Jet look back on their time as Australia’s biggest rock export of the 2000s
Thanks to it being mostly pre-social-media, the time between 2002 and 2006 now feels like a quaint throwback, where rock’n’roll, distressed denim, Italian boots, leather jackets, and guitars could be cool. You had to fight your way through gaggles of models at the Duke of Windsor, which was cool. There was also still a Duke of Windsor, which was cool. And Jet combined all those elements into somehow becoming one of the most hyped bands in the world. That was also pretty cool.
As you may recall, Jet — a couple of brothers from Dingley in Nic and Chris Cester, Nic’s high school best mate Cameron Muncey and knockabout bassist from Geelong, Mark Wilson — would go on to get signed, release an excellent EP, and be world–beaters on the back of this:
Yeah, nah. Couldn’t resist. It was actually this signature American sporting stadium soundtrack tune:
Jet’s first two albums — Get Born (2003) and Shine On (2006) — now feel like two time capsules from that not-so distant past, and both have just received the deluxe LP reissue treatment, with a hefty dose of B-sides, offcuts (oh shit, remember them!?), radio specials and live tracks. It’s also been announced that the band — whose last album was 2009’s Shaka Rock, last played a headline show in 2010, and broke up in 2012 amid a whole mess of acrimony — will support Bruce Springsteen on his 2017 Australian tour.
Listening to Get Born in 2016 is fun: it couldn’t sound more 2004 unless it was also quoting the final season of Friends and lining up for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It still sounds like a young rock band paying tribute to their love of AC/DC, the ‘Stones, the Beatles, the Easybeats and Oasis, and there are still amazing big dumb rock songs of the highest order (‘Take It Or Leave It’, ’Cold Hard Bitch’). The B-sides like ‘Hey Kids’ and ‘Sgt Major’ are fine, and the irony of ‘Rollover DJ’’s line of “you’ve been playing other people’s songs all night” remains unburnished. It’s a gleeful, lightweight throwback to when rock’n’roll could still be fun.
2016, though, isn’t as kind to Shine On, which somehow manages to be worse than you remember, and what you remember is probably a chimpanzee pissing into its own mouth.
Look. Shine On isn’t 0.0 worthy, but it does feel middling and muddled — simultaneously undercooked songwriting-wise, and overwrought production-wise. Going back to basics on ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ and ’Rip It Up’ worked, but otherwise it’s slow, ponderous and suffers largely from a lack of direction. And that’s understandable: the Cesters lost their father in late 2004 (prompting the heartfelt title-track), so you get that their focus was elsewhere. Some of the best, most charming moments comes from ramshackle deluxe edition offcuts like ‘Snap Your Fingers’, ’I Only Like You When I’m High’ and the prophetic ‘The Only Place Up From Here Is Down’.
Essentially, the biggest point you get from listening to the two reissues is that Get Born is largely forgotten for a record that sold something like 3.5 million copies… and still kinda kicks arse.
Anyway. Ahead of the reissues, FL spoke with songwriter-singer-drummer Chris Cester from his home in LA about life without Jet, and what it was like reliving the dizzying highs, terrifying lows and creamy middles of being in one of the world’s biggest rock bands, if only for a while…
FL: First up, the obvious one: you your other band DamnDogs going for a while, but what’ve you been doing for the past six years?
Chris Cester: Lots of stuff. I have a new band that I’ve been working on for the past couple of years with a long time collaborator and friend of mine, Louis Macklin, who was Jet’s keyboard player. We’ve been writing pretty much the whole time since we met back in 2009, when we were touring with Jet. We sorted of started working on this project way back then, or talking about it, then since the band broke up, we really got stuck into it. That’s what I’ve really been doing. Also producing a lot of bands, and I recently started doing some work in TV, with a good friend of mine Jason Hill, he was in Louis XIV: he’s doing a lot of music for guys like David Fincher and dudes like that, so I’ve collaborated on a couple of projects like that with him.
But mainly it’s the new band. Actually, we needed a name, I thought ‘who better to ask than Noel Gallagher?’ So I sent him a text, and the first thing he said was ‘Mystic Knights of Amnesia’ which is bloody ridiculous… but so ridiculous I think it’s awesome. It’s super off the wall; our first song is probably nine minutes long and it’s a little bit of an odyssey, but an interesting odyssey. Definitely not the kind of music that’s going to come out and be on everyone’s radars though.
