In 2003, the songs “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” and “Rollover DJ” were everywhere. Consisting of lead guitarist Cameron Muncey, bassist Mark Wilson, and brothers Nic and Chris Cester on vocals/rhythm guitar and drums, respectively, Jet were a breath of fresh air.
After a few, interminable years of droning, shoegazing rock from the likes of the Strokes and the Vines, rock and roll came back with a vengeance when Jet’s Get Born was released. Noel Gallagher of Oasis sang the band’s praises, and the fanatic, updated-glam production and arresting videos Jet released sealed the deal.
The band quickly went from clubs to theaters to arenas. But when Get Born’s follow up Shine On failed to reach the heights of the band’s debut, cracks in the Australian group’s brotherhood began to show. By the time of 2009s Shaka Rock, the record industry had changed beyond recognition, and the public had moved on.
But last year, after being tapped last year to open for none other than Bruce Springsteen during his tour Down Under, the band began taking tentative steps to a full-blown reunion. Deluxe and expanded reissues of Get Born and Shine On followed. The former is still a gem that will make your heart pound faster and harder. The latter, featuring a treasure trove of bonus tracks, is better in its expanded form.
Chris Cester tells us what it was like back in the band’s heyday, how the reunion came to pass, and what’s next for the Aussie rockers.
Rock Cellar: When I looked at the reissues of Get Born and Shine On, I was thinking how enormously productive you guys were in a very short period of time. There are a lot of bonus tracks on the reissue — and I’m sure there’s stuff that didn’t make it — so I’m curious what you think of how creative you were and how hard you worked, looking back on it.
Chris Cester: I was just talking about that with Nic (Cester, Jet’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist) a couple weeks ago. We were remembering how we had almost double the amount of songs that made it onto even the bonus tracks! I don’t know how dysfunctional Jet were, but we worked all the time! We never stopped.
But when you’re in that position — with a record taking off — everything happens so fast. Between shows we’d be ducking into studios in between cities and whatnot for things like records coming out in Japan. We’d need three extra tracks and we’d just get in there and get them done without thinking about it. I remember we were all, like, “Shit, this is all happening so fast!”
But the songs were songs we had kicking around, so we were just kind of having to rush in there and get them done. But there are some great ones — and there’s some not great ones – but it was just the way it was at that moment. We toured for three years straight. And in the midst of it we were throwing in covers and such, because at some point we’d graduated to headlining even though we only had one album. As far as how we picked them? To be honest with you, I don’t even I think the idea of the reissue ever came up until our manager came to us about doing some shows with Bruce Springsteen!
Were you thinking about getting together before the opportunity to tour in Australia with Springsteen came up? And how does it come to be that Bruce Springsteen wants you to open for him?
Chris Cester: I never wanted the band to end! I think mostly it’s been Nic who’s been reluctant until now. He just wanted to do his own thing for a little while. I’m definitely going to agree that it was the right decision to stop touring when we did, though, because nobody was enjoying it anymore and that was the whole fucking point of our band, especially in the beginning.
When that started to go away, and it started to become a bit serious, and everyone started fighting all the time, we ended it. But I always wanted to get back together. Anyway, I think because we changed labels in Australia, and our new label boss is also a promoter, and I think he floated the idea to Springsteen and the E Street Band of us opening up, so we got an invitation to play. Of course, everybody said yes! And here we are!
These were enormous shows you did with him. Even back in the day, when you guys were doing festivals, they weren’t like Bruce shows. His shows are at a whole other level. What was that experience like?
Chris Cester: I called it “the Bruce Springsteen Festival.” It’s like its own festival in each city you visit. Plus, Bruce Springsteen plays this set that’s equivalent of about what five bands would play! We’re all pretty huge Springsteen fans — especially Mark (Wilson), our bass player — so even though we’d played big shows and done all that and that part of it wasn’t that weird, it was definitely weird stepping out cold after six years of not performing live and suddenly playing in front of 60,000 people!
