Meet the rockers who broke up in a taxi. Jet, the drunken Australian band tells EW about the moving cab and how it all came to an end

By Nancy Miller
Updated March 12, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

We’ll get to how Jet broke up in a moment. How drummer Chris Cester lost his cool — ”I’m out of this f—ing band!” — and bolted out the door of a still-moving cab. But first, let’s turn the clock back 12 hours to the chilly February afternoon when the rowdy Australian group arrived for the Glasgow date of their maiden headlining tour across Europe. They’re standing outside for a photo shoot wearing near-identical hip-hugger flares and musty vintage ’70s gear, looking more like funky refugees than rock stars. ”I’m so hungry I could f — -ing die,” moans bassist Mark Wilson, 23, his Aussie accent as thick as the overgrown ivy of greasy hair dangling down to his shoulders. Nic Cester, 24, the group’s scruffy, skinny frontman, appears on the verge of collapsing under the weight of his tattered navy coat while Wilson frets over his bloody, bandaged finger, calloused from perpetual bass plucking. Meanwhile, Nic’s brother, Chris, 22, is turning a sickly shade of yellow as guitarist Cameron Muncey, 24, repeatedly blows his nose into a well-worn Kleenex.

This, by the way, is considered a healthy day for Jet. For the first time since, well, ever, the band didn’t drink to the point of liver failure the night before. ”We were trying to remember how long it had been since we did a show without alcohol, and none of us could,” Nic says, referring to a Belfast gig the night before (sponsored, ironically, by Jack Daniels). ”I had a cup of tea afterwards and was in bed by midnight. But don’t you f — -ing dare tell anyone. It will ruin us.”

Not likely. Jet’s gritty ’60s-and ’70s-inspired rock has propelled them up the charts — their debut CD, Get Born, recently went gold, and their breakout hit, ”Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” is a radio staple, with the tune’s groovy black-and-white video in heavy rotation on MTV and VH1. But their hard-drinking ways have captured just as much attention. So debauched is the band’s rep that the night before their Dec. 13 appearance on Saturday Night Live, Nic says their label sent a minder to ”make sure we didn’t party too hard before the show.”

There have been inevitable comparisons to fellow Aussies the Vines (with whom the band will tour the U.S. for five weeks starting in March), as well as garage phenoms like the White Stripes and the Strokes. ”We sound like a bunch of bands, so being compared to other bands is something we were never shy of,” says Nic, gently blowing into a bowl of much-needed hot soup in the band’s hotel suite an hour before sound check. ”We think of it, like, we got a song that AC/DC forgot to write, or we’ve got songs the Beatles forgot to write. That’s part of our shtick, so if you don’t like that, you don’t like our band — and I don’t give a f — -.”

Glasgow is something of a homecoming for the Cester sibs; the half-Scottish, half-Italian duo — whose volatile relationship recalls that of those other brawling rock brothers, Oasis’ Gallaghers — grew up in a working-class section of Melbourne, but a large chunk of their extended family still lives here. As teens, Nic worked as a forklift operator by day, and he and Chris used the factory as a rehearsal space by night. ”We haven’t really come from a secure background,” Nic says. ”None of us were going to university. None of us did well in school. We haven’t really had an easy ride.”