Interview: Jet’s Nic Cester talks fatherhood, the downsides of Melbourne, and the potential for new material

A lot has changed for Jet frontman, Nic Cester, since the Australian rock icons first shot to international superstardom. It’s been over fifteen years since the band first released their debut album, Get Born. Two more albums followed and then a decade long hiatus.

In recent years, the band have finally made a return, supporting Bruce Springsteen on tour and selling out shows across Australia. Outside of all this, Cester has also released a critically acclaimed debut solo album, Sugar Rush, and has even become a father to a baby girl.

With so much change taking place in recent years, we caught up with Cester ahead of Jet’s upcoming Superloop Adelaide 500 performance. We found out about his new perspective on fatherhood, the reason Melbourne is one of his least favourite cities to play, and the answer to the question on all of our minds: is Jet finally ready to release new music?

So you recently became a father, how old is your daughter now?

She just turned one a few weeks ago in January, actually.

It’s been that long already?

Yeah, I know.

So how has becoming a father]changed your perspective, musically and in general?

I really enjoy this actually. Because music is a big part of my life, I want to share that with her. I started making little playlists for her. I was thinking, ‘what would be a nice way to introduce music to her?’ I went back and revisited stuff that I listened to as a kid—stuff that I never thought would have had an influence on me–but thinking about it now, it absolutely did.

Like what? What songs?

Well you know, like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “Rainbow Connection”. I know, you’re laughing but—

No, I used to love that song…”Imagination”?

“Pure Imagination”. I’ve always had a really strong connection with melancholic music. I was wondering if perhaps that’s where it came from. Because all of that kid’s stuff, even nursery rhymes, it’s very melancholic, you know? It’s full of wonderment. I’ve been listening to a lot of that lately.

And that scene where they’re in the tunnel is the worst.

Yeah it’s pretty crazy. It’s a little bit frightening as well when you’re a kid.

So now that you’re a father, how will that affect how often you go on the road? And how do you deal with that absence?

That’s a good question. Because, as soon as she was born I did my solo album. Four weeks after she was born I was off on tour for a month, so that was pretty tough. I think, definitely, it will affect things. I know Cam [Muncey, Jet guitarist] has three kids now, so I guess because he has the most amount of kids, I think he’ll be setting the rules there. So, whatever works for him, works for us.

Fair enough. So you reunited a while ago for Springsteen and then sold out a few shows at the Forum with Jet. How did it feel coming back to such a high demand after so many years without touring?

We didn’t really know how people would respond. So there’s always a little bit of apprehension when you do a show like that, or when you do a show in general, because you don’t know how tickets will sell or how you’ll be received. We were very pleasantly surprised.

We were kind of blown away. Not only did it sell well, but to look out into the crowd and see so many young people… It was a nice surprise to see that there’s a new generation of people who are connecting to this music that we wrote when we were sixteen.

Is it different playing in your hometown (Melbourne)?

It always is. We never really enjoy it. It’s tough to enjoy it.

Really, why?

We have so much family, that the day of the show and the day before it is just a thousand phone calls…

Trying to get on the list?

Yeah, and you’re already a bit nervous because you know that… I don’t know… When you’re in any other city in the world you can kind of escape your true self, you know? It’s like going to a fancy dress party. But the moment you come home it’s very vivid. You’re back.

Are you going to do a North American tour or is the audience just not there anymore?

There’s talk of it. I know there’s a few promoters who are very interested. We’ve already had offers in the past, it’s just a matter of timing. I’m quite sure it will happen sooner or later.

So regarding your solo stuff, Sugar Rush came out in 2017. Are you working on a follow up?

Yeah. Well, I kind of had a second album ready to go from the beginning. It was very different, very melancholic and singer-songwriter. So it’s a completely and utterly different world. That stuff is kind of finished but I’m not sure if it’s the right moment to do something like that. I’m going to keep tinkering and I just want to write as much as possible. There’s no hurry for me. It’s more important that whatever I do is the best it can be. So I’m happy to wait and keep writing.

Are you writing any new Jet stuff?