We did just one warm-up show at a tiny pub in our home city of Melbourne. That was in front of 300 people. The next day there were 300 crew members on stage setting up Bruce’s rig!
So yeah, it was pretty surreal, but it was a really good time.
Opening for anyone’s hard, but at those shows everyone was there to see Bruce. Not that you don’t bring your own audience with you, but they are there for that experience. Like you said, it’s the “Bruce Springsteen Festival.” Did you find the audience receptive? Did they seem to enjoy it?
Chris Cester: We were all prepared for that. At that level, when there’s that many people in the crowd, it is like a festival. Like you said, they’re all there to see Bruce Springsteen. But they were very receptive to our songs. It’s probably a good thing too that it was in Australia, where we’ve always done pretty well and are pretty recognized. But, you know, yeah, you also realize that you’re who people have paid their money to come see. So it is like paying a festival in that respect. But but they were receptive, for sure, and we went down really well.
Back to Get Born, tell me how you connected with your prodcuer Dave Sardy.
Chris Cester: We had just signed with Elektra and it was just the next thing, working out who would be a good match. I think we came to Dave via the Dandy Warhols record that he’d made; the Urban Bohemia record. We thought it sounded kind of big and woeful at the same time, you know? We didn’t want to sound like a garage band. So he had done that record and we said, “We want that kind of record!”
You’d had some great success at that point, with the EP, and you clearly had a great batch of songs. Did you know you were onto something special, or were you just kind of doing the next thing in front of you?
Chris Cester: Well, remember at the time you had the Strokes and the Vines and the White Stripes. It seemed pretty stale to all of us. And then we were part of this sort of new wave came through and everyone was really excited about it. So it was hard to know if we were going be the ones who stood out. For sure we knew we had good songs, and we knew we had a good record when it was done, but there’s only so much you can do about it. Ultimately, it is down to sort of timing.
It sadly seems to be, in retrospect, the last gasp of full throttle rock and roll. There hasn’t been anyone who’s come along in the last eight years or so that’s had the impact you had with Get Born. Maybe you can’t match that kind of momentum anymore — probably but bands aren’t coming along maybe in the same way do did — but do you look at it as a kind of golden moment that you were able to capitalize on?
Chris Cester: Absolutely! Yeah, definitely. I’ve got friends in bands now — young bands that are just sort of starting out — and it’s a completely different landscape. It’s hard for people to just quit their job and dedicate themselves to making music, because the money has just shrunk down. It’s hard to step away and just have music be what you do. So yeah, absolutely, I feel lucky because I have friends in bands who are great but don’t get the attention they deserve. But that kind of thing is just the landscape now.
It seems as though you’ve been pretty busy in the last few years with your band Damn Dogs and production. Do you have any interest in making new recordings with Jet? Do you think you guys will be writing or recording or even touring more?
Chris Cester: Well, we just did a track called “My Name is Thunder” with Bloody Beetroots. They needed a singer on the record — a pretty high octane musician, like Nic, to sing it — so they just said, “Well, let’s just fucking get Nic!” They called him up, thinking he was in Australia, and were like, “Will you fly to Italy to be part of this recording this session?” But Nic actually lives in Italy! It was a total coincidence.
The next day he was on a train. He went out there and they wrote a song together in 20 minutes and it’s a fucking banger. You know, it’s a whole new ballgame, so we’re doing it this way, you know, because it’d be stupid to go back to the old way. I think at this point, especially given how we can be at each others throats from time to time, this is the way to work.
So we’ve just done this one song, and it’s really great and I think the thing now is to just kind of have it out there and see what happens and sort of take it from there. We have a few projects going on that Nic and I have worked on over the last couple years when he was in LA or I was in Italy, but there aren’t any plans. And I personally don’t think we should make any, because I think I would rather keep it in the place where it is right now, where everyone is enjoying the hell out of it again.
I think any sort of plan making might squash that. So we’ve got the one track, but everyone has an open mind to do more. So as of now we’re sort of playing day trips and there’s that song and we are all really enjoying it.
