Needless to say, these are weird and wonderful times. They are also extremely stressful for many, as the implications of COVID-19 insinuates its way into the hearts and souls of billions of humans on Planet Earth. But life goes on, as it must, and as it has evolved to. As always, our animalistic spirit shines through the desperation, fear and bewilderment. As the famous psychotherapist Carl Rogers observed, even the most malnourished and deprived plant will continue to strive towards growth and fulfilment. Is it any wonder that Keep Calm and Carry On is such an enduring mantra for the 21st century? Except that it’s now more Keep Calm, and less Carry On. Less going out, for instance. In fact, there is now no going out to see a show, a live gig, or festival. For musicians, along with everyone else, the times have changed, and no-one knows quite for sure if we’ll ever get back to anything approaching pre-CV (pre-Coronavirus).
It’s episode 2 of the Brightonsfinest Radio Show and presenter Jeff Hemmings has with him a tantalising treat of the best new tracks from the past month; including Feet, Bombay Bicycle Club, Girl Band, Sampa The Great and Bat For Lashes. Plus a brilliant interview with the fantastic Isle Of Wight creatives, Plastic Mermaids.
“We’re at our studio, working on some music today, the same place where we made our album. We’re working on a cover of a European band that are on the same label as us, a Dutch band called Pauw, a psychedelic proposition. They’ve done a cover of one of our songs. It’s like a musical exchange.”
So says William Rees, guitarist and founder of Mystery Jets, along with childhood friend Blaine Harrison, and Blaine’s Dad, Henry. Not only is there that rare combination of father and son in a band, but they’ve been making music ever since William and Blaine can remember, despite the fact that Blaine was born with spina bifida.
“We decided that we wouldn’t make my disability an issue, the same way we didn’t make a big deal of my dad (who whilst no longer performing with the band, is still involved with songwriting) being in the band,” Blaine has previously said. When you factor in the legendary Eel Pie Island, their home for many years, and the fact they recorded an EP with Aswad producer Nick Sykes before Blaine’s voice had even broken, the Mystery Jets story is a little bit different from your average meat and two veg rock band.
After plenty of messing about and development as musicians and writers, the band achieved notice beyond the oasis that is Eel Pie via both their legendary ‘The White Cross Revival’ parties and the release of their first singles and debut album Making Dens, which came out ten years ago in March. “We threw parties there because we couldn’t get booked in London, and actually didn’t want to get booked in London,” says William. “A lot of our friends were under-age and couldn’t get in, and when they did get in they’d be charged a lot of money on the door. It was like they were discouraging you from doing music. It was ridiculous. We thought ‘fuck that, we’ll do it here’. Have more fun with it. And we did.”
William then goes on to give me a potted history of Eel Pie Island, “Eel Pie Island is an island in the River Thames, in Twickenham, near Richmond. It was named Eel Pie Island because in the 1600s, Henry VIII used to stop off there on his way to Hampton Court to see Cardinal Wolsey, and eat eel pie. The island has always had inhabitants, but at some point someone moved onto the island and built a hotel, which also had a jazz club in it. That started life as a middle class holiday destination. It was all polite and nice and suburban. And then in the late 50s it went bankrupt and became derelict, but the jazz club remained and became a haunt for bohemians and beatniks; lots of young people would clamber over the foot bridge onto the island and dance the night away, and drink, and listen to jazz and smoke pot, or whatever. And then it became an R’n’B hotspot for bands like the early versions of The Rolling Stones, and John Mayall, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd and The Who. They all played there. So, it’s got this incredible musical legacy.