We caught up with Newcastle’s (UK) latest rising stars, the Jet Reds. We sat down with lead singer Craig Redpath to find out about writing, touring, and why Noel Gallagher likes them so much.
Home to the Dire Straits, Pet Shop Boys, and the prodigious, perfectly named Hellbastard; the city is famous for spawning artists with a unique voice and a bone-deep love of performing. Now the city has given us with The Jet Reds, a striking rock group that bears the unmistakable swagger of the town and a sound this is very much their own.
Mixing killer riffs and confident genre-bending fills, their latest album ‘What We’re Looking For’ landed in early 2019 and felt familiar in the best possible way. Wah-wah pedals, reggae, and grizzled vocals dominate the album – combining the best of Britpop’s golden age with punchy modern tracks that have heart-wrecking intent.
Moving from strength to strength, the band are steadily gathering momentum and workshopping material for their next project – quietly confident in the middle of a packed schedule.
Kreol sat down with them for a chat on their home turf to find out how they’ve enjoyed the last few years and what makes them tick.
Tell us a little about yourselves
“I find it one of the most rewarding things in life as a music lover to be able to discover a band for the first time and love them” says lead singer and writer, Craig Redpath. “To just go and see live music, embrace it, and let that immerse you for that short period of time. Then let that band become a significant part of your life.”
Speaking to Kreol in a break in a recent rehearsal, Redpath carries the quiet confidence of the finest of Newcastle’s rock statesmen. Lanky, with a mop of curly hair, he takes time to seriously mull over each question while the rest of the band wilfully disrupt him as we chat; exchanging looks as Redpath earnestly thinks over his responses.
First formed in 2015, the Jet Reds were Redpath’s second foray into the world of music after the short-lived Smokin’ Barrels, who were described by Noel Gallagher¹ as having ‘got something’, or as the surly dad of pop glibly put it: “A bit like Kasabian, a bit like Oasis. What’s not to like?” Since leaving the band to pursue the beat of his own drum, Redpath has been prolific – producing three EPs and two albums in under two years with The Jet Reds. There’s a genuine drive and maturity to their work – but it’s by no means a one-man show.
“There’s four of us in the band,” continues Redpath. “I’m the lead singer and play rhythm guitar, there’s Dan Richards the lead guitarist, Martin Bruce on bass and backing vocals, and Dean Ramsay on drums.”
Unusually for Newcastle, music wasn’t in their blood when it came to their families: “None of them played instruments or sang or anything, but we’ve always been well encouraged. When I first started playing and lived with my parents I’d be fiddling with my acoustic guitar until all hours in the morning and, more often than not, I’d just be left to play as late as I wanted.”
But when it comes to their loved ones listening to music, the response couldn’t come quicker: “My Mam’s taste had a bit of an influence on me, specifically ‘The Jam’. She loves The Jam and I was listening to them constantly in my teens because of her.” Taking inspiration from Weller’s writing and understated style, some of the other bandmates tastes were a little more local to Newcastle: “I know Martin’s Dad was a big Dire Straits fan and he has inherited that from his Dad.”
How has your song writing developed?
Coming up with two albums of original music in as many years is no easy task, but The Jet Reds seem to be more than up for the challenge.
“I write most of the songs and Martin contributes occasionally too,” Redpath continues, gesturing back to Bruce. “We both became friends over a mutual love of Oasis and that’s how we actually began talking for the first time.”
For Redpath and Bruce, it wasn’t so much the band’s musical contributions but the attitude they embodied: “It was the ethos they had. To go out and be as big as they could and just do things their way. Musically, we don’t sound like them, but we really get what they were about and try to bring that energy and drive to our performances.”
But when did they know that they had something musically? Redpath takes another moment to mull things over, “I knew we were onto a good thing with The Jet Reds because writing hasn’t ever really felt like a challenge…so far. I try never to force it really and write when I’m in the mood to write. Having Martin involved now as well has taken some of the pressure off.”
