Mystery Jets: Textural Tricks

The Mystery Jets could have been victims of a “too many cooks” situation—but not anymore.

The Mystery Jets could have been victims of a “too many cooks” situation—but not anymore. Three out of the four members of the UK band are songwriters. Tying their ideas together for the Jets’ fourth album, Serotonin, is veteran producer Chris Thomas (Roxy Music, Sex Pistols, Pulp), who brings more than just his insight to Serotonin.

Mystery Jets (left to right)—Blaine Harrison, William Rees, Kai Fish, producer Chris Thomas, and Kapil Trivedi.

Layering, be it vocals or guitars, is one of the main characteristics of Serotonin. On the title track “Melt,” vocalist Blaine Harrison works with bassist Kai Fish on doubling a falsetto into the main vocal. Harrison first sings the lead, then he and Fish simultaneously sing the same part into the same microphone in falsetto to create a textured effect.

“Putting a high octave on top of the lead vocal is a nice way of bringing it out,” says Fish. “Even if the falsetto is kept low in the mix and tucked behind the lead vocal, it brings in the texture of the voice, making it quite rich.”

Another track that benefits from vocal layering is the standout ELO-inspired, “Flash A Hungry Smile.” Unconventionally structured, it doesn’t have a chorus as much as an interweaving of different sections. Here, guitarist William Rees sings the verses while Harrison sings the bridges with Fish’s backing. To allow for breathing room in “Smile,” is a slow rolling beat and warm, crunchy distortion on the low end of bass with the aid of a Hartman BC108 Silicon Fuzz pedal.

“Everything is pumped hard with two gains and an EQ to get it really rich,” says Fish. “I play synth bass as well as bass on a lot of tracks. Since it is all going through the same amp, I have to regulate so the two don’t sound too different and don’t throw the listener.”

Not to be outdone, Rees has his Electro-Harmonix and Harrison has his stereo delay pedals. Each has two amplifiers, splitting the sound so there is a ping-pong effect on the delays. Rees works with a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus and Vox AC30 Custom Classic for a clean, ’90s studio pop sound.

Thomas in turn brings out a unique guitar tone for a few Coldplay-tinged songs. “On ‘Waiting For A Miracle,’ there is a lead guitar line in the chorus that works with the vocal,” says Fish. “[Thomas] would half the speed of the track, record high guitar lines, finger picking melodic stuff, then double speed it up, and layer this a couple of times for a weird chime-y quality.”