Redjetson - London, UK - Winter 2004
07 Mar 2005
'... everyone who's outside London is trying to get in, and everyone inside is screaming to get out...'
The metropolis smothers. This city moans.
Redjetson have just released the product of five years worth of struggling against monolithic tower-blocks of boredom and banality. The result of commuting for twenty-five minutes, watching the space-age Gherkin as it prepares to blast away from the crumbling East-end boxing clubs, and purpose-built slums. They may have been travelling to faceless suit-jobs, joining the corporate machine as a means to an end, but all the while they carried their humanity in their walkmans, the tiniest sounds battering their eardrums, disturbing the carriage of drones, as they kept their eyes trained on the skies. Trained on the future.
The album is 'New General Catalogue', named after a book that lists the constellations, and the titles - 'Divorce', 'Stay Comfortable', and 'This, Every Day, For The Rest Of Your Life - give you some idea of what they're battling against. In the words of the creator of the 'Happy Prince': We're all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
'Everyone who's outside London is trying to get in, and everyone inside is screaming to get out,' explains guitarist Dan Carney, attempting to explain the impossibility of starting a scene in their native Essex, a cultural cul-de-sac that has given the music world Blur, The Prodigy and, somewhat less salaciously, myself.
'Essex suffers from being too near London which all the suburbs do,' reiterates Grant Taylor, bassist and key ethical figure of the band.
After attempting to launch a scene around Chelmsford, with their Do Or Die nights celebrating all things Arty and Rocky, the band forged on, self-financing and releasing a number of EPs, following in the footsteps of heroes Fugazi and Shellac, before teaming up with the newly-formed record off-shoot of popular underground webzine Drowned in Sound.
'Drowned in Sound are awesome,' pipes up Dan 'Dirty Sanchez' Hills. 'Quite special. Just talking to them was inspiring, knowing that someone else had similar ethics to us. The deal we signed was so pro-band.'
Grant reiterates, 'DiS are fans of the band, really. We were picked up by someone who really liked the music, and that really shone through for us.'
Ian Jarrold enthuses, 'When we made our album, we had 100 percent control. It was complete DIY; we even paid for it all ourselves.'
'There aren't many bands who can say that,' the affable drummer Joel Hussey exclaims, folding his arms contentedly.
So Redjetson are punk, then. In the industrial sense of the term. But thankfully, their music is not restricted by any of the limiting '3 chords and a pair of sunglasses' credentials of so many bands in today's scene. Taking the emotional scope of post-rockers such as Mogwai or Slint, and combining it with a passionate, yet reserved commentary from singer Clive Kentish, the band have reigned in the pretension with proper song structures and exploded over the UK, using white noise to drown out the incessant reminders of everyday life.
Indeed, if the music is an attempt to record, but also distance the listener from distopia; entwining its audience (and themselves) in womb-like security, the lyrics intentionally drag you firmly back to Earth. The band all know that it's senseless to ignore the problems that shape our time, demonstrated by the fact that their day jobs are principally located in the fields of charity, medicine or construction. You have to build for a better future, and be aware of the mistakes being made around you.
'The West can't win a war,' politicises Clive over the tank-stopping dirge of 'Perseverance Works', rising out through the dark red clouds of destruction that are switched off carelessly from the White House TV screens.
'We struggled with my vocal parts for such a long time,' smiles Clive, his puppy-dog eyes shying away from the attention, 'we had all these ideas coming in from all these other bands and it was never really gelling with what I was doing over the top of it, for whatever reason.'
'We've come together,' deadpans Carney, and they've had to. After being ignored for the best part of three years, then undertaking a gruelling 17-date tour up and down the country, the band have had to swallow differences to get their message across, especially if they were going to compete with touring partners Youth Movie Soundtrack Strategies onstage.
'I think we're lucky to go on our first ever tour with them, because they're amazing people and an amazing band and we just had a really great time.' Enthuses Grant, before the rest of the band bring him down to earth with a resounding 'SLURRP...'
'Hey!' he bellows, 'If they were here now, I would lick their arseholes.'
I worry about the way he looks at me when he says that. The dressing room at Infinity (home of esteemed nights White Heat and The Birthday Party) suddenly feels very small.
'They carried us through it for the first week. Then we carried them through it. 'Cos they get tired and stuff and we were like 'Woo, Tour! Spring Break!!!''
But despite showing their, ahem, sensitive side, the band are keen to celebrate their agenda.
'I think we've got a DIY ethic,' suggests Ian, 'for me it was borne out of playing loads of toilet gigs and playing on bills with loads of bands that were all over the place, stylistically.'
'And we just didn't like playing those shows 'cos the band's friends would come and see those bands and then go; there was no sense of community,' Joel explains.
There's no doubt that these guys are for real. Passion oozes through every pore, spreading pheromones and fighting spirit across the room:
'All these sunglasses hipsters. It's all a show and an act, and it's not real. Whereas what we do... we just get up there and are ourselves and we try, and play music to get emotion across rather than look cool.'
But there's a difficulty in bands with this mentality finding an audience;
'I don't think you have to look that hard for it, but if you do just pick up the 'NME' or publications you're never going to find it from there. People don't realise that there are other publications, websites, or even bands out there,' explains Grant.
Yet on the whole, once an audience is exposed to their sonic bludgeoning, the result is usually positive; 'Most audiences don't really know our sort of music,' prods Hills; 'so for them it's new.'
Carney continues, 'You have to stumble across it to find it. And if you get it out the blue then you'll love it.'
Indeed, the bands insist that their music is in no way elitist, simply that it may require a couple more listens than your average 'sunglasses band'; 'You can't blame people though,' insists Grant, 'trash is thrown at you twenty-four seven, eventually a lot of people just give into it.'
'And it's easy, it doesn't require any effort on your part,' corroborates Clive.
There's no way that Redjetson could ever be a sunglasses band. Even if they tried. It's not that they're ugly, far from it, most of them could be models from a Next catalogue, or from an earthy issue of 'Dazed & Confused', but they're content to remain honest, preaching their view to all who'll take the time to listen.
'None of us sat down with a battle plan for how we're going to sell records; not that we are selling any records; but how we thought we could break America or anything - this is just something that happened, organically, through influence,' finalises Clive.
The sextet is silent for a moment, contemplating what they've created, and where they're trying to take it. I ask them about the future. 'I'm up for it,' says Grant, 'I'm up for it.'
Photo-Credit: Sonia Melot