|Photo By Nicky J Sims|
After 13 years, five albums, a handful of solo projects, a brief hiatus, The Fratellis still make music that excites them.
“We are still pleasing ourselves,” Jon Fratelli told me over dinner during a recent trip to New York City. “It is a job but is the best job there is. I would do it for free.”
The slim Scottish frontman seems to be at ease with his work, life, and the world and couldn’t be happier. As his band readies their new album, In Your Own Sweet Time, the singer and guitarist discussed the madness of Costello Music, doing things their own way, and how grateful they are for their fans.
“If I didn’t do something musical with my day, I didn’t do anything with my day,” the 38-year-old said of how he is constantly cranking out sounds.
In Your Own Sweet Time is his bands latest opus about enjoying the hell out of your life and pushing for ways to break down the boundaries of what a three-piece band can do.
The Fratellis came from the atom bomb explosion of garage rock bands of the mid 2000s. They formed in Glasgow in 2005 after answering an ad that Barry Fratelli posted in local adverts calling to form a band. When the three met and got together, Jon says everything just clicked.
“Barry wanted to name us after the family from The Goonies, I never saw the film, I’ve only seen parts of it now, but I liked the name,” the singer admitted.
“Being a three piece is by accident,” he added. They started out as a four-piece band but a member left leaving just the three of them together and realizing they could just soldier on without an addition component.
Interestingly, he says that it wasn’t a take on the Ramones to each name each other from the name of the band, it simply was how they put each other in their phones because they didn’t know one another’s surnames and it was easy just typing in “Barry Fratelli, Mince Fratelli, Jon Fratelli,” he said.
“I don’t have a brother,” he said, “But I love them like family.”
After releasing a self-titled EP in 2006, the band got buzz in the local rock scene. “Our biggest ambition was just to get a gig in Glasgow,” he said. Months later, the world came calling.
Sepetember 2006 saw the release of their debut, Costello Music, and The Fratellis were everywhere.
Led by the singles, “Flathead,” “Chelsea Dagger,” and “Henrietta,” the album was an international smash. “Flathead” would also become the soundtrack to an iTunes commercial, which pushed the bands catchy sound even more mainstream. As the success of their debut grew, the band could not escape the chaotic atmosphere.
“The Costello Music period should have been great but I was too tired to enjoy it,” the frontman admits. “We crammed everything in such a short time and did so much in 18 months.”
In that 18 months, they toured the globe headlining clubs and festivals, supported The Police on their reunion tour, and recorded their second album, Here We Stand.
By 2009, the members of the band were exhausted with life on the road and each other. At the peak of their popularity, they took a hiatus that left many scratching their heads.
“It is an easy job but we made it hard,” Jon admitted. “We had problems with everything.”
In that time, he formed a new band called Codeine Velvet Club and released a solo record. Within that period, they got dropped from their label – Island Records – and it seemed as if The Fratellis had run its course.
After a few years apart, in 2012, something sparked the members to get back together. A year later, they released their “comeback” album, We Need Medicine.
After two records that entered the top 5 of the UK and US charts, their third effort saw steadfast decline, yet, nevertheless they were back and learned that without the pressure of a label, they were free to do anything.
The band found themselves having fun returning to the studio and to the stage, even pumping out 2015’s Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, which has now led the foundation to where they are now with In Your Own Sweet Time.
The new record, which features more synths than ever before still, has the band’s positive and thunderous sound attached to each song. Jon says they were in “a playful mood” when they recorded and the album is a demonstration of that emotion.
“We are far better now,” Jon assures. “Now, I can make just about anything I want with this band.”
He says the band have already written half the songs which will appear on a new album, however, he didn’t elaborate as to when they will record it and put it out.
The Scottish outfit will hit the road this spring in support of their new album and Jon says the stage is their home. He says before he goes to perform an internal switch “flicks on” and loves delivering a fun show to his crowd. “If I can’t entertain myself, I can’t entertain anyone,” he admits.
“Live is where we know how to be and if all else fails, live is what we can do,” he added. “We still know how to go out an play. It is the simplest thing there is.”
While some bands get tired of playing their biggest hits, for The Fratellis, it is unlike that.
“People should get exactly what they want” the singer says when it comes to delivering the hits. “Elton [John] is still playing ‘Rocket Man’ and there is good reason for that. You are in the entertainment business, I don’t see a reason in not entertaining.”
As fans around the world continue to buy tickets to come out to see them, get some merchandise, maybe even physically purchase a record and enjoy themselves, Jon Fratelli says he is simply “grateful” for all of it.