Jet specializes in classic swaggering, blues-based rock `n’ roll, and the Australian four-piece brazenly wears its influences on its sleeve—from its name, which is the title of a Paul McCartney song, to the name of its debut disc, 2003’s “Get Born,” which alludes to the lyric of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
But Jet’s flight path into U.S. pop consciousness came in a most untraditional way - when the song “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” became the theme for Apple Corp.‘s iPod commercials.
If that wasn’t incongruous enough, the band’s sophomore disc, “Shine On,” released last October, showed a more melodic side, with slower, more reflective songs such as the title track—a tribute to the late father of vocalist Nic Cester and his drummer-brother Chris.
Jet even has a song, “Fallen Star,” in the new summer blockbuster film “Spider-Man 3.”
Such incongruities might get critics in a lather, but singer-guitarist Cameron Wilson says he is unconcerned.
“Journalists and their reflections on what is music and what it means, their trying to report on all the eddys and currents that they see, I got no time for that (stuff),” Wilson says with a laugh from Jet’s tour bus.
“I just want to play music, and so we sort of ignore all of that crap. It’s just distracting, to be honest with you.”
Besides, says Wilson in a thick Aussie accent, this is the same media that took Jet to task for “Get Born,” saying the sound was so derivative of bands such as the Rolling Stones and The Faces that it virtually copied them.
“I don’t take much stock from it, really,” Wilson says. “I mean, it’s an easy thing to say. Everything comes from somewhere, you know? We’re all standing on shoulders. Obviously our influences are out there. It’s just the rock `n’ roll that we like to hear.
“To me it’s more about authenticity than originality. You know, I think you always have time to do something new, but at the time we were just ... jazzed by loud guitars and great dance-y bass behind them and it’s four guys in a room playing music and loving it.”
The best argument against criticism is success, and Jet has had its share.
“Get Born” sold nearly 4 million copies worldwide, winning the band an opening slot on the Stones’ 2003 tour.
After “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” the band hit No. 3 on U.S. Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts with the Oasis-influenced “Look What You’ve Done,” then topped those charts with “Cold Hard Bitch,” which benefited from being used in the season premiere of the TV show “Alias.”
Sales aren’t the only measure of success. Media reports in February had Nic Cester dating actress Kate Hudson, although Wilson laughs at the report. “That’s bull,” he says. “We know Kate. We met her through her ex-husband, Chris Robinson (of The Black Crowes). We went to one of their shows. We’re friends with Chris and Kate. Naah, that’s all a crock.”
For all the success Jet had with its debut, it took the band three years to release “Shine On.” Wilson says the band was busy touring and that Nic Cester had a bout with voice nodules (he’s “better than ever,” Wilson says). And then the band had to face the Cester brothers’ father dying of cancer at 45.
“Looking back, we went to record the new record, and I don’t think we were ready,” he says. “Writing music, doing it so quickly after the death of their father, I know that Nick especially felt like he didn’t really want to deal with that yet, needed more time.”
Once the band was able to focus, “it all came pretty easy,” Wilson says, noting that the 15 tracks on “Shine On” were culled from about 40 songs.
The songs reflect the mood of the band at the time, Wilson says. “It was a reflective period and it was a sort of a moment when we took stock and began all over again, and we had to do it differently than the first time,” he explains. “You know, you never get to relive that first beginning, so you have to create the difficult second record. The first one just sort of happens and the second one you have to, eh, it takes a little bit more reflection.”
While it’s not the hit “Get Born” was, “Shine On’s” title track reached the Top 30 and the song “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” was a Top 10 Modern Rock hit that also benefited from an ad campaign, Verizon Wireless’ new music phone, the Chocolate.
Wilson says band members still remember the difference the iPod ad made. “I couldn’t really tell what would have happened if we hadn’t had done it,” he says.
“Are You Gonna Be My Girl” was a hit in the UK, but initially foundered in the United States.
“Our video was brilliant, it was new, and we were sort of like a bit confused,” he says. “And then this iPod thing came, and we were a bit skeptical. We were like, `Eh, an advertisement? What?’ And the money wasn’t even there; it wasn’t really paying us anything.
“But I think they had a sort of inkling about how big it was going to be and in a way, one of the clinchers was their ad looked sort of like our video. It was really strange, everything lining up like that.
“And I’m like, well, if we were in like the 1920s and someone said, `Listen, I’ve got this way of playing people’s music, it’s called a record and it’s vinyl, would you help me push this, I think it’s going to be good for music,’ I would have said yes then. So it’s like, `Yeah, let’s do it.’
“Everything lined up and it worked. It worked really damn well. Everybody knows that song now. ... You know, everybody has a freakin’ iPod. I even have one.”