Listen to Austin 360 Radio

A promise not to tour too much

Scotland's We Were Promised Jetpacks returned to South by Southwest as a full-time band

Peter Mongillo

We Were Promised Jetpacks, along with Frightened Rabbit, Codeine Velvet Club and Unicorn Kid and others, were part of a Scottish invasion last week during the South by Southwest Music Festival. Jetpacks play stripped-down rock, with pounding bass lines and rough vocals that recall the rock and punk of early-'80s Britain. At last year's festival they were relative newcomers; this year they've matured a bit, with a full-length album and a new EP under their belts. During the fest, we caught up with lead guitarist/vocalist Adam Thompson in the lobby of the Hilton, where the band was getting ready for the Scottish Arts Council showcase at the Parish.

How was your show at Levi's Fader Fort this afternoon (March 17)?

Thompson: It went really well as far as SXSW shows go. We were here last year, so we kind of knew the deal -- turn up, plug in and play. As long as no disasters happen when we play, we're usually pretty happy.

What has changed since the last time you were here for SXSW?

We've made the transition from part-time band, not that we're making any money at it, but this is a full-time thing. When we came over last year, three of us were still at university. From the start of September it's been pretty much nonstop touring. We're slowly making the transition to being a real band.

We haven't a chance to walk down Sixth Street yet. We played the gig, did an interview, got our jeans from the Fader Fort and then drove over here. Last year it was a bit of a surprise because we didn't know what was going on, but this year were more prepared for it.

What have you learned being on tour?

We've learned to look after ourselves on the road, eat well, try to get a good night's sleep. We've learned a bit more about what kind of band we want to be and how we want the next record to sound. When you play the songs all the time, there's parts of it that you get tired of.

What kind of band do you want to be?

We don't want to be so intense all the time, with all of this dense sound. We want to let the music breathe a little more on the next record.

Your new EP is pretty dark, though.

When we were on tour in the U.K., we visited our label and they said it would be a good idea if you had an EP to bring out. We had two weeks, and I had two new songs that I hadn't completed at all. We didn't want to do a rubbish version of our album as an EP. We wanted something that sounded a bit more elegant, where we tried to use some different instruments.

Have you noticed a difference between touring in Europe versus the United States?

Playing in the U.K. is not very good for us. We play (expletive) venues and don't get paid very much. We come to New York and play the sold-out Bowery Ballroom and it's pretty much chalk and cheese.

There are a lot of Scottish bands here this week.

It's great. There are a lot of good bands playing music that's a bit more honest, and not so centered on wearing skinny jeans and playing dance music for clubs with people on ecstasy.

What about Franz Ferdinand?

There has been a bit of a fallout from the number of bands that were doing that and not doing it well.

What is your songwriting process like?

I do a song up until I get stuck. Sometimes I'll just have a couple of parts, and we all work on it together, and everyone has an equal say on how it goes. Everybody gets to invest in the song. It's a real team effort.

What are you hoping to get out of being in Austin?

We're looking to see our friends, and stay here more than a night. We got here (to the U.S.) on the 9th of February and have pretty much played every night. We aren't really thinking too much about whether this is going to help us musically. It's more about getting out and having a nice time, playing some shows. We've got a lot of momentum here, and we really want to keep that going. We don't want to tour here too much and have people get sick of us.