Yeah, when we are all in the same city we get together and try it on, see what everyone’s got, see what the vibe is like, see how everyone is connecting. So there are a couple of things in the pipeline. But again, there’s no date. There’s no plan. The only thing that matters is that whatever we do, it has to be amazing. If we get something we feel is incredibly good we’ll probably hit ‘Go’ on it.

Until then, we’re just really having fun. It’s just sort of reconnecting for us at the moment. We’ve spent so many years apart from each other and we all became fathers and have independent lives, so it takes a while to get back in the same headspace and to find out how to make all those different influences connect again. The only thing that’s important to us is the quality.

So what do you like better, writing with them or writing solo?

I enjoy writing. I enjoy the challenge. It’s always challenging writing with Jet because the personalities are so different. But, particularly now, it’s a fun challenge because we’ve all, as I said, gone different places. It’s interesting now; it’s like a bit of a puzzle that I find really fascinating because I know if we ever did get the balance right it would be really fucking interesting.

AU: Yeah, hopefully. I want to hear new stuff. I’m excited. So you shot to stardom after you were on that iPod commercial and now you’re on the Canadian Motts Clamato one (which I laugh at every time).

Is that like some tomato juice thing?

Yeah it’s like a Bloody Mary but it’s a Caesar. It has clam juice. Which sounds disgusting but it’s really good.

It really does sound awful, yeah.

So this long after, between the commercials, do you feel like it’s “selling out” at this point, or are you still thankful for the modern exposure?

I have mixed feelings about it. It depends. I get angry at the band sometimes because this is an absolute fact: we definitely oversold “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” just way too much and it really fucking annoys me. So that pisses me off, but having a song used in a commercial is not that big a deal. Bands are clamouring over one another to get on a commercial these days because we’ve all got to get paid. No one is really buying albums. Tours are incredibly expensive and bands lose money.

You lose money from tours?

Yeah, you can if you do it wrong, which we always do. [Laughs]. So, I have mixed feelings but if it’s done properly then I don’t have an issue with it. I don’t think there’s any difference when you talk about the renaissance times, when these incredible artists were doing commissioned work for churches. Everyone’s got a boss and everyone is getting paid by a higher authority.

So, speaking of exposure: do you still pay attention to the Hottest 100? Did you ever?

Not really. I don’t really pay attention to many things. I kind of live in a bubble on the other side of the world.

[Laughs] Italy is a bubble?

Well for me, it’s a bubble from what most people are doing and listening to. I don’t really know who the cool new bands are. I sort of always did my own thing.

So do you have an opinion on what the state of Rock and Roll is? Because that’s always the question, ‘Is Rock and Roll dead?’ Are there any younger bands that you listen to or you could see carrying the torch on?

Not really, to be honest. I started a Rock and Roll band when I was a teenager and that became Jet but I listen to a lot of stuff. From classical music to jazz to gypsy stuff. I just like music. And there will always be good examples of all of those genres.

Do you like Greta Van Fleet?

Yeah, I like anyone who writes a good song and is honest about it.

So, what are you doing next? The Superloop 500?

Yeah. I have a bit of interest in fast cars.

Do you race yourself?

No. I did go in a V8 supercar last year and did a few laps but no, I don’t race. I do go to races. I really like the Grand Prix.

And now the Superloop. You like the Superloop.

We’ll see, I’ve never been to Superloop before. It sounds like an icy pole or something.

Or like a cereal.

Yeah.

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers are playing on the Sunday. Are you going to stick around to see them?

Are they really? I didn’t even know that. I had no idea. I mean I knew that The Living End are playing. It’ll be nice. I haven’t seen those guys in many years so I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Are you guys friends?

Yeah.

So what are you doing now, playing touring, anything. What’s next?

Well I’m going to have a go at writing some songs, some Jet stuff, see what happens. I’m actually going to meet with Cam as soon as I finish this to see if we can write some songs together.

I think that’s what everyone wants to hear. That you’re writing new music.

We’re gonna try. See how it feels. See if what we come up with is good or not.

I’m sure it will be.

I think so. I think it will be.

Jet play the Superloop 500 in Adelaide on Saturday March 2nd, joining them on the line-up are The Living End, and Music SA’s Bands on Track winners Burnside Mums and Ricky Albert & The Belair Line. For more information, set times and to get tickets head HERE.

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