We Were Promised Jetpacks

We Were Promised Jetpacks: big finish. (Photo courtesy wwpj / April 12, 2012)

In We Were Promised Jetpacks, Adam Thompson makes a decisive, powerful presence. The front man of the fresh-faced Edinburgh, Scotland-rooted band sings about emotionally messy situations — hardly an original lyrical tack, mind you — in a way that provides maximum impact.

A great instance of this skill at work comes via "It's Thunder and It's Lightning" from Jetpacks' 2009's debut These Four Walls. The song starts with a dreary guitar line that occasionally lets a bit of light in, and Thompson begins a tale of kind, quaint courtship ("Right foot, followed by a left foot/We'll guide you home before your curfew and into your bed"). "It's Thunder" takes its sweet time building, gradually accelerating the pace as its vocalist considers the idea that maybe he's seriously invested in this potential romance. As he sings, Thompson spaces out his words as if he's contemplating the best phrases and delivery as the track is in progress. When the song grows faster, more determined, more violent, more everything, he lets loose. "Your body was black and blue," he says and then repeats, eventually howling his words as the instruments howl, too. "It's Thunder" eventually graduates into a display of 100,000 fireworks exploding at once. Thompson's heart-on-his-tongue vocal style perfectly matches the thrilling crescendos that are Jetpacks' forte.

Thompson the interviewee, on the other hand, is a different person. He's good-natured but shy, sounding like someone who prefers running with instinctual creativity over thinking about what those instincts mean. During our short interview, most of his answers begin with "I don't know" or some variation thereof, and when he says that phrase, he sounds both bewildered by the idea of thinking deeply about his songs and like he doesn't want to seem anything but modest.

When we discuss how Jetpacks played their first show around 2004 at their high school's battle of the bands (and won the competition) — an origin that's been repeated in press releases and interviews — Thompson casually notes that the story wasn't really anything at all. "A few bands from our school played in the dinner hall. [The competition] was judged by a crazy teacher," he says. "It was nothing glamorous." Well, seeing as they only had three songs, Jetpacks beat eight other bands, so what was special about them? "I have no idea. I'm not sure," he says. Talking about the group's early influences (Biffy Clyro, the Strokes, Kings of Leon) yields similarly nondescript material. Even though he calls his band's approach "special" and "unique" at one point, he also says, "We're pretty basic and I don't particularly care about sounding different or unique. We just write what we write and don't think of it too much."

Moreover, "It's Thunder" sadly isn't driven by a juicy real-life scenario ("The good thing about writing songs is that you can just make shit up"), and Thompson prefers the crescendo over the verse-chorus-verse song structure because the latter "doesn't really come naturally. It's a bit boring, I don't know. It's just the way we write songs." He doesn't devote a lot of time to thinking about anything about the band's sound, but he also doesn't purposely aim to come off as mysterious.

To his credit, Thompson is at least self-aware of his discomfort with discussing these matters. "I find interviews strange because we really don't think about [these things]. We just sort of go in our rooms and start playing, and then it just so happens that all four of us gets what everyone else is doing," he says. "We're just so used to playing together that these songs just sort of happen. Whenever we play, we just get louder and that's the way it goes, but there's no formula or anything like that."


We Were Promised Jetpacks

w/ Bad Veins and New Cassettes. $15, doors 7 p.m., Apr. 12. The Space, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, thespace.tk

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