Lead singer of The Fratellis, Jon Fratelli’s started the band in 2005, with only a brief hiatus between 2009 and 2012 to pursue side projects and a solo career. Running stronger than every the last six years, the band’s putting out their new album “In Your Own Sweet Time” March 16th. They’ve found this high-powered-dance groove that seems to come totally naturally to them. In anticipation for the full release, be sure to listen to “Stad Up Tragedy” from the album embedded below.
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Sean Ritchie: Being both Irish and Scottish, I really wanted to start off with that area of the world, specifically your hometown of Glasgow, Scotland. What really stands out about the city and makes it special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor?
Jon Fratelli: The Irish and the Scottish have seemed to have populated a lot of the western world at some point. In some ways, I’m the wrong person to ask, because even though I live there, I sort of live in a triangle. People sort of joke about it. The triangle is my house, the grocery store and a nearby street that’s got bars and restaurants. I haven’t been in the city center of Glasgow in about three years. It’s probably changed a lot. I could leave [the city] if I want, and because I’ve stayed really means that it’s got something going for it. I’m not sure what it is. I’ve traveled to enough places now to know that it’s a nice place to live.
As for where to go, I think most tourists would go to Edinburgh, because it’s more geared toward tourism than Glasgow it seems. But, the area of Glasgow that I live in is called the West End. It’s a cool place to live. It’s like living in the city, but you don’t have the negative parts. I’m trying to think of the equivalent for New York City. Maybe the Lower East Side, even though it’s within [Manhattan], it’s thought of as the cool part of town. The West End in Glasgow is kind of like that. So, if you like restaurants and bars of a certain elk, then you would find them [there]. It has its charm everywhere. I would change the weather though.
SR: I can understand not wanting to go out much once you’re home. Traveling all the time, you probably just want to be at your house relaxing.
JF: I have no explanation as to why I don’t venture out that much. I seem to have everything in my house that I would ever need. I spend all of my time making music really. My house is perfect for that. Yes, I go through periods though of so much travel, that I really just want to go home, close the door and not move.
SR: I hear you there. To bring it back a bit, how did you first get exposed to music? Was it something that was in your family? Friends? How did you eventually get inspired to create your own?
JF: The making my own and discovering happened at the same time. It was always around; you can’t escape it really. I still listen to records that my dad played in the car when I was six or seven — Phil Collins. Things like that. I know they’re not cool, but they still do it for me. Then, when I was about 16, I just kind of exploded into Pink Floyd. I caught a Pink Floyd show on TV one night and, at the time, I had never seen anything like Pink Floyd. I said to myself, “I want to do that!” I don’t know if anyone particularly chooses to do it. I don’t think anyone really chooses to do anything. Maybe afterwards you can plot backwards and say, “I decided to do it here.” But, I think most things come naturally. I play guitar and sing, because that’s what I found myself doing.
SR: It’s always interesting to me when I hear artists say they didn’t really make a conscious decision to pursue music. I always find it cool, because I didn’t really make a conscious decision to do what I’ve done in my life either. I feel like the best things created are things that happened naturally.
JF: Yes, you like to think that you had some control over it, but you really didn’t. It really just comes down to going with the thing that brings you the most amount of pleasure, and see if you can get somebody to pay you for it. They should teach that to kids in school.
SR: Definitely! To fast-forward a bit, your next album “In Your Own Sweet Time” is coming out on March 16th. Talk about what maybe differentiates this from previous albums you’ve released. Describe your excitement to share it with your fans.
JF: People have told me it’s different, and they’re the best judge. Nothing ever feels that different to me, because we’re the ones doing it. When somebody tells me that this is quite different, then I’ll take them at their word. We just sort of roll on. The idea of stopping just isn’t there. Why would we stop? Just look at the Rolling Stones. The idea of retirement isn’t there. We just sort of roll on from record-to-record. All I’m doing, because I spend so much time playing music, is just sort of entertaining myself. It’s as basic as that. I’m trying to get something out of the day that makes me smile. I’ve done it for so long that I don’t know what else to do. It’s enough for me. I’m looking forward to sharing it with our fans.
SR: One of the tracks from the album “Stand Up Tragedy” was released at the end of November. I know it’s been out a short while, but what’s been the reception to it?