Despite the band earning their stripes, Redpath is clear that it’s not plain sailing. “Performing live has more often than not been fine, but obviously there’s always some gigs that go better than others. And it’s those that you need someone to fall back on.” The stresses of being in a band are legendary in the industry, but the Reds seem to have better chemistry than most. As Redpath continues: “If you’re performing with the same bunch of guys night after night, it goes one way or the other. Luckily, we’ve became really good friends through the band. Dan and I have been mates now for a good four or five years, the same with Martin, and Dean for the last two or three years, so we’re definitely a close band which doesn’t bring any… [looking back at the band] major issues.”
Weathering this weight of expectation can be tough. To date, the band have been compared to everyone; from the bands operating at the peak of Newcastle’s raw 80’s wave, the 90’s Britpop mania, 00’s new rave, and throwing in a little bit of reggae in their newest album. Is there any common denominator to their style?
“Well, we’re all British!” Redpath laughs, taking a moment to think: “The only significance of that I suppose are the British bands and artists that we enjoy and take inspiration from. I’ve historically been a bit uneasy in mentioning our influences due to a fear of people thinking we’re trying to be them, but that’s a fear for everyone I think. We’ve moved past that. Personally, and professionally.”
And who is it that inspired them the most? It’s hard to get him to stay quiet: “We mine a lot of classics our parents listened to – and they are classics for a reason – but, more recently there’s a lot of newer groups that just keep going and producing amazing stuff. Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian for example have catapulted themselves into a league of their own and when you see them headlining festivals around the world and playing in front of crowds that are loving it as much as they are…that is inspiring.”
How has touring been?
Having supported Kasabian and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the band have hit the ground running when it comes to securing not only regular gigs but a steadily growing fanbase.
So, what effect has touring had on the group?
Without missing a beat, Redpath answers: ”We love playing live more than anything and I think our songs put as much of ourselves out there as we can. There’s no way to hide behind a guitar with a Newcastle crowd. No way. Can’t happen.” The Jet Reds are known for giving everything to their live performances and have already cultivated a loyal following that tracks them from gig to gig, something that can be intimidating for a relatively young band. Despite this local following, there’s only one answer when it comes to their favourite recent performance: “Dublin Castle in Camden. It was a brand-new place we’d never been before. We got out there and we played in front of a hundred or so people who didn’t know us, and we certainly didn’t know them, but they just gave it in spades. And so did we.”
Does it make them nervous to be in front of a dedicated and new audience, having to win one half over and give the rest what they’ve come to expect from the band?
“Any band would be lying if they said they weren’t nervous before a gig. For us, I don’t think it’s the kind of nerves that make us panic a bit or worry, but we get very excited the closer it gets to stage time and I love those nerves,” Redpath says, grinning from ear to ear. “It comes from the buzz we all have to get up and play. I don’t think we’ll ever lose that sort of nervousness and, frankly, I don’t want to.”
It’s a buzz that has been helped by modern technology and social media, with the band enjoying a loyal online fanbase early on that many bands would be envious of. When it comes to technology, The Jet Reds find it no obstacle. “It’s certainly never hindered us. Social media has made it easier than ever to reach out to a large number of people at a click of a button. I only ever see technological advancements helping musicians, personally. You use the tools that are available to you in an honest way and you build trust.”
Before we let him go, we have to ask – what has been the best gig of their time together? “Mate, it hasn’t been too long,” he pauses, taking a moment to reflect before answering. “I’d like to say it was a toss-up between Camden or our album launch last summer.” He takes a moment to answer honestly, “But, really? I’d probably say our first ever gig together at a small bar in Blyth where we took about 30 people. That was a great gig and being our first we were absolutely buzzing. We’ve been trying to get back to that energy ever since.”
And has he succeeded? As he gets up to return to the group, he turns and shoots a smile that tells me all I need to know.
- The Jet Red’s latest album, “What we’re looking for”, is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other major streaming services.