COLA JET SET were formed in 2001 by Felipe and Aarón, rising from the ashes of their previous band Los Fresones Rebeldes (since reformed).They specialise in pristine pop music, taking influences from the fifties, sixties and beyond and producing something quite unique and beautiful. They’ve had some lineup changes down the years and each formation produces something a little different, but always interesting. The current band are Alícia (vocals, electric guitar), Felipe (head honco and 6 & 12 string guitars), Toni (drums), Manel (keys), Ruth (vocals and multiple instruments – she’s busy 😉 ), Dani (bass), Matt (VERY electric guitar) and Gerard (sound and keys). They’ve certainly got a much rockier edge and the sound is all the better for it as can be heard on their most recent album “El Fin Del Mundo” and single/EP “Me Levantaré”. There is an excellent biography of the band on the Elefant Records website and we’ve tried to reflect that in the first YouTube playlist at the end of the interview below. Alícia, Felipe and Matt very kindly answered some questions for us.
The new single (“Me Levantaré”) is really joyful – it’s a blast and the video reflects it beautifully – did you enjoy making them both?
Matt: Being in a video is like being in a movie: the director tells you what to do, and you have no idea how it looks or all fits together until the editor is done. Alicia deserves a lot of credit for this video as well as the director, Angela Ulloa. The scenes inside were actually taken on a rainy winter day, but you would never know thanks to the filming crew’s magic.
Felipe: Yes, we had a fine day together and were jumping and smiling for the camera for five hours. Being shot in the middle of our presentation tour, we knew this song was the most danced by the audience everywhere. The next day was worse, I felt every bone in pain.
Alicia: Making videos with Angela is great. She improves our ideas, she takes care of every detail, and the photography is just great! We have fun making videos as much as recording the songs, even if it takes a lot of work of organization of all the band members (as we have different availabilities), finding locations, making the scripts, dealing with the label etc. After the inside scenes it took us two additional filming days for the outsides scenes. Behind a natural and beautiful video as well as a joyful single there is a lot of work.
How important is the band’s image to you?
Matt: No matter how you look, it will always seem ridiculous in ten years and retro in twenty. Songs age better than any fashion does.
Felipe: I see it as a matter of respect to the audience: we should look at least as good as them and also while on stage and on tour we are family and it should tell
Alícia: At the same time we want to feel comfortable with every member’s own style.
How does the dynamic work between you all? Do you always agree on musical direction?
Matt: I think everybody has good enough taste in the band that nobody has ever cringed at the direction things have gone.
Felipe: At the present moment we get on naturally well and songs turn out better than what we had in mind at first. Direction shows itself most of the time. Anyway, Alicia wanted to switch from acoustic to electric guitar after the second album and from that little decision onwards, everything has added to our big snowball current sound: Dani’s solid bass playing, Toni’s powerful beating, Manel’s aggressive organ sound, Matt playing third electric guitar really like an axe, me not afraid of distortion and overdrive, Alicia and Ruth double vocal action, and songs to show all this.
Alícia: We have got different favourite bands, but all these different background seem to match magically together and enrich our personal musical culture.
People have come and gone from the band – how has that affected your sound?
Matt: There’s a difference in the sound of each album and I would think personnel changes are a big part of it. Dani’s upfront bass sound or Toni’s loud drumming are just two things that are different than when I saw them as a fan six years ago. I think it’s inevitable bands either change members or break up. Even if Cola Jet Set is the easiest it gets being in a band, every soul in the world has their own limit of how many nights in their lifetime they can spend at band practice. It’s all temporary, every band, which is why it’s important to go see them when you can.
Felipe: I agree with this. Sometimes I need to tailor every song to the capabilities of each line up, and sometimes I just have to let it flow, which is the current case. We have the best line up and songs in CJS history and it all came naturally.
Alícia: I agree! All changes have occurred naturally and without a big tension or trauma. And I believe all changes are for the good!
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
Matt: I was five and saw Star Wars and listened to the soundtrack album until my parents went berserk. It was big and roaring and full of overwrought emotion. It’s not very different than rock music!
Felipe: I was thirteen, went to a party and that lovely green-eyed girl danced with me to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. The moment when the last note in the guitar solo and the first organ note in the chorus got together in nirvana I was doomed forever.
