By 2006, music piracy had been around on a significant scale for many years, but had still not reached ubiquity. Most bands seemed content to ignore the phenomenon, or simply shrug it off. Not Jets Overhead. The Victoria-based rock band offered their debut album Bridges as a free download on their website, which seemed at the time to be very bold. Few other acts can claim direct influence over the practices of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails.

Out of some kind of subtle respect, I kept the Bridges cover as my desktop wallpaper for about half of my college life. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to interview de facto frontman Adam Kittredge in between two Toronto shows; one classy (a midday showcase) and one traditional (a stop at the legendary Horseshoe bar), in support of the band’s latest release, the fantastic No Nations.

Q: Have you guys been home recently?
A: Well, the summer wasn’t smoking busy for us. We’ve had some time off, in August, we did our various family vacations. We just flew out for these two shows.

Q: Have you noticed any changes in the Victoria scene since the band started getting serious?
A: There are definitely some upcoming bands that in the past year or so have started to turn heads in Victoria, like The Raccoons, and Maurice. That’s always great, it’s definitely a healthy scene.

Q: Do you still believe in the “free music” concept you attempted with Bridges?
A: At the time, we were doing something that we felt was a new and groundbreaking idea. Since then, Radiohead blew the whole idea wide open, though there were other bands doing it before us, I’m sure. I remember hearing about Loreena McKennitt, of all people, doing that.

With this new record and the movement for the Creative Commons licence (an organization dedicated to expanding creative works available to be shared and built upon), we thought it would be more interesting to implement that concept with some of the music on No Nations. We’re currently offering the title track, under that licence, for free on our site. Further to that, we will be putting out some instrumentals off that album for people to use.

Q: You would be in support of people taking and remixing your music?
A: If people just want to take a guitar track and use it in their own song, I would be pleased to hear that.

Q: What is the current primary method of income for an up-and-coming group such as yourselves?
A: The model is definitely a confused one right now. Everybody’s trying to figure that out. The reality right now for a band that is receiving a bit of critical acclaim, getting some people on board, as far as team infrastructure is concerned, i.e. agents and distribution, promotion, we’re still going to the good ol’ bank of Visa, lines of credit.

Ten years ago, a band in our position would have a record company putting money into our hands, to essentially allow us to continue touring and playing shows for little to no money, only to eventually see the label take kickbacks and the majority of it. In some ways, Visa is a better record label, because the interest on the loans that they give is considerably lower than it would have been in a traditional record deal.

Q: Is that support on its way out, or is it now completely gone?
A: There’s still the odd company that has the money to invest in up-and-coming acts, but sadly that’s usually a one-shot deal. Those acts, if they don’t immediately prove to be profitable as a venture, they get dropped. In the old days, three or more major label albums could be recorded by a great band that never get noticed, but the money would still be provided, and then the sixth album or whatever would blow up, like Fleetwood Mac. For up-and-coming bands, it is a hell of a lot harder to find patrons. We, as a band, have managed to operate on loans.

It’s like any art; you paint something, you make a piece, you wait for four months with nothing coming in, then all of sudden somebody pays you $5,000 for that painting, and you can pay off all your debt. That’s the way we operate right now. If you’re a band trying to get noticed, how else are you going to do it?

Q: Was No Nations worked on for most of the three years between albums?
A: We started the writing process for that about two years ago. It took us about a year to record, then about six months to get all our ducks in a row, so to speak. We’re about three months into a marketing campaign that should hopefully last another year.

Q: What has been done differently with this album?
A: This was definitely more of a communal effort, this album. We wrote a massive amount of material as a group. We would walk into our jam space, press record, and jam. Whatever random melodies and lyrics came out of our mouths and fingers would just be recorded. We wouldn’t even listen to some of it for months. We did that for about two or three months, these recording sessions. Then we went through that material, hours and hours of it, looking for potential songs and verses. I mixed those down and showed them to the band. We formed about 30 ideas/songs, and sometimes we would marry two totally separate ideas together into one.

Q: Was there any particular inspiration, musically, on the record?

A: We all fell pretty madly in love with [Radiohead’s] In Rainbows. That’s the kind of music that can move you to tears, which was something we all agreed to try and do. Something moving, but also uplifting. We didn’t consciously try to make something more uplifting than Bridges, but maybe that just happened organically. It’s getting harder to not pick up on all the shit that is happening the world right now.

Q: It’s getting harder for artists to remain unaffected by the information coming through the news these days.
A: Absolutely, and a lot of the lyrics, including the title, came out of the air like that. They would come out of the melody, at that time, then we would expand on that, terms like “No Nations” or “Heading for Nowhere.”

Q: The title could mean a couple of things. A physical world without nations, or just the idea of not letting national boundaries alter your perception of people.
A: Yeah, and as we explored the depths of the title, and I started to really think about it, one other thing that is present is a breaking down of personal walls, and being open with each other, on an individual level. Stripping away borders, being open to each other. No Nations, thematically, has to do with that sense of individuality, while still being open to the people around you.

Q: What is planned for October?
A: We’re doing a few dates with a band out of Australia called The Temper Trap, one in L.A., one in Seattle. Then we go to New York to the play the CMJ Festival. And then to San Francisco to play the Bridge School Benefit Concert, which is pretty wild, because there’s legends playing that show (Neil Young, Chris Martin, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Buffet, etc.), so we’ll just be walking around with our jaws on the floor!

Jets Overhead
Download a track: Jets Overhead Official Site

Staff writer Jesse Skinner tackles anything and everything thrown his way but has a natural bent for film, music and current events.