JPL's Andrew Talks To 'The Event'
Jetplane Landing are a band at the forefront of what could well be a rock and roll revolution. The Event caught up with voluble and verbose frontman Andrew Ferris to find out more...
"We're so emo, it hurts. I could just cry!" Such are the words, simultaneously honest and tongue-in-cheek, of Andrew Ferris, frontman of underground indie-rock outfit Jetplane Landing, as he attempts to explain about his band, their sound and their ideologies. But emo is a term that is used far too freely - too many bands are termed emo without anybody actually knowing what emo is or what it sounds like. It's just a bad, abstract, non-specific label, isn't it?
"Emo to me...immediately makes me think of an angular guitar sound and a punky vitriolic resonance, and it also has a sort of socio-political kind of thing, an all-inclusiveness. That to me is what emo is. Of course, if you're to categorize all music as it is, all art is emotional and that's the standard response, so therefore all bands are emo. David Gray is an emo artist, Suede are, but I think that in my sense, in my viewpoint, we are thoroughly emo, because that's where we come from, that's where our roots are ...The Lapse, Bitchmagnet, Shellac, Big Black, Fugazi, Embrace [the US band], Rites of Spring, all these bands are big influences on how we sound and also big influences on how we think."
And that's that. And despite my convictions to the contrary, it makes sense. But then, everything that Andrew says makes sense - he is articulate and intelligent and he knows exactly what he is talking about, especially when it comes to music. While still a teenager doing A-levels in his hometown of Derry, Northern Ireland, his band Cuckoo were signed to Geffen.
"It was," Andrew admits, "like a too-good-to-be-true kind of thing." But Cuckoo split up and were dropped from the label. Andrew moved to London with Cuckoo's bass player, Jamie, where they continued to write songs, and were joined by Jamie's brother Raife on drums. Before they knew what was happening, they had built a studio, started recording an album, and had toured with the likes of Seafood and Hundred Reasons. They set up their own label, Smalltown America, self-released their brilliant debut album Zero for Conduct, gained a fourth member, additional guitarist Cahir, and have continued to grow in popularity on the underground circuit, all the while maintaining complete control over everything they do. So is this, in a way, the beginning of an underground revolution and rebellion in the way music is made?
"Totally. Not even in a way. We're DIY as fuck. We do everything ourselves - we drive ourselves, we set up our own shit, we run our own label, we press our own t-shirts, we run our own website, we print our own posters. We've got a huge team...you need people to help make your dream come true. Smalltown America has twelve part-time staff who all volunteer their services and that's what allows us to do it. So it's not just about us, and, yes, there is a change and we've seen a change in attitude and that's really encouraging."
Was this a reaction to what happened with Geffen? Did they put you off major labels? "Good question. Possibly. I'd like to think that I always felt like that. But it was great and I loved it. I met lots of really intelligent people who were really influential over what I do now. But, in the end, I didn't like faxes telling me which single was coming out when. I wanted those choices myself and so that's what the label allows us to do." Clearly, freedom and control are important concepts for Andrew, central not only his music, but to his life as well. "Philosophically," he explains, "we wanted complete control over what we want to do. Every band says that, but it's the way we live our entire lives - we do everything to suit us and try not to please anyone but ourselves." It is impossible not to respect this ethos. Yes, Jetplane Landing have to work hard, especially without the financial backing of a major label, but they have an incredible connection with their increasing number of loyal fans, spending time to talk with them both before and after the show, and inviting them onstage during the gig. If anything, the band seems to revere the fans more than the fans revere the band, something that probably wouldn't happen if the band were signed to a major label. The band need the fans as much as the fans need the band and there is a wonderful sense of mutual respect.
"The thing that propels us is our fans. They are incredible and it blows you away. It would be fantastic if we had a bit more support monetarily, for reasons that we could bring our message and what we're doing to more people, but only for that reason, so we could tour in Europe and America when we'd like to. Things unfortunately take Jetplane Landing twice as long as they take Biffy Clyro or Hell Is For Heroes, although it's a struggle for those bands as well. But things take us six months instead of three, and that's a frustration. But the rewards more than make up for that." The fans are rewarded heavily as well. Both live and on record, Jetplane Landing are a force to be reckoned with. Loud, emotive, hard-hitting, inspiring and damn good, they've certainly hit the right target with regards to their music. As for the rebellion, it's going to take a little longer, because there's a long way to go. But if there is a revolution in the way the music industry is run - and there certainly needs to be - it is guaranteed that Jetplane Landing will be at the forefront of it, because, both with their music and their lifestyle, they can certainly affect a change, and inspire others to do the same.
"If there's one message we have," concludes Andrew, "it's not do-it-yourself, because that's so clichéd. It's do it now. If anyone draws any inspiration from what we do, it's that I was lost in the wilderness, an ambling songwriter for about four years, and I had no fucking clue what I was doing. But all of a sudden, one day it clicked, and I was filled with this sense of 'I've got to do this now.' And so whenever something feels right, no matter what the cost, don't even question it, just do it. That's the path to being really happy, because I am, and we are, and it's really cool."
Who can argue with that?
- Mischa Pearlman, Concrete #142
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