Who knew that fairytales actually could happen? Although this story doesn’t include a fairy godmother or singing mice, it does provide a dream-come-true. The Scottish band, We Were Promised Jetpacks, rocketed from high school Battle Of The Band contestants to international rockers. Through their passion and talent for creating jamming tracks, these guys accomplished what thousands of aspiring bands dream of.
Of course, lots of hard work and dedication had something to do with their success, too. While speaking with the group’s vocalist and guitarist, Adam Thompson, it became clear that the touring life isn’t as glamorous as anticipated. But he does mention that there are some perks to having accomplished his dream-come-true.
Zipping around the world—sadly without jetpacks—to play their own creations for adoring audiences sounds exhilarating, but without Adam’s favorite part to being a musician must happen first: the composition time. While waiting for their U.S. tour to kick off, he told me all about the creative process and what it means to him.
How have you been approaching this tour?
Uhm, we’ve been trying to write new songs through the last few months, so this feels like it’ll be the last tour for our last album [Unraveling; 2014] that came out. We’re trying to write some new songs and then after that, we’ll probably concentrate on writing and finishing the new album.
Will you be playing any of these newer songs while on tour?
Yeah! We’re planning to play three or four of our new ones. The last couple of albums, we haven’t really had the chance to tour new songs or record them. So it’ll be fun to play them live first and see how that helps develop the songs and we’ll get busy recording. We’re really looking forward to playing the new stuff.
Wow. Have you ever done that before?
Uh, probably back when we were starting out with our first album, it was so hectic touring and by the time we had taken time off to record, it was just all about recording and getting that album done. So, we’ve had some free time in the last few months and thought, “Eh, we’ll just get it started early.” We’ll see how it goes.
Have you ever tried writing on tour?
It can happen. We’re not usually a band that builds up songs on laptops. Often when we write, we all have to be in the room and we all have to be playing to get what everyone else is doing. So we find it a bit difficult. Plus sometimes you can’t really be bothered (laughs). You just want to focus on the show at night and just looking after yourself. We kind of keep them separate, but definitely if we have a long soundcheck and get an idea, we’ll usually do it like that. But we don’t do it in transit.
It’s gotta be so hectic while on the road anyway. What’s a typical day like while out on the road?
Usually, if it’s in America, we’ll get up, eat breakfast if we have time. We have to leave pretty early, like eight in the morning, so it’s a quick breakfast at the hotel. And then it’s all about lunch. We try to find a good place for lunch. Then we drive a bunch to get to the venue, set our stuff up, sit around for a few hours, and then do the show.
Do you get to wander around at all while out and about?
Definitely, if we have time. If we have a day off, we definitely try and do something good. But a lot of the time, we just don’t and we have to leave at five or six in the morning—and no one really wants to do that in our band.
Jeez. How do you even find the energy to play at night? You’re so hyper on stage!
It’s kind of the way we always have been. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s just a lot of times where we’re just sitting in a van, so we can save our energy for the show. But it can still be tiring driving through the day. It’s a different type of tired when you’re constantly busy.
It’s a good kind of tired. But when on tour, do you guys just stick to a rigid setlist?
We definitely mix it up. We never really have a setlist sort of planned before the tour starts. We’ll kind of talk about one in the days leading up to the tour about the first show, and then we just kind of see where it goes from the first show. So, if we’ve got like a five-week tour, by the time we’re about two weeks in, we usually have settled on a setlist at least. Yeah, we’ll usually start off pretty open, but it’s just depending on how we feel or how we’re playing certain songs and how they go down with the crowd. But we’ll change the set a bit every night. It seems to still work for us.
Do you have a particular venue you’re looking forward to?
I’ve not played this one in New York—in Brooklyn— so I’m looking forward to that. Uhm… We always like going to Portland. It a good little venue, and it’s really nice for us because the hotel is just next to the venue, so logistically it’s really nice (laughs). But yeah! It’s really nice because we can go there just after the show. It’s good to have a break from driving after the show. It’s a fun time. We always like playing there.
But I’m looking forward to them all. I enjoy all the shows. And the smaller places in Mid-America, I always look forward to them because I never know what to expect. There are a different bunch of places every time. You know, we’ll always do New York and we’ll always do L.A. and San Francisco… But we’re going to Fargo and I’ve never been there! So, yeah. I like getting to see other places that we don’t normally stop at. I’m looking forward to them all.
Do you have any favorite memories of past tours?
I really enjoyed the show at a music hall in Williamsburg four years ago or something. I don’t know what it was. It was just unbelievable. It was such a fun show to play. It was a big show for us then—still is—but quite often, those big shows go past us in a flash and you can’t remember them because there’s so much adrenaline going on. But I can remember—we don’t always do encores. But we finished playing our set, we finished playing the songs that we had and then we went backstage into the dressing room, which is in the back of the building on the second floor, and we could hear everybody screaming, wanting an encore. It was really good fun and we could feel a sort of click. What we were trying to do—it worked. It was weird!
And you guys just started the band when you were in high school?
Yeah. We started the band in high school. That was where we did our first show. We were in the dinner hall and our history teacher was putting on a Battle Of The Bands and there was just three of us in the band then. Nine bands did like, three songs. But that was our first show, and we did more and more after that until we ended up doing loads. But yeah, we started off when we were 17, or 16. So we’re still going.
That’s awesome! Do you guys ever get sick of each other?
No. It’s kind of like brothers in a way. You know, you fight, you think someone’s being a dick (laughs). But we get along fine.
Understandable. Now, would you rather: compose, perform, or record?
Uhm… Composing songs. I get a lot more satisfaction and happiness from playing and writing a song and getting into this sort of laborious task of recording and trying to explain what you want it to sound like. You’re using like a weird, jumbled up sequence of words. Like, “Can I get that sounding a little sharper?” or something like that. But it never quite sounds like what you imagined. But you just have to accept that it’s never going to sound quite like what you want. But I don’t know. I don’t feel like our lives capture the songs better than any recording does. But once it’s done, it’s always a bit strange. But yeah, I like recording, I like getting to hear the song finally recorded nicely with nice gears and all that. But I do love when the song’s finished and you all kind of look around at each other and you’re like, “Yeah. That’s fun to play.” I much prefer that feeling.
What about performing?
That’s a close second. I really like performing, but I just really enjoy writing. I really like knowing that you’re gonna perform the song at some point.
What’s the writing process like?
I usually start a song with a few ideas and then we’ll play around with it and see what works for everybody and then we very much finish the song together. I usually start it, but it wouldn’t sound like what it does without the three other guys in the band. It’s very much a team effort.
Once you wrap up the tour, what’s next on the agenda?
To have a nice Christmas. Have a nice Christmas and a nice New Year. And try and get a bunch of songs together that we can record for a new album—and try to get bigger and better.
We Were Promised Jetpacks will pull into New York hall Warsaw on Dec. 5 and Philadelphia’s Underground Arts on Dec. 6. For more information about the band, check them out at wewerepromisedjetpacks.com.