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THE FRATELLIS: WE SHOULD BE IN GOOD FORM BY THE TIME WE GET TO MANCHESTER – INTERVIEW BY PHILIP HOWE

 
After a five year release hiatus, Glasgow based The Fratellis are back with a new album ‘We Need Medicine’ on 7th October released through BMG Records. This will be preceded by a new single ‘Seven Nights Seven Days’ on 29th September.

After reforming for a sold out UK tour earlier this year and performing to a huge crowd at this year’s T in the Park Festival, The Fratellis have also announced a UK tour in November. The tour commences at Bournemouth 02 Academy on the 17th November and culminates in a homecoming show at Glasgow 02 Academy on the 29th November.

The Fratellis released their first album ‘Costello Music’ in 2006 which charted at #2 in the UK Album Chart with over 1 million sales and received much critical acclaim, with the band winning the ‘Best British Breakthrough Act’ award at the 2007 BRIT Awards. They followed this with the release of their second album ‘Here We Stand’ in 2008 which won them ‘Best British Band’ at the 33rd Silver Clef Awards that year.

The Fratellis third album ‘We Need Medicine’, recorded in Glasgow’s West End and produced by Jon Fratelli and Stuart McCredie, who also mixed the record, is an 11-track record of bluesy rock anthems. New single ‘Seven Nights Seven Days’ is a rousing anthem with a classic Fratellis chorus backed by country guitars, while the title track is a gravelly, piano-led blues song that you can’t help but sing along to and is sure to be a live favourite. 

I caught up with Jon (on the phone) and asked him about his time away from the band, and what the best part of getting back together is.

PHILIP: The Fratellis are back after a four year break, I take it that a break was always planned to pursue other projects?

JON: Well, we kind of split up really, we hadn't planned a break as much as we just sort of felt we'd packed it in. We're sort of glad now that wasn't the case, you know, but at the time we probably all looked around and thought we had spent a lot of time together over the last three or four years up to that point and maybe we were a bit fed up of each other, you know.  Which happens, as it does with married couples, they get fed up of each other but they're not working together all day and then spending time at home together and that's what you kind of end up doing in a band, you spend all your time together. I'm surprised bands don't divorce more often.

PHILIP: You moved on to Codeine Velvet Club, was that a group that you were proud of and would you consider it a success?

JON: It could never be called a success in the way you would measure it as usual. I just had a lot of fun in that band. All I've ever done is just go in the direction I felt at that time, because of that I could never have anything bad to say about it. I thought it was a great band, just as bands go and all we ever did was have fun really.  I can never remember one bad gig with that band, it was all just pretty good.

PHILIP: What about your cover version of  ‘I Am The Resurrection’, do you think that was a brave move?

JON: Well I did it more to annoy people, which really sounds terrible. We were sort of looking for a cover at the time, and I've got to say I'm not a huge Stone Roses fan, it was just never my thing, but I actually liked that song. It was definitely a sense of mischief about it as I knew Stone Roses fans would hate it, you know. It's probably a terrible reason to do it, but you just get that sneaky way sometimes where you just can't help yourself.  I do like that song, also it was just to pick something that is the complete opposite from what it is that you do and try and make it work. It's a bit of a challenge really.

PHILIP: Next you moved to record a solo album, Psycho Jukebox?

JON: Yeah, again, just to do it. I never really had a big plan behind anything, ever, even with The Fratellis, you were just doing it for it's own sake, really.

PHILIP: So when you reformed as The Fratellis, do you fell that all the outside projects allow you to bring something back, or is it that it gets something out of your system?

JON: There's probably a little bit of getting things out of your system. I think especially with regards Mince playing thrash metal. I don't know if much has changed in The Fratellis and at the same time, it's been seven years since we made our first record, so things inevitably have to change. Time dictates that.

PHILIP: But it's good to be back together?

