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To say that Sean Williams and Stephen Jerkins started Jetpack with humble aspirations would be more than an understatement. “We didn't even expect to ever play anywhere with decent sound,” Williams, the band's lead singer and guitarist, said dryly in a recent phone interview.
Williams and Jerkins, who met as classmates at Harding University in Searcy (Williams is a Searcy native), had only messed around a little in living rooms and garages in Nashville when longtime friend Isaac Alexander asked them to come open up for Big Silver's CD release show in Little Rock in 2001. Thanks to Alexander's prodding, Jetpack was born onstage.
In the early days, when Jetpack was playing a steady string of gigs around Nashville, Williams says that the band knew about another act with the same name, a surf rock outfit out of California, but with Jetpack's limited ambitions they figured paths would never cross. Fast forward several years: The Nashville Scene named the pop-rockers the city's “Best Unsigned Band” in 2005; Red Eye distributed “The Art of Building a Moat,” Jetpack's 2006 EP, nationally; and the lead single off that EP, the endlessly catchy “Mathematics,” was made into a video.
Then last year, a local author asked The Nashville Scene to recommend a local rock band to profile in a children's book. The alt-weekly steered her to Jetpack. Wary of legal entanglements that might surface from that exposure, the band slapped a UK on the end of its name, a nod to its Brit-pop influences. To promote the book, the band embarked on a decidedly un-rock 'n' roll tour — five weeks of shows in public libraries across the country.
As the band readied its latest full-length, “The Mezzanine,” it decided to bite the bullet and deal with the name issue. Taken from a lyric in the new album's title track (“I was born into nobility, but I squandered my riches in champagne and wine”), Nobility replaced Jetpack UK.
The change could be at just the right time. The band usually plays to full houses in Nashville; it's easily one of the city's most popular acts, and, behind the strength of “The Mezzanine,” it seems poised to break nationally. The album rests firmly on a foundation of “Village Green”-era Kinks, early Paul McCartney solo material and Elvis Costello. But the band breaks some new ground, playing with tempo and adding orchestral touches — a stuttering tuba in the title track, violin, saxophone, flute and French horn elsewhere. Still, it's Williams' ability to craft a ridiculously infectious hook that truly sets the band apart. Try “Halleluiah Chorus,” the album's lead single, with its triumphant chorus of “ohs,” and it'll be stuck in your head for weeks.
Revolution, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 2.
$5. All ages.
Doesn't hurt with the Godzilla tie-in. With the mentioning of Monarch, and the atomic bomb…