Jet roars back to life with ‘Shaka Rock’

 By  Peter Lindblad
Troubled by the death of Nic and Chris Cester's father, Jet came close to breaking up, but now they've released a new album, 'Shaka Rock.' (Beatrice Neumann)
Troubled by the death of Nic and Chris Cester’s father, Jet came close to breaking up, but now they’ve released a new album, ‘Shaka Rock.’ (Beatrice Neumann)
How close did garage-rock barn burners Jet come to crashing? It seems that it was touch and go there for a while.

Known far and wide for their massive radio hit “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” and the 2003 album Get Born that spawned it, Jet is, for all intents and purposes, starting over. Having formed a new record label and taken on co-producing duties themselves, the Australian foursome is back and stronger than ever, with an ultra-modern, riff-heavy new LP called Shaka Rock in tow that shows the band is intent on reinventing themselves in surprising ways.

“I haven’t felt this excited about Jet in … f**k, I don’t know … I mean, since it began to be honest with you” says Jet drummer/vocalist Chris Cester. “We’ve always been in a weird … there’s always been a lot of weird, external pressure, external weirdness around our band, which we shrugged off on this record. We got rid of everybody. We left our record company, and we changed sort of all the background people, just to clear the ground and start again. And it’s sort of revitalized everything. We feel 100 percent in control of our destiny for the first time in our career.”

Still bloody and wet with afterbirth, Shaka Rock is out on the band’s new Real Horrorshow Records — the name being a nod to “Clockwork Orange.” In a way, it’s a declaration of independence for Jet.

“I don’t need some sort of dark specter hanging over my shoulder — our record company or a producer or anybody telling us what to do, you know,” says Cester. “We thought we had a chance on this record to start to move away from our influences a little bit and create something that was more uniquely our own.”

Getting away from it all was exactly what Jet needed after recording their difficult 2006 LP, Shine On, an album of cathartic, torn-and-frayed rock ’n’ roll that was made with heavy hearts. The emotional toll of working on that record left Jet in tatters.

“That really railroaded us, that experience,” says Chris. “Nic and I lost our father just around that time, and we weren’t really talking to each other, and it was a really difficult time. It really fractionalized the band, that whole experience. And so we just went away to lick our wounds I suppose, and we live in four corners of the globe. I live in L.A., and Nic’s in Italy, Cam’s (Muncey) in London, and Mark’s (Wilson) still in Australia, so we just went away for a while and just tried to live our lives like normal people and then the music just started coming back.”

Still, the future of Jet was, to put it mildly, uncertain. “It was to the point where I didn’t really know what was going on in Jet world and I didn’t want to know,” says Chris.

All the while, Chris and the boys kept writing on their own. In time, they felt the need to get Jet back up and running.

 “I got a call from Cam,” says Chris. “He was in London, and he said, ‘Man, I am f**king bored.’ And I’m like, ‘Hell yes. Let’s get together.’ So we met up in New York, and we wrote the first song for the record, which was actually a song called ‘Walk.’ I mean, it set the tone, you know.”

There were other obstacles, however.

“I broke up with a girl at the end of the Shine On record — just another spanner in the works of my life … I thought I was going to be married and it didn’t work out,” says Cester. “So I just sort of jumped ship and I went to Morocco for two weeks with my best friend, who had never left Australia … when I got back to L.A., I chopped the top of my finger off in a kitchen accident, and I couldn’t actually play the guitar.”

Which was a problem because Chris writes songs on the guitar, not the drums. With a batch of electronic beats at his command, Chris substituted a bass guitar.

“The album sort of inherited a big-beat feel, which … changed my whole head and my perspective on what we do,” says Chris.

As the short-lived garage-rock revival was gathering strength in the early part of this decade, Jet’s Rolling Stones-like swagger and meaty, rock-solid riffs, reminiscent of their Australian countrymen AC/DC, led the charge. Now, however, Jet is a little more difficult to pigeonhole. Listen to “Walk” and you can hear Jet taking those rolling beats and Primal Scream’s drugged-out British blues-rock stroll and incorporating its own vintage vibe to create something wholly different for listeners. “K.I.A.” is a more cinematic track than you’d expect from Jet, and like Fleetwood Mac did with “Tusk,” the band brought in the drum line from the University of Texas marching band to rhythmically expand the track.

“This time, I found it more difficult to explain where the influences come from,” says Chris of the new record. “We listen to a lot of Daft Punk and Primal Scream, and believe it or not, INXS and things like that, which were really sort of different.”

Still, it’s hard to take Jet out of the garage, and there’s always going to be a bit of a vintage quality to their sound.

“I think the crux of that issue is that we don’t like modern-sounding guitar sounds or modern-sounding drum sounds,” says Chris. “They often just sound really cheesy. And so we tend to go for that warmer sound … who knows what’s going to happen in the future, but I mean, so far so good.”

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