Indie rockstars The Fratelli’s have been making music for almost a decade now, and have learnt the hard way about the highs and lows that come with a life of music and fame. But that hasn’t stopped the vibrant trio, who are currently riding the wave of their latest success We Need Medicine around the world on their current tour.
We were lucky enough to chat with band frontman Jon Fratelli about the experience of being in a band, his solo career and how he finds the inspiration to write new songs, among many other things. Here’s what he had to say…
Melissa Redman: How are you and where in the world does our phone call find you today?
Jon Fratelli: Hey, I’m good thanks. I’m in Glasgow, Scotland at the moment, getting ready to fly out to Australia tomorrow.
JF: Ah it’s hard to remember what we were thinking because we recorded most of that album in December 2012, so it was a long time ago now. I think we just wanted to make a record that we could play live, it seemed important at the time and I think that we managed to do that. We’ve been touring for about a year now and we’re still excited about our music. Fans also still seem to be paying attention and being excited.
MR: So The Fratelli’s went on a hiatus mid-July 2009. What caused that to happen and how did you resolve your issues to get the band back together?
JF: Well there wasn’t a whole lot to resolve really because there weren’t really that many issues. It just got to the point where we’d spent so much time together and we felt like we needed a break; the only thing to do was to stop playing together. Me being me, I thought we were finished and went off and did my own thing. But I think we just realised one day that we wanted to be The Fratelli’s again, we sort of needed to be.
MR: Were you surprised that fans still stood by you and were still eager to hear new music even though you had been on hiatus for 3 years?
JF: Um, yeah, I guess I was surprised. You can never really be sure about people and how they’re feeling, and keeping an audience is always a hard thing to do. So yeah I was a bit surprised.
MR: Whilst The Fratelli’s were on hiatus you released a solo album Psycho Jukebook and recorded another, Bright Night Flowers. Do you have any plans to ever release Bright Night Flowers?
JF: No, I don’t have any plans to release it at the moment. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t ever be released. I like the idea of it only being released if I feel like it. I don’t think I’d care if it wasn’t released, because it’s an album that was just made for me, an album that I needed to make. It’s a bit selfish and perverse, but I like the idea of it sitting in my bedside table and that nobody gets to hear it.
MR: Chelsea Daggers was the song that put The Fratelli’s on the map. Does the song hold special meaning to you, or do you get sick of performing it now?
JF: It holds no meaning to me at all. It was just one song that I wrote, along with a whole bunch of other songs. I don’t really have much to say about it. I mean, I’m glad that I wrote it, since it got us to where we are today. We still play it live, because it’s a song that people expect when they come to our shows.
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MR: What inspires you to write new music and how do you keep it fresh and original?
JF: All I’m able to do is to please myself. Everything on our first album (Costello Music) was written before we got a record deal, and I just wrote those songs just so we’d have something to play to people and it ended up being the whole album. But I just write whatever keeps me interested; you can’t write music to please other people. Writing music keeps me amused.
MR: You’ve been on tour recently and are about to head to Australia and Europe. What country are you most looking forward to playing in, and will you get some time to do some ‘touristy’ stuff?
JF: We won’t get much time off this time, like I think we’re in Australia for about 5 days. As for my favourite place, well, my favourite place is the next good show. You don’t know where it will be, and a gig might be the last thing on your mind, and you’ll just get the right crowd that night that rescues your day.
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MR: What’s your favourite part of being in a band? Is it live shows, writing new songs, meeting fans etc.
JF: If you’d asked me two years ago, I would have said recording, just by myself in the studio. My favourite thing changes all the time, at the moment it’s playing live music. I feel like we’ve discovered something new this time whilst touring, something different to last time. I don’t know what it is, but things just feel different. But I also love writing new songs; the only time I’m really happy is when I’ve written a good song.
MR: What has been your craziest fan experience?
JF: Well we’ve had some crazy ones. They always mean well but I think some people misjudge how far to take their dedication – it’s amazing how dedicated people can actually be. I don’t want to name any specific instances because I would feel bad… However when we were touring in the US, all our fans would bring us baked goods. I don’t think we looked underfed or anything, but I think someone put something on social media about it and it just spread. We were getting baked goods everyday – cupcakes, whole cakes etc – we were eating cake for every meal. It was great.
MR: What’s next for The Fratelli’s once you finish touring – will you work on a new album?
JF: Well yeah, I guess so. We’ll just get on doing with doing what bands do, and usually after you tour you begin work on another album. We don’t have any time to lose.
MR: Thanks Jon for your time.
The Fratelli’s new album We Need Medicine is out now.