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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More with the Jet Age

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Tue, Jul 1, 2008 at 4:15 PM

jetage.jpgThis was the best press picture we could find. Not kidding.

Here's more of my interview with the Jet Age, part of which appeared in this week's paper. Guitarist Eric Tischler talks about the band's new record and lets us know what's in store for tonight's show.

LISTEN:
The Jet Age - Now We are Three

The Jet Age play TONIGHT at the Towne Lounge with the Hugs and Toy Soldiers; 714 SW 20th Place, $5, 9:30 PM

MERCURY: How personal is the story of What Did You Do During the War, Daddy? Is it largely fictional, or is any of it autobiographical?

ERIC TISCHLER: Well, it's very personal, insofar as it's an exploration of my very real concern that this country is no longer by or for the people, and that concern is greatly exacerbated by the fact that I've got a family. Obviously, it's largely fictional in that I've never consorted with any revolutionary underground movement and I've never blown myself or anyone else up.

You haven't? Well, there go all my follow-up questions... Could you talk a little about what it was like to be a music fan, and to realize the potential for rock songs to convey full-length ideas and stories (for instance, the Who), and how that made you want to write similar kinds of conceptual works?

Oddly enough, while I firmly believe the Who are the greatest band ever, and Pete Townshend is the greatest songwriter ever, I've never been a huge fan of the storytelling aspects of Tommy; songs like "There's a Doctor" and "Miracle Cure" always seemed like distractions. One of the reasons I've been saying this record is the soundtrack to a rock musical is that doing so freed me from having to address every last plot point. I just hit the plot highlights and figured, in a musical, the rest would be fleshed out with dialog. I actually wrote a few lines of dialog with the intent of putting them on the record, but decided that would be annoyingly heavy handed, and would really be obnoxious on shuffle.

I just realized I kinda dodged the question. I think what I really love about the album format is that it provides the opportunity for the listener to immerse him or herself in the music. Despite my critique, as a kid, Tommy blew my mind; it seemed (and is) so impressive and monolithic. I think Quadrophenia is the greatest record ever made, although it's more like a tone poem: I put it on and suddenly I'm in that world. Seamonsters, by the Wedding Present, is another masterpiece in my book and, again, while it's not a rock opera or anything, it develops and sustains an amazing mood and, to me, that's a huge value. Spiritualized was great at this, too. I'm all about the songs, but how can a record that's greater than the sum of its parts not be even more valuable?

Having said all of that, while I've always strived to make good RECORDS, my approach has always been to amass a bunch of good songs and then try to assemble and present them in the most compelling way possible. It wasn't until I read some of Townshend's press for Endless Wire that it occurred to me that the first three songs I had written after Breathless, our first record, inadvertently created a dramatic arc, and that fleshing that arc out using subsequent songs was worth doing.

Has the Jet Age gotten any response to its music from Europe - i.e. non-English speaking countries that might miss the lyrical content, and might not care about the political content?

Actually, as I suspected, the Europeans who've responded have been really into the plot. I think the whole world is wondering what the hell is going on over here, so anyone who's actively talking about how fucked up things are has something of a built-in audience. It seems like Americans are more likely to just say we rock and throw their hands up at the plot, which is okay; I didn't intend for the record to require Cliff Notes, y'know?

I felt that this album is very much an ALBUM, with the stories and songs interlocking, and production/overdubs etc.... How does that translate to the live show? What can Portland expect from a Jet Age gig?

First, thank you! It was vital that the story structure not come across as forced, because that would just reduce the whole thing to an exercise in pointless grandiosity. It also was important to me that the songs be able to stand alone, and I think most of them do. Even "False Idols," which is the climax of the record, was initially written as a stand-alone song, and it has its own beginning, middle, and end. However, I'm happy to say Portland can expect us to play the whole damn record, and to play it like our lives depend on it. The response to the record live has been great, and I really think we've maximized it for what is, at the end of the day, an ass-kicking rock show.

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