Once it was official that Jet was over back in 2012, how have things been like for the four of you guys since?
I think Cam and I, and Mark and I, we don’t really have any problems: any real tension that I ever had in the band was usually associated with my brother. Over the last four years or so, we’ve just had an unspoken thing I guess, where we’ve just tried to not really talk about Jet at all, and just try to be brothers.
“That’s what I mean about taking me back, it’s like ‘Where was that? Where was that?’ and ‘All I can remember is that it was snowing’… probably inside and outside”
We wouldn’t talk about Jet — if we’d ever talk about music we’d talk about our new projects and I think that’s one of the ways that helped us get on with it, get back together, because we just had to break that cycle of disagreeing about everything and being in the same room every day of our lives and all that sort of stuff.
It’s been good to have a break, and just sort of become friends again… and now I couldn’t be more excited to be honest. I think we’ll be in a really different place, and we’ll probably be playing better than we ever have been, because we won’t be smashing ten tins before we go onstage. But then again we could be happy, so I have no idea. Who knows what could happen! But I’m excited.
Did you ever text Noel for any advice on how to deal with being in a band with your brother?
Nah. I wouldn’t know Noel well enough to do that. I only really talk to him about music things… but I do have a memory of him from when we were touring with them, and my girlfriend at the time going up to him and being like “Noel, Noel, you’ve got to give me advice, how do you date a musician?” And he was just like, “Patience and understanding.” And she was like, “Patience and understanding… Ooookayyyy.” And that was the only personal advice I think I ever heard him throw out.
The Get Born and Shine One reissues — listening to Get Born, my first reaction was thinking how familiar it sounded, then it was going ‘Jesus, what the fuck was I even doing in 2004?’ Did pulling this all together have a similar nostalgic effect on you?
The weird part for me was that our manager asked me to sit down and come up with some liner notes for the B-sides. And yeah, it really did take me back. To be honest, I didn’t expect that, and it took me a long time to do: I was sitting around the house for a couple of days thinking about how all these songs came together… and it was really difficult to remember because it was such a whirlwind four or five years…. It was mayhem, really, just mayhem, every day.
So I really had to dig deep to remember what happened, because there was a lot of good times, a lot of partying, a lot of like, “Geez, I can’t remember how that came together” sort of thing. For sure it took me back; just like it does any time I see a young rock’n’roll band.
Of which there’s not too many any more…
Well, how did the reissues come about, and what was it like going through the material?
Initially our manger put some things together, a package of old things, and we got involved from there, choosing what was good; one interesting thing was going through and realising there was so much stuff, and being kind of impressed with how creative we’d been at a time when we were on tour all the time. I don’t know if bands still do it like that… but a lot of these B-sides and things happened because of the success of the record caught up with us so quickly and caught on like a wildfire… and then suddenly we’d get phone calls, like we’d be on the bus in Colorado and they’d be like “You need two new songs for the Japanese release! and we need them next week!” And then you’d be in a studio somewhere in the middle of America, then you’re back in the tour van straight after that night. That’s what I mean about taking me back, it’s like “Where was that? Where was that?” and “All I can remember is that it was snowing”… probably inside and outside [laughs].
Did you find anything in there that surprised you, in terms of its quality? Like, ‘Oh shit, looking back, this is really good’?
Yeah, particularly on the Shine On stuff; the Get Born extra stuff happened in a crunch, we had to put shit together really quickly, but with Shine On, we took a long time to make that record, so there was a lot of material we wrote for it, there was so much more stuff. So therefore the B-sides were probably stronger because we had more time to do them.
We also had this one amazing time in Barbados, doing a photo shoot, and we’d been on tour forever and so we were like “No, nah nah nah, we need to have a break” as we were just about ready to keel over pretty much. So after we said no a bunch of times, they basically made us a crazy offer… and we said “Well, if you can get all of our girlfriends there, and ensure there’s a bunch of recording equipment in the house so we can be doing something other than just standing there with cool clothes on” … and they agreed to everything.