Alícia: For me, when I was a small kid, I used to listen to my parent’s Jacques Brel vinyl, the song “Quand on n’a que l’amour”. I think is the song that has made me like the “chanson française” so much.
How do you know when a song you’re working on is complete?
Matt: The recorded versions of songs are usually recorded because there is a deadline for an album. They are only a snapshot of the song at that point. Songs are never really ‘done’. If you see us play “Quiereme” now, there’s big crashing drums and open ringing chords on the guitar solos! Next year it will be something else. The minute you try to freeze something in time, it belongs in a museum.
Alícia: Our songs are in constant evolution, even if we do only small changes. We even do covers in other languages of some of our songs or new mixes.
What, outside of the musical world, influences your art?
Matt: The only consolation during bad weather is to distract yourself until summer comes. That’s my motivation for just about everything from October to April.
Felipe: Life. I try to enjoy every moment.
Alícia: For the moment I don’t really have time to other things a part from my daughters and work, and of course music! But I believe that my philosophy of life (living naturally, enjoying the small ordinary things) influences everything in my life.
Do your songs change much when played on front of a live audience?
Matt: They sound much better than when we play them alone.
Felipe: I suppose the presence of an audience takes the most out of ourselves.
Alícia: I love playing live, we enjoy playing on stage and I guess public can feel it. I think our songs really have a boost on front of a live audience.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
Matt: I’m glad I didn’t write “Answering Machine” by The Replacements. Otherwise I’d have to always say, “Hey chicos, I wrote a new song, but forget it because it isn’t as good as that one I wrote in 1984!”
Felipe: “The Trains” by The Nashville Ramblers, written by Carl Rusk. It has most of the things I love in songs: a driving melody, beautiful harmonies, 12 string guitar, 3 parts, “orgasmic” cadence exploding in the solo, lyrics that you don’t really understand at first but make you fantasise, and when you don’t want it to end, still gets on for a little while.
Alícia: Pulp “Common People”, just unique!
What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?
Matt: I wish I could play guitar like Steve Jones and bass like Bruce Foxton. Never getting there is probably my biggest influence.
Felipe: Paul McCartney and Paul Weller. Every time I’m writing a song, it’s of classic Beatles structure or an attempt to get away from it.
Flowers or chocolate?
Matt: Flowers look better a week later if you keep them in the ground. Some people like chocolate, but I’ve never seen anybody say no to pizza.
Alícia: Chocolate forever! Although I love flowers too. Can be both?
Name a song that makes you happy and why does it have that effect?
Matt: I was once playing a show in Orlando, Florida and the sound guy kept playing the EXACT SAME SONG before the show, between bands and after the show. Afterwards I asked if the CD player was stuck and he said, “No man, I just can’t get enough of this song!” It was ‘Counting Backwards’ by The Velvet Teen. He was right to proselytize the hell out of that tune. I would be severely suspicious of the humanity of anyone who failed to find joy in that song.
Alícia: Right now I really enjoy listening to listen to Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros “Home”. It is really empowering!
What is(are) the best new band(s) that you’ve heard recently?
Matt: I like Beach Slang a lot, but if your songwriter was in seminal bands in another century, I don’t know if that still can be constituted as ‘new’. I definitely think they’re up for the award for ‘best’.
Alícia: The Divine Comedy for the virtuosity of Neil Hannon and his great songs, Belle and Sebastian, as the best example of actual English pop, La Casa Azul, of its great songs and arrangements. I guess the three are just brilliant composers in their style.
If you had to throw away your entire record collection but were allowed to keep just one disc – what would it be?
Matt: Any mix CD given to me. They’re usually better than albums. First, they’re usually over 70 minutes long. And they’re always a limited edition.
Alícia: I guess “A Secret History” of The Divine Comedy (the best of). I really love Neil Hannon.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are? (And what would be your answer?)
Matt: I keep waiting for somebody to ask for my synopsis of the influence of Byzantine symbolism in the territorial irredentism in the nineteenth century Modern Greek state. It never happens – a quarter of a decade of graduate school, all for nothing!
Alícia: Blur or Oasis? Definitely, Pulp.
YouTube – A short history of Cola Jet Set
YouTube– Cola Jet Set influences
Spotify– Cola Jet Set
Deezer – Cola Jet Set