Well, that is really the new model. One great track. It was such a whirlwind of activity back in 2005 – 2008, what are your memories of it? Or is it just sort of a blur?
Chris Cester: Yeah, it’s pretty blurry! I mean, I till live in LA and I’m always running into people who are like, “Chris! Remember that time at that festival..?” And I don’t generally remember. I’m always running into people who have these great stories and I can’t remember them, but I guess I was there!
Of course, there are things that will stand out above others for good reason — and bad reasons, too. Madison Square Garden with Oasis probably for me was the best moment I can remember. It was one of the best shows we ever played and we were on tour with my favorite band from when I was growing up. It was every night hanging out and watching my favorite band and getting to play and getting paid for it. So that was just fucking unbelievable.
And then there were other things, like I remember getting up to do Jimmy Kimmel in New York City in Times Square, and we got the sound check and there was this car with fucking hydraulics in the middle of Times Square — I guess it was part of some promotion they were doing — and I just remember thinking it was just out of fucking control. But, you know, it was all happening really, really fast in those days.
I was actually at that Oasis show at the Garden.
Chris Cester: I’m not going to lie, there were definitely some shows where, as we used to say, the shows interrupted the party. As you can imagine, some of those shows were a little unhinged. But for the most part I think we were pretty good because we were really just fucking enjoying the hell out of it.
It occurred to me when we were talking about the single track earlier, and how that’s kind of how people do it nowadays, it reminded me how Jet did one of the first iPod commercials.
Now that’s just another way to get your music across in a very cluttered field, but back then I remember there was a tremendous blowback because you’d done that. It’s funny how things change, but I have a distinct memory of you guys getting a lot of stick for that. What’s your memory of it?
Chris Cester: That’s my memory of it too, which makes me laugh. Because, yeah, it’s just in that short time that it really has changed so much. I mean, you know, the same sort of band or critics that were smacking us for that would fucking beg for that sort of exposure nowadays!
The bonus tracks to Shine On are really strong. I wonder, having now lived with them for a little bit, in retrospect were their songs there that you wish made the album?
Chris Cester: Yeah, maybe. Probably. “Hold On,” for example, which is a Shine On bonus track, I think that’s arguably the best Jet song ever written. I think so, but I can’t even remember how that one came about. I think we’d turned in the master and then we were asked to contribute something for the Spider-Man soundtrack. Nic had that one and we were back in the studio. That’s how that one came about it, I think.
But it was really hard to choose songs for that record because things had started to go a little skewed, you know, relationship-wise in the band. And so it was really hard to get any sort of decisions made. To be honest, looking back, it’s a fucking wonder that record even got made. So I think that’s why there’s so much stuff left that no one wanted to commit on or make a decision about. At that point, all the sudden, there were a lot of experts everywhere — at the label, management, etc. — and everyone had a different opinion.
It was a really difficult time, and we ended up just amassing all these songs and it was hard to choose. But I don’t really have any regrets. I just think records are records. Whatever happened to get to that point, and whatever happened to be on there, that’s the fucking record. And it’s a good thing that we had enough success that we were able to go back and put out a bonus disc with that stuff on there that fans would want to hear. But, you know, the records? I don’t have any regrets about things that didn’t make it.
I noticed in one of the clips when I was preparing for the interview that Noel Gallagher gave you the name Mystic Knights of Amnesia for a band, which I think is priceless. What are you doing with that title, and if you’re not using it can I have it?
Chris Cester: Ha ha. No, you cannot have it! In fact, I think I might copyright it as soon as we’re done! But yeah, I’ve kept up with Noel and I texted Noel and said that I’ve got a new band and I need a name. And that was the first thing he came up with! It took him like eight seconds.
A year later, and we ended up calling the band Damn Dogs, but I kept saying we should change the band name. You know, “What about Mystic Knights of Amnesia?” So I texted Noel. “Mystic Knights of Amnesia?” This is a year later after he gave it to me. And he replies, “Fucking shit, that’s fucking amazing! Where did you get that?” Anyway, I’m going to be working on Mystic Knights of Amnesia soon.