Sure, Seattle’s Jetman Jet Team wears its shoegazing noise-pop influences on its proverbial sleeve—after all, the group drew attention for covering a song off the new My Bloody Valentine album within a day of its long-awaited release. However, Jetman Jet Team doesn’t so much follow in the footsteps of forerunners like MBV and the Jesus & Mary Chain, but is starting to go on its own space-rock explorations, which are surprisingly meticulous and rich for a band on its debut effort: Indeed, what comes through on We Will Live the Space Age is Jetman Jet Team’s deft hand with various tones and textures, moving effortlessly from ethereal melodies to dense drone, from a pop sensibility to experimental daring. PopMatters checked in with Jetman Jet Team’s Miguel Diaz and Brenan Chambers on the eve of releasing We Will Live the Space Age to find out more about the roots of the band, how the MBV cover came together so quickly, and whether they’d rather be get kudos from Kevin Shields or from Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, who called the band’s music “very beautiful”. PopMatters is pleased to share the premiere of We Will Live the Space Age, out this week on Saint Marie Records.
PopMatters: In an earlier incarnation, Jetman Jet Team was known as the Pop Eccentric. What was behind the new name when the core of the band got back together again? How does the name Jetman Jet Team represent your music better, if it does?
Miguel Diaz: I started the Pop Eccentric in 2007, it was some material I recorded, and that’s where the whole Jet Team started from. Brenan and Quin [Dickinson], I met through a friend, and I had my music up online on MySpace when that was all popular. Brenan liked the tracks and wanted to help me play them live. So then we played some shows in Spokane. A year or so later, we parted ways, members moved, and that was it. A few years later, after all that time went by, I started chatting with Brenan again about music. Some music collaborations through the Internet and—BAM!—Jetman Jet Team.
I think everyone in the band thought of the Pop Eccentric as being MY band, so Jetman Jet Team seemed a better fit for us as a group with multiple songwriters.
Brenan Chambers: The name came about after a friend with really terrible eyesight tried to read a bumper sticker that read “Vietnam Veteran.” It was funny, and I always thought the name sort of reminded me of a Japanese Power Rangers-type television show.
PopMatters: Speaking of fitting names, We Will Live the Space Age seems like an appropriate title for your album. Your sound is at once forward-looking, but still familiar—how do you balance these two impulses in your music?
Miguel Diaz: Our sound kinda just works out that way. We all want to make something that sounds fresh, and I think everyone in the band adds their [own] little sound, and we naturally just end up sounding that way.
Brenan Chambers: The familiar, older sounds are a sort of starting off point, but eventually curiosity leads us to try new things and throw in different textures or techniques. It’s all just a sort of an experiment to find something interesting. When we first started recording “Cosmic Age”, we started to realize that the power and atmosphere behind the song made us think of a mission to space. We liked that and decided to just sort of run with the concept for the whole album.
PopMatters: Certainly, the easiest way to describe your approach would be “shoegazer”, but We Will Live the Space Age stands out because it’s made up of a lot of diverse tones, textures, and tempos. While you seem to have the shoegazer formula down pat, how do challenge yourselves to push yourself in new and different directions?
Miguel Diaz: We don’t place ourselves in any genre really. We don’t want to be stuck in any particular sound, and I think looking at our music that way, we open up for any ideas that can arrive when we’re recording or writing. Also, we hate sounding like any other bands, so we always strive for novel approaches in production and fresh songwriting.
Brenan Chambers: I really enjoy the production side of the music, and it’s generally what I pay attention to most when I listen to new stuff. I’ve got a notebook where I write down interesting sounds, techniques, atmospheres, and mixing choices I hear in music. I then can use these as an inspiration when working on a track. If I get stuck or the production is sounding dull, I’ll throw something in that I’ve picked up along the way. Having a varied soundscape keeps the album from stagnating, I think.
PopMatters: You gained some attention earlier this year by covering “New You” from m b v the day after the new My Bloody Valentine album came out. How were you able to cover the song so quickly? And was the wait for m b v worth it?
Miguel Diaz: I kind of did it on a whim. I heard the song, and heard in my head parts I wanted in it that weren’t there in the original, so I decided to cover it myself. You can also thank 21st century recording technology. It’s funny, the m b v album didn’t really get under my skin until just recently, but damn, it’s a fucking great album. Well worth the wait.
PopMatters: While we’re on the subject of prominent influences, your press kit features a quote from Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier describing your music as “very beautiful”, which must have been flattering to hear. But here’s a tough question: What would be the bigger thrill, Kevin Shields giving you a thumb’s up for your cover of “New You” or the praise from Laetitia Sadier?
Miguel Diaz: If it was praise from either/or, Kevin Shields made a huge impression on my guitar style, so I’d have to go for Kevin. But hearing approval from a member of one of my favorite bands of all time, Stereolab, it feels really good. I would rather Kevin enjoy our actual music though, rather than just a cover.
Brenan Chambers: Kevin seems like he’s not very vocal publicly, so it would be pretty impressive if he even acknowledged our existence.
PopMatters: What do you have planned now that you’ve released your debut album? And does 2013 count as the space age?
Brenan Chambers: The record originally just started out as a few songs we felt like recording for fun, but over a period of a few years, we ended up getting a band together, there was a slow migration from one city to another, members have come and gone, and this is our last month in our “band house” with our practice space. So, this album coming out feels like the end of a chapter, but I’m really excited to start a new one. Another album will definitely happen.
We’re planning a west coast tour right now for this summer, which should be a lot of fun. We’ve got two LP-length EPs that we’d eventually like to get out on 10” vinyl, but until that happens, we’ll just keep writing and recording. I really get the most excited about recording and mixing new songs. It’s like solving a puzzle that you’ve made yourself. Really fun.
Miguel Diaz: And as far as the space age goes, once Jetman Jet Team gets into outer space, we’ll be a part of the space age.