Nic Cester on ditching music and moving to Milan
You’ve spent your 20s in one of the biggest bands in the world, selling 6.5 million records, winning the Hottest 100 and a swag of ARIAs and touring with The Rolling Stones.
But all good things come to an end. So, what do you do?
For Nic Cester, frontman of beloved Melbourne band Jet, you move to Italy.
“When the whole Jet thing finished, I was a little bit disillusioned,” Cester told Double J’s Myf Warhurst.
Everything about it was unnatural ... It was just an enormous amount of pressure.Nic Cester talking about Jet
“I wasn't even sure if I was still interested enough [in music] to do something worthwhile.”
Jet had blown up in a big way in 2003, off the back of NME buzz and a renewed interest in 70s-esque garage rock. Songs don’t get much bigger than ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’, which topped triple j’s annual poll in 2003 and charted in the US Billboard Top 40.
The band released three albums during the 2000s and scored a US number 1 with the song 'Cold Hard Bitch', from Shine On, but called it quits in 2012. Nic Cester’s brother Chris, the band’s drummer, cited personal differences and the hard slog of touring.
“It was so weird,” Nic Cester says of that time.
“Just everything about it was unnatural – just how quickly it all took off. It was just an enormous amount of pressure.”
He and his wife, Pia McGeoch, moved to Milan about five years ago. For much of that time, he says, he didn’t even pick up a guitar.
He did, however, have a bass with him – despite not having played one in Jet – and, after a long break, it became an entry point back into music.
“I have always had pretty eclectic music taste,” he says.
“A couple of years ago, I was in Melbourne and it was really hot – it was like a 40-degree day – and I was shifting through [stations] listening to the radio.
“And I think Led Zeppelin came on and I was like, ‘No, it's way too hot for Led Zeppelin’. And then I don't know what station it was but all this really breezy Brazilian stuff came on, and I was just like, ‘This makes sense’. I just fell in love with it. And I started devouring a lot of 60s and 70s Brazilian music.”
The singer has now released his first solo record, Sugar Rush. It’s bass-heavy, with strong soul references – an unexpected turn for a man who’s built a successful career playing raucous guitar music.
Time away from the intensity of the spotlight and the endless album cycle seems to have allowed Cester some perspective, and to be anonymous, he says – “to just start from zero”.
Now, things are ramping up again. Cester and his band, the Milano Elettrica, are touring Australia, and last year Jet reformed for a series of shows.
"It was good," he says, "especially after such a long time apart. It's just nice that we are all friends again."
Sugar Rush is out November 3. It's our Feature Album all week on Double J from Monday November 6.