JON: It's good to just go out and play. It's such a basic thing to be able to go out and play music to people. It's not something that everyone who picks up a guitar or plays a piano, or whatever, gets to do. We are in that fortunate position and maybe I'd forgotten that and we'd built an audience and we were lucky enough to be able to do that. When we came back and put on a couple of shows people wanted to come, because it wasn't a given at that point. We just dipped a toe in the water to see if anyone cared, you know, and after a few gigs, we thought there might be life to it.  I'm just keeping things simple.  Make records, play to people.

PHILIP: New single 'Seven Nights Seven Days' is out 27th September, I feel it's a much more straight forward song than I would think other Fratellis' songs are?

JON: Well, I don't know.  The good thing about writing songs is that you don't have to have an opinion on them.  You just sort of do them.

PHILIP: Following that is your third album 'We Need Medicine', released on the 7th October.  The third album by a band is usually described as "the difficult third album", was that the case?

JON: The complete opposite. The thing about making your first record is, you've written the songs on it and recorded it almost entirely just for you, you know, because usually at that point, you have no audience. You've just written and recorded it to amuse yourselves. I think what we did with this record is almost exactly the same, because nobody was waiting on the record. We hadn't said we were doing anything. We were just completely doing it for ourselves. I hope it sounds like that because those are the records that I would prefer to listen to, where the person who made it was not too self conscious or anything. We got the chance to do that and it's a good musical lesson to try and keep your life that way. You should only ever please yourself. If any other people like it, then that's the bonus part.  We made this record before Christmas and looking back, that's what we were doing.

PHILIP: This album is co-produced with Stuart McCreedie, what does he add?

JON: It'd be really hard to say. I'd have to be really super aware to notice, but we've made the Codeine [Velvet Club] record together and we also made another record of mine that hasn't seen the light of day yet. You just get into a way of working together. When it comes to the production, I'd have to use that term very loosely when it comes to me because I'm not technical and I have no real interest in being technical when it comes to the engineering side of producing a record. I've always had an idea of how to make records with sound, but have no real way of getting from start to finish, you know, from that sound you imagine to the one you get on tape. You definitely need a collaborator. Given that we recorded this in Stuart's house we have to doff a cap to him. I wouldn't have let us come and record in my house and it's my damn record. It's nice to find an easy way of working.

PHILIP: What can we expect from this album, any more terrace chanting anthems?

JON: They were never meant to be [terrace anthems], the fact that they've been taken up as that is a whole other life. They have a life of their own. I mean, fucking [Chelsea] Dagger is a drunken bar room song, you know, I always find that odd that it would go hand in hand with sport in any way. Terrace chants, I would really hope not, they never interested me then and it wouldn't now, you know, but I guess there will be similarities between this and the first Fratellis' record, just because they were made in that same sort of spirit, and, there's nothing wrong with choruses. Choruses are not to be underestimated.

PHILIP: Well, I've certainly lost a lot of pints of beer, when stood in a club and a Fratellis' record came on.

JON:  I'll reimburse you.

PHILIP: Then obviously, you are back on tour.

JON: That's the part we get to do that we have control over. All the other stuff that comes; releasing a record and all that other stuff, where they get played, can they get played anywhere, does anybody like it, that's the stuff you don't get any control over. Making the thing and then just going out and playing live are the bits you really look forward to, because that's where you get the control. A band like us always knew we had the live thing that we could do without any other factors, just getting on a stage and playing was the easy part. We've done four or five months this year of playing and that hasn't changed.  You just go, well at least we've got gigs. Without those, your life would be in so many other people's hands, you know. We should be in good form by the time we get to Manchester on the 27th November for you.

PHILIP: What about European audiences?

JON: I've never found audiences to be any different when it comes to geography. They change from night to night no matter where you are in the world. There's definitely an alchemy that goes into it. A little bit of magic. You're doing your best every night, or at least you should be. You get the odd place that's slightly more reserved than others, even in Britain. There's no pattern to that. I do like the surprise of not knowing what's going to happen. You just hope you get one of those nights where you come off and no one can talk for laughing at how good it was, you know.

I'm now looking forward to the single release at the end of this month and the album and tour that follows.

www.thefratellis.com 

Interview by Philip Howe
Photos (live) by Melanie Smith