinburgh at perhaps the tail end of a resurgence of interest in Scottish indie bands that peaked with the U.S. success of the great Frightened Rabbit, and also was responsible for the success of The Twilight Sad.
The Jetpacks has been an ever-evolving band from a musical sense, much like their peers and mentors Frightened Rabbit were prior to their disbandment in 2018 following the death of much-beloved singer/songwriter Scott Hutchison. In fact, the Jetpacks' first tour was a bus tour opening for Frightened Rabbit, and they garnered enough buzz from that experience that they've grown a substantial following in the U.K. and the U.S. ever since.
This all leads to their latest effort, Enjoy The View, which was released in September on the Big Scary Monsters label. It came amid a time of change within the band, and also blossomed during the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The record, lead singer and guitarist Adam Thompson tells us, was a "complete lockdown baby."
"We had a really good tour of the U.S. in Feburary of 2020, and then we'd planned another month's tour," he says, "so we were going to do some more touring. Touring had been sort of stop/start for us for a few years, just because of various different things. So were were wanting to hit the road more. But yeah, pretty much as soon as we realized that wasn't going to happen anytime soon, we thought we could use the time best to record an album."
On the very day that lockdown began in the U.K., Thompson said he flew home from the States so as not to get caught in a difficult situation with lockdowns and travel. His wife, who was living in the U.S., stayed, and they spent months apart from one another.
"So the world seemed huge just before that," he says. "It was definitely strange, but it gave me, Sean (Smith, bass) and Darren (Lackie, drums) a reason to chat daily, I would say."
They wrote songs and sent ideas back and forth before finally being able to convene to rehearse and hash out the material they'd compiled.
"This one was all done through GarageBand and sending each other projects and demoing that way. Definitely strange for us to demo songs and try and mix them and write them at the same time. So yeah, the whole process of this album was definitely different," he says. "It was definitely just, like, circumstance that dictated this album."
They managed to record the album together after restrictions eased, and had an unusual amount of time to work songs out in their rehearsal space. There was one glaring difference in the sound that was happening on the new songs—the departure of their guitarist Michael Palmer.
"It was very much a weird band in that we only wrote music together, and we had never really been in another band or written music with anyone else since were, like, 15 or 16 years old," Thompson says. "So that was odd straight away to not have the fourth person in the band that would add all of the atmosphere and details. In my mind, that was Mike's job when we'd write songs."
Not having the context of a four-piece band, Thompson says, still feels "strange" even though they've forged ahead with arguably some of the best work they've ever done.
"We got to a point where we'd jam together and we'd all move in unison. Without chatting. It's just something you can't recreate. It's years of going through things together, and years of conversation about what the band is to you," he says. "It's still ongoing."
Enjoy The View, Thompson says, is "basically our first go."
"We just decided, 'Hey, there's a worldwide pandemic going on. We don't know when we can get on tour again. We might as well just try and record an album,'" he says.
For the listener, the beauty of Enjoy The View is that it sounds like a band rediscovering itself, rather than a band trying to recreate something they'd done before with a slightly revised formula. For what they lacked in a lead guitarist, they gained in the ability to create soundscapes and melodies as a trio. And that, Thompson says, is was entirely the goal.
"With this album, it isn't, like, a 'coherent' album," he says.
"There are different styles and you can feel us feeling out things. But that was the point of it, I guess. To feel out different styles and say, 'What are we going to do next?'"
We Were Promised Jetpacks plays Savannah Stopover Music Festival on Saturday, March 12.