As his band prepare to return to the stage with a brand new record, qmunicate’s Alice Black caught up with Jon Fratelli to discuss touring the world, new beginnings and a special night in the QMU.
So The Fratellis have been on hiatus since 2009. What have you been up to and what was it that made you decide to reform?
I’ve just been recording and making music because that’s the only thing I really know how to do and it’s what I love to do. What everyone else was up to I have no idea really.
We got back to play together, at least from my point of view, just for the sheer hell of it; because being able to go out and play music for people is something you should never take for granted and you shouldn’t turn down. At first we were worried nobody would come to our shows but they did and we were lucky enough to be able to put gigs on and tour together. You do always feel like you’re pushing your luck a wee bit but I guess that’s all this band ever really did- we just pushed our luck and now we’ve pushed it far enough that we can make a record and release it and that’s really all we want to do- make our music and have it heard.
It must have been amazing to be able to go back and play at T in the Park again- do you find festivals easier or harder to perform at?
I definitely find my own gigs easier. At your own gigs people have paid to see you and you can get a bit of an idea of the numbers. You can also poke your head round and gauge the audience’s mood and the atmosphere so there’s less pressure and you enjoy it more. With festivals you have no idea what’s going to happen and you have hardly any control over anything; you can either go out to a crowd that leaves when you start playing or you can generate a big crowd who stay and react well to your music. On the other hand when festivals go well, and luckily for us T in the Park did, festivals can be an amazing experience.
Your new album is out in October. After the three of you went your separate ways musically during the band’s hiatus would you say the Fratelli’s sound has changed dramatically or has it stayed true to your previous albums?
I don’t think it’s changed dramatically. I mean, when we started out, and certainly when I listen back to our first record, we sound very excited. I think we have mellowed out a bit but essentially our sound is the same because really you have to make music for yourself about stuff that you’re interested in and passionate about otherwise you just can’t do it really.
Has there been a lot of pressure on you guys to make tracks similar to your previous singles like ‘Chelsea Dagger’ or is that something you’ve tried to steer clear of?
God no. I think it’s actually the opposite. When we made the new album we didn’t have a record label, we do now, but when we recorded it we were just making it for us and no one else. There was no one in the booth instructing us to do this or that so we felt free to do exactly what we wanted and so the songs that are on it are there because we want them to be.
A lot of artists say that releasing a new album to the public is one the hardest aspects of making music. Do you agree with that? Are you nervous or excited about releasing the new album?
I’ve really just learned not to care. That doesn’t mean I don’t want people’s reactions to be good or the fans to be pleased with it, but I think the main part about making an album is to enjoy what you doing and I think there is a real danger of ruining an album through worrying too much about the listeners reactions.
‘Chelsea Dagger’ was written for your wife – and with many of your songs there’s a real idea of a character forming through the lyrics. Are many of your songs written about someone or with someone in mind and if so do you worry about their reaction?
I think they are veiled enough so that the person wouldn’t know. A lot of it comes from fiction, about 90% of it actually. I think a lot of those types of tracks are mostly from our first album and when we recorded that I hadn’t really lived all that much but I guess after joining the Fratelli’s I’ve seen and done a bit more and I’ve travelled a lot. I do seem to have a bit of an aversion to writing about real life, though to be honest I think that’s because I don’t have much of a life myself. I live in a wee triangle of my house, the shops and the place we are recording. I think using fiction in songs and expanding on certain truths and experiences is something a lot of bands do but it is a good thing because otherwise song lyrics could be pretty boring.
Is it important to you guys being known as a Scottish band?
Not really. I would definitely consider myself Scottish before English but to be honest I don’t think there’s much difference between Scottish and English bands. You always hear a lot of talk about the Scottish music scene and the Glasgow music scene and when I hear that I think what is it exactly? It seems that a lot of the time being Scottish is used as a publicity tool and that never something I’ve seen a point in.
I read somewhere that the first place you guys played ‘Mistress Mabel’ was the QMU is that true?
It may well have been but I can’t remember to be honest. The Queen Margaret Union is a great venue though, it was actually where I played one of the best gigs when I was in my band Codeine Velvet Club – it was a really good size and just had a fantastic atmosphere.
Any further plans for 2013 or are you just hoping to survive such a busy year?
Well we are touring from October to December and we are hoping that this will stretch into the new year. It feels really good to have gigs planned because playing music is what I love and it definitely gives me a sense of purpose so all I’m wanting right now is for our situation to carry on.