So we found ourselves in Barbados in this mansion, basically, and just drinking rum cocktails and making music… and it was kinda outdoor, like the back patio where the studio was set up was open to the elements, so you could hear the beach in between the takes and stuff. And, ah, it was probably the last time where we were all super excited to be together and making music, and some of the B-sides came out of that, like ‘I Only Like You When You’re High’ and ‘Janie Jones’ and stuff. So the Shine On stuff is probably stronger
Jesus. That sounds like your Happy Mondays moment; just without heroin and crashed cars…
Oh! Thats very good — y’know what, a ton of the stuff we hired came from the same place! From when they went there and made a record; it was the same island! Some of the stuff we were using was from the same studio. Happy Mondays went out there and I think they just got wild.
Looking back further, that early-‘00s rock resurgence now kinda feels a frozen moment in time… it feels like one of the last times bands were getting signed or getting massive without it being mostly or even purely internet driven.
Yeah, that’s a good point. You’re right, it feels like it was a million years… but it wasn’t! And it just shows you how fast things move these days. I was just talking about how ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ was on that iPod commercial, and iPods were brand new! And I found my old iPod from 2002 the other day and it’s like, even within the last 10 years the way we listen and relate to music has changed so much… Now we can do anything from our phone, and i remember when a text message used to take five minutes to type, now you just think about what you want to type and it’s there… that’s the next step, telepathy.
The other odd part is how Jet were criticised — or at least looked at askance — for having ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ be in an iPod commercial. That commerciality wasn’t really accepted, right? There was still kinda that ‘don’t sell out’ ideal floating around… and now having a song in a TV commercial is basically the best way to create a lasting career as a band…
I know! it’s funny. At the time when it came up, if you can believe it, we thought maybe we should say “No”, because it’s like “Maybe everyone will hate us for this”. I guess we were still clinging to that ideal, as well, but ultimately we decided to do it thinking ‘Well, this is probably going to be our best shot at getting massive exposure for our music’. And it worked. It worked. But you’re right, it’s different now; bands get on car commercials and whatnot now and it’s “Congratulations” and “That’s amazing”… so that’s just the internet imprint, because what happens now when you get on TV is this mass exposure you can’t get, or buy.
You were also super successful and touring and famous in a time before social media really took hold: what was your best ‘golden god’ moment?
Oh god, there were a few of those [laughs]. There is one thing that came into my mind, as I was just telling this story last night to a friend of mine, who asked me how my brother met his wife, and I remember that night well, because it was pretty funny and it got pretty decadent… We headlined a festival in Western Australia, and my brother’s now-wife was playing for the Australian netball team or something like that. So they were all in town and staying at the same hotel as us; we played the festival, and went back to someone’s room and were throwing furniture off the balcony into the car park, over this line of cars, being absolute loon bags… and our manager was sat there with his head in his hands going ‘”Oh my god”.
There was a knock on the door eventually and she was there with the security from the hotel, because the security had gone looking for the culprits and they’d gone into the netball room, who were like, “Ah, maybe you should try the rock band upstairs: I’ll show you”, so she came up, and that’s how she met my brother! They’re still together… But things like that, I dunno, I guess they happened from time to time
Right. 2016 Chris Cester can talk to 2003 Chris Cester: what does he tell him?
Probably, “Take your time”. If there’s one regret I have about how we did things in the band, is that we never stopped for a second and thought about anything, we just did it. And I think a certain element of that impulsiveness that can be helpful for music and your creative process, but then y’know, other times when we didn’t know what to do, we’d just drive ahead. And sometimes that wasn’t the right thing to do. I’m really proud of our second record, but it was really hard to make, and ultimately if I could go back I’d tell myself to wait and just “Take your time and let it come to you instead of chasing after it”.
And to not pay too much attention to monkey–pissing reviews…
Haha. You can’t avoid that. There’s always going to be some guy in a shit band somewhere who writes for a magazine.
And every single one of them would love to tour with Bruce Springsteen…
Yeah! Thanks – I’m looking forward to that massively, I can’t wait.
Jet are reforming for the below Bruce Springsteen tour dates, along with their own headline shows. Get Born and Shine On reissues are out now.
Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band Summer ’17 tour with support from Jet
Thursday February 2 – AAMI Park, Melbourne VIC
Saturday February 4 – AAMI Park, Melbourne VIC
Saturday February 11 – Hanging Rock, Mt Macedon VIC
Saturday February 18 – Hope Estate, Hunter Valley NSW
Jet headline shows 2017
Tuesday January 31 – The Gasometer, Melbourne VIC
Thursday February 16 – Taronga Zoo, Sydney NSW
Sunday February 19 – Taronga Zoo, Sydney NSW