The rise and rise of JPL touring "We were a shithot band but complete zombies by the time it was over. Our minds had turned into the inside of a Travelodge room..."
Seeing Andrew Griswold's face reminded me of the great interview he did with Jamie B. JPL regarding touring. It seems to be dissertation season at the moment at Uni (you poor buggers) - so in the spirit of bequeathing information; I'll try to tag any Q&As I complete over the next few weeks with 'Handy For Dissertations' - check back.
We like contributing to your projects at college and Uni, the easiest way for us to do it is in electronic Q&A form. Please check the press archive on the official site to find out more about the label and consult the FAQ when compiling your Qs as they may have been asked before.
1. Cuckoo were signed to Geffen. Did this inspire you to take a more DIY approach with JPL?
The first Jetplane record was recorded on our own in my parents' garage. Andrew and I had been writing songs together and we wanted to record them. There was no way we could have afforded to get into any proper studio at the time. Also, I think that we felt that no record company would be at all interested in the two of us playing the kind of music that we were trying to make, looking the way that we did. We were pretty realistic about it. Maybe some of the Geffen stuff had wised us up to the real facts of how big record labels work. But I don't remember us ever having the conversation were we said let's do everything DIY.
Events just trickled forwards very slowly over the course of nearly two years from the point of being in my parents' garage to where Smalltown America started.
2. You've played most of the major festivals, had BBC and MTV airplay, been featured in Kerrang! etc. Did you always and do you still consider JPL to be a DIY band?
Jetplane Landing are a DIY band but not from an idealist stand point, more from a very practical position. That is to say: I don't think that we are DIY in the same vein as a band like Fugazi. A band like that chooses to work outside of the industry on a political and personal basis. Once you start appearing at festivals sponsored by huge beer companies, and on MTV, I don't think you are really working from the same stand point. You are now inside the corporate world anyway… only you're mainly there on your own. None of the big labels want you there because you are taking up space that one of their so called "signed" bands could have. Major labels still really run and feed the industry at a certain level; they still control most of the printed press for instance. Taking Jetplane into that world, sometimes, felt like we were completely out of our depth.
3. Do you feel there are any limits on what a DIY band can achieve without compromising its integrity?
As I said before, if you have a very clear personal agenda and you stick to it honestly then I don't think you will feel any loss of integrity at all. I guess the same goes if your only goal is to make loads of money and show off to the people you went to school with that you are now on the cover of the NME: if that happens, and that was what you wanted, how have you compromised any integrity? Ask Johnny Borrell, I bet he sleeps like a baby at night.
The biggest piece of advice I could give to any band starting out on the whole DIY route is that if you really want to make it work you will have to feed some of the money you make into the individual band memebers pockets, from the beginning. Even if the profits are small. For a band to function and stick together everyone has to be happy. And it's unrealistic to believe that your band are going to give up all of the time that is needed for touring etc, while not working, and to never make any money out of it. It puts too much strain on people and eventually they will drift away. So keep it small and share it out.
4. You completed a 60-date tour of the UK in 2003. How did that affect you mentally, physically and as a band unit? Any particularly memorable experiences, good or bad?
We were a shithot band but complete zombies by the time it was over. Our minds had turned into the inside of a Travelodge room... our eyes were two fried eggs from a motorway café... our hands were constantly frozen into the grip of a beer bottle - if we were drinking one or not. Every night, for weeks after the tour had finished, around stage time, say 10:30 p.m., our hearts would automatically start racing a little and we would start performing on our own in our front rooms.
5. Do you feel DIY touring is more or less feasible in 2008 than at previous times?
I booked our first tour. It wasn't too hard to do. I used the phone and sent out CDs.
But it worked in more or less the same way really as I imagine it would today: I approached it like a job; I just pestered the hell out of promoters and said we would take any slot, at any money, the first time around. I managed to string together ten or so shows. There you go: you're on tour.
6. Has the internet made it easier for bands to 'book their own lives'? Are there any downsides to this?
I can't see a downside at all. Bands aren't getting any worse because of it. More people are getting their stuff heard. It all seems like a much healthier way for people to find out about new music.
7. What do you remember of the dark days of band life before the internet?
Before the internet the big labels totally dominated. That was nuts because they could, or would, only sign very few new acts. It was like there was a door that swung open and when the room was full they said: "Thanks very much, that's all the good music we need right now." They were acting like there was a finite amount of talent and once they had bought their share of that then those left on the outside must not be deserving of their attention. It's great really how their elitist, close-minded approached has led to them heading to, what seems like, becoming defunct. I mean if you sign for a major these days you'd have to be kidding yourself that it was a good long-term move.
8. Do you feel the DIY 'revolution' has had a negative impact on quality control - i.e. too many bands, too many CDs?
Can you have too many bands? Too many CDs? You can press too many CD's and end up with them stored in a cupboard under the stairs, but I don't think you can have a limit on the number of bands. Everyone should be in one… even The Ting Tings.
9. In JPL's case, is the DIY approach purely out of necessity or a desire to maintain independence - or a combination of the two?
I feel like I am answering these questions with more or less the same answer every time. Sorry for my lack of imagination but when you do something like this people might just scan to one of your answers and judge everything you are saying by that answers… So, Jetplane's approach was more of a necessity. We have never been offered any money. We worked on our own because we wanted to make records and that seemed like the only way we could make them.
10. As JPL became busier and more successful in the early '00s did you find yourselves letting other people take over more responsibilities?
Yes. We eventually took on an agent for live bookings and our booking's became better and better. We paid people to plug our singles and videos and then people played our singles and videos more and more. We had help from a press agent and as a result all of our albums have been given reviews in the national press. The only real DIY element was that we controlled and worked with all of these people directly ourselves.
11. Are there any forerunners or current exponents of the DIY approach who you particularly admire?
Just before we made our second album I read a book about film maker John Cassavetes called, 'Cassavetes on Cassavetes'. It is the clearest and truest explanation of why you can get more satisfaction from working on things yourself – even if they aren't so big-time because of it. I personally believe that DIY is the only real approach that anyone can honestly take right now to making music, films, books, anything artistic. But that is probably why I have never made any money.
12. What's next for JPL? Has FWW's success had a negative or positive impact on the band's functionality?
We hope to record another album. The FWW thing has had a slight negative on Jetplane. Cahir is very, very busy right now. You can't go on tour with two bands at the sametime. But to be honest, Jetplane are very much up in the air all ways round. Still, we haven't split up.