Currently in the thick of their US tour to promote new album, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, The Fratellis are more than ready to play to fans the second incantation of a record that took two goes to get right.
The first effort fell short in January 2014, while the boys were in the midst of a tour. However, once their live dates were over they were ready for a retake and their fourth album just fell into place.
Despite taking a brief hiatus to concentrate on their own side-projects, The Fratellis have released four cracking albums over the past 10 years (two top 5’s), secured a Brit Award, enjoyed four sold-out nights at Brixton Academy and countless sell-out shows around the world. In particular, Jon Fratelli has never gotten on better with his band mates or enjoyed playing live as much as he does now. And it shows, with a new album taking their sound back to the start and containing all the larrikin swagger of their breakthrough smash Costello Music.
Although it’s exhilarating and stylish it retains some toe-tapping hallmarks their music never really lost, from the stomping piano on opening track Me And The Devil to the crowd-pleasing racy guitars on Baby Don’t You Lie To Me! As Jon Fratelli himself said back in 2013, “All you’re ever doing is pleasing yourself, and that’s the best thing to trust.”
After the release of 2013’s We Need Medicine, the Glaswegian trio spent a year touring the world. At the end of 2014, they worked in LA on album number four with Tony Hoffer (M83, Depeche Mode and Belle & Sebastian), who also produced Costello Music. With Hoffer in the director’s chair, the band were able to retain the pure enjoyment of ‘playing for the fun of it’. Containing nods to 70s Cali-rock, rockabilly and hints of Americana and country, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied is a glorious homecoming album, with roots both in Scotland and LA.
This album indeed seems permeated with California sunshine, as if channelled to create a record that represents what The Fratellis do best, with fun and energy at its soul.
The band graciously entered into a cheeky Q+A with us this week, in between live shows:
TGW: How has the US tour been so far? Any places you’re looking forward to playing again? Any you’re not allowed back to?
JF: It’s been pretty great so far, good audiences, we’re quite happy. There’s still time to be banned from certain states, we’re in Salt Lake City today so maybe this will be the one…though really I think we’re too lazy for any of that…
TGW: The new album’s a cracker. In your track ‘Thief’ you describe a girl who ‘can take you higher but she’s not your friend.’ Over the years, you’ve written about many a black-and-blue-eyed slow-dancing woman, the type who will make you cry and whose husband may cut you. How much real-life experience is behind your wonderfully dark lyricism?
JF: Why I write that way I’ve no idea, rock n roll has always been filled with tales of doubtful women but it’s probably because it’s always been a fairly male orientated arena. Personally I’m under no illusion that women are by far the superior of the species, maybe that’s what makes them so interesting…and frightening to some men.
TGW: I lived in Glasgow for many years myself (Cumbernauld, no less) and was excited by the amount of breakthrough artists I saw make it big during my time there. Why do you think Glasgow has such a thriving music scene?
JF: I was brought up in Cumbernauld! I’ve no idea what the Glasgow scene is like – I think it’s all a bit of a myth. I was a bedroom musician so didn’t spend much time in the places were musicians hung out. I’d have to take your word for it!
TGW: The Fratellis originally formed following an ad posted by Mince, looking for an ‘opportunity of a lifetime…seeks band to make our mark on the music industry.’ Looking back on the last decade as a band, what to you is the distinguishable ‘mark’ of The Fratellis?
JF: I wouldn’t presume that we’ve left any mark, I know it’s not the best answer in the world, our only intention is to make records that we like and to go out and play them to anyone who wants to hear us, we’ll probably keep doing that until it’s time to stop.
TGW: What other musician or producer would be a dream musical collaboration for you guys, and why?
JF: Phil Spector, though that may be a forlorn hope!
TGW: What’s it called?
JF: Anywhere but Cumbernauld!
Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied is out now.