Over the last two years, masters of 60s tinged timeless psychedelic pop The Jessica Fletchers have played hundreds of shows in Europe and the US, garnered strong reviews for their albums and built up a solid following abroad. The vibrant quintet maintains a unique position on the Norwegian scene by being a band that is better known abroad than back home. TJF’s gigs at the by:Larm festival last month confirmed the image of a band that have few equals on the domestic circuit. Wrote Danish mag Gaffa after TJF’s by:Larm appearances: “A band of very, very high standard. Absolutely an act it’s worth to check out.”
Their chops are honed after hectic touring and they’ve got a new album on its way that could prove to be the band’s big break. Confidence is high in the Fletchers camp as the collective gears up for the next chapter in the happening Norwegian band’s saga.
The Jessica Fletchers debuted in 1998 with the now classic ‘I can shoot you from here’ which established the outfit as an underground favourite among 60s pop connoisseurs. TJF followed up with 2003’s strong outing ‘What Happened To The’ which spawned ultra-infectious hits such as Bloody Seventies Love and (Come On) It’s Only Nine. The album garnered very strong reviews abroad, particularly in the band’s core markets in Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the US. 2005’s ‘Less Sophistication’ picked up where the predecessor left, garnering an equally amount of strong reviews and solidifying the outfit’s position as a vital supplier of timeless and lively pop.
Wrote Spin.com’s Peter Gaston last year on TJF’s latest outing: ‘Their sophomore set, Less Sophistication, is a stripped down homage to groovy British pop replete with shagadelic beats, cooing vocals, vintage instrumentation, and gritty guitar jangles.
It's refreshing to hear a record that rather intentionally sounds as if it was recorded directly to tape on a bare bones budget with nary a computer in sight. Songs like the Kinks-y "Summer Holiday & Me" sound like they came straight off one of those Top of the Pops highlight reels on VH1 Classic, with the band all dressed in matching outfits and lip-syncing their performance into strange looking fake microphones. The girls in frilly miniskirts and dudes in turtlenecks and slacks -- the ones that eerily remind us of our parents -- would do "the swim" or shimmy along to the flute-led jam "How Unlucky (Can You Possibly Get)?" atop pastel colored platforms.’
The Jessicas are now set to follow up on their latest album. Says The Jessica Fletchers’ front-man Thomas Innstø: ‘We’re set to start recording our next album in Germany later this winter with (skate legend) Claus Grabke as producer. We met him at a barbeque party last year and hit off really well with him. We tried out his studio and we all agreed that this was it – we want to cut our next album here.’
It all began in Austria
‘We’ve played hundreds of gigs in Europe and USA over the last few years’ says Innstø, but the TJF’s impressive international career actually kick-started quite coincidentally says the vocalist: ‘We played a couple of gigs in Austria a few years ago, had a tracked picked up by local radio and suddenly the snowball started rolling. The concerts in Austria would soon be packed and that set off some very positive rumours that in turn led to gigs in Switzerland and Germany. Things have just grown from there, we got picked up by (US indie label) Rainbow Quartz, released our album in the US and went on a fantastic tour of the States. Austria was where we really got our confidence boosted and where things got in motion. I have to say that it’s been truly fantastic to discover new and supportive audiences abroad – we never counted on this to happen and it was never an conscious intention to achieve all of this, it just happened!’ says Innstø. ‘It’s been amazing to tour the US and experience that fantastic response we’ve been given’ says Innstø. ‘We’re just super stoked that people seem to like us so well. I think that many see us as a fresh alternative to all those boring US indie bands that sound the same. During our US tours we have also felt that it was a huge bonus to be Norwegian – the fact that we were from Norway was seen as very interesting and a guarantee for quality. The same goes for the European audience; it seems as if being Norwegian warrants a proof of quality and integrity.’
For many, it could appear as if TJF is focussing more on their international career than on their domestic. This has been a coincidence and not a conscious decision says Innstø: “The interest has just been so much stronger abroad than at home. It’s been easier for us to book a tour with many quality gigs in countries such as Austria and Switzerland than in Norway. At the same time we’ve been painfully aware that our music isn’t particularly mainstream and if you’re going to have any chance to make a living out of this it is necessary to reach out to a bigger market abroad. We also feel that media abroad have been more attentive than Norwegian journalists. We want to be acknowledged at home as well as abroad but we’re convinced that it’s going to change when we release our next album!’
Those acquainted with the distinctive TJF 60s sound, might be in for a real surprise when they hear the band’s new material. Says Innstø: ‘Our new songs have much more balls – they recreate our live sound much better. When we play live we have tons of energy and a rawer and grittier sound and we wanted to contain more of that on our new record. We’re really, really satisfied with the way the new material sounds. Personally I’ve come to a realisation of how songs should be written. It’s as if I’ve cracked some sort of code – it’s become clear to me how it needs to be done and this has made me a much more confident songwriter. This boost of confidence has also affected the other band members, the morale is high and we feel that we’re better than we’ve ever been before.’
This boost of confidence also affects the collective’s strategic planning. Even if the Jessica’s are shopping for a new record deal, they’re not willing to sign to the first bidder: ‘We don’t feel like we have to jump on the first offer we get – our new album is going to be so great we can sit back and choose the highest bidder or the best possible partner. We’re currently in talks with several of Germany’s majors, and I’m confident that we’ll reach an agreement soon.’
Record deal or not, the main priority for TJF this year is the upcoming album: ‘The main focus for us in 2006 will be our next album. We’re going to take the time it takes to create a true monster-album. This is going to be an album that will be as good as we can possibly make it. Even if it’s going to take a year to record it, we’re prepared to do so to create an album that’s going to stand the test of time. It’s going to be massive! We have decided to take the long road – we want to build up our reputation and following slowly. Many acts that are hyped massively at the start of their careers disappear fast after the peak of media interest has been passed. We’re too good to disappear into obscurity – we’re going to build up a solid platform and be around for a very long time.’
Innstø’s closing remarks bodes well for upcoming The Jessica Fletchers’ performances and releases: ‘We’re good. We’re better than we’ve ever been. We’re going to blow people away!’
Jessica summed up:
Formed in 1997
Line-up: Thomas Innstø (lead vocals, guitars), Mats Innstø (keyboards, vocals, percussion), Jan Henning Sørensen (drums), Andreas Mastrup (bass, vocals) and Rune Somdal (lead guitar, vocals, percussion)
Discography: I can shoot you from here (Perfect Pop 1998), What Happened To The (Perfect Pop 2003), Less Sophistication (Rainbow Quartz 2005)
Jessica Fletchers (Performing Bodies\Bands (rock/pop/jazz etc.))