JF: I don’t know, because I don’t check in on that stuff. Not for any particular reason. It just doesn’t come naturally to check. The only way I know if people are liking what we do is at shows. That’s when I get to see the reaction. We haven’t played those live yet. I’ll know when we play the first show. Up until then, I don’t know. I can sort of make a guess.
SR: What’s that feeling like not knowing? Especially putting so much work into each song and album.
JF: It’s the most natural thing in the world not to know. Everybody is busy trying to know things. It’s very tiring trying to know everything. I’m so much happier not knowing. It comes really naturally. Kids don’t know anything and they’re happier than us. You grow up and you’re told that you’re supposed to know things. You should know what’s happening and have a plan, but kids have a plan. They’re busy playing. I’m cool with not knowing.
SR: That’s refreshing to hear. To switch into your personal travels, when you do have some downtime and are looking to get away, are you looking more for a beach? The mountains? Or, for a city center?
JF: I go where I have friends. I’m in New York two or three times a year. I have friends that have a place out in Garrison. It’s right on the banks of the Hudson [River] across from West Point. I think it’s just gorgeous up there. I’d live there in a heartbeat. Where I go tends to be where I have friends. It’s really all about the people. I prefer somewhere warm. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a beach holiday in my life. I don’t think I prefer either a beach or a city holiday, because I don’t think I’d ever come to New York on holiday. I like zipping in and out of it, but I wouldn’t want to stay for two weeks. I actually can’t really remember the last time I went on holiday. My life’s a holiday really. I think when you go on holiday, you’re going away from something. I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted. I do travel loads. I’ve been to most corners of the world, except for South America. So, if anybody is listening, I’m available for work there. I like sunshine, and I can find something I like pretty much everywhere.
SR: Amazing. Being in New York for this interview, we have to touch on it a little bit more. What about this city really stands out from other places? Is there a special something about it that has your attention?
JF: There is, but it’s hard to put your finger on what it is. It’s a melting pot of insanity. That’s the character. I used to come to New York quite a lot on my own just to hang out.
SR: I can understand that. You touched on the insanity of the city. One thing that stands out to me when I’m here is this strange calmness to the city. Everyone’s so fast-paced, on the go and in their phones, but if you just stop, take 15 seconds, quasi-remove yourself from it and look around, it’s kind of calming to see everyone in their own world.
JF: I sort of look at that too, when people are charging about I want them to slow down a little bit. Sometimes they can look a bit serious, like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Sometimes I want to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Hey, you can slow down.” But, that’s part of the charm here.
SR: I always love to ask well-traveled people if they have a couple destinations that they haven’t been to, but still want to hit. Do you have a few on your list?
JF: I always want to see Morocco. I don’t have an answer for why I haven’t been yet. Right now they have those hotel complexes in the middle of the desert. I like the desert. I like Joshua Tree [National Park] and that whole area. I sometimes feel misplaced born in Glasgow. Morocco always appealed because of the desert and it’s slightly exotic. Other than Morocco, I don’t know. I’ve gone to all the places I wanted to go. [Growing up] I always wanted to go to New York and Paris, and I’ve been to those places a lot. I really kind of done my list of places. I’ve been really lucky, and none of them have been a disappointment. I’ve loved them all.
SR: Keeping with the personal travel, is there anything you have to have when you’re in the air flying? Something to make the trip a little bit more bearable.
JF: A business-class seat. That’s my honest answer. If I had to choose between a fancy hotel and a normal seat on the plane, or a good seat on the plane and a cheap hotel, I would choose the second. Once you’ve turned left on the plane you can’t turn right. It’s kind of embarrassing to say, because it makes me seem kind of privileged. But, I would say that. Say we fly to Australia, which is a hell of a long way, it’s like 10 or 12 hours and then another 10-hour flight. You exhaust the list of things that you can do. After a while, it’s like sleep is the thing to do, and I can’t sleep sitting up.
SR: I can’t either. I couldn’t do it my entire life.
JF: A lot of our band can. They’ve got the gene to sleep anywhere. I don’t have it. I guess we all have out attributes, but I don’t have that one, no. I can’t even sleep when I’m in my bed. Other than that I like the Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
SR: One of our core objectives with SCP is to bring people together while traveling. I feel like there are a lot of parallels with that and music. You’re constantly traveling the world bringing people together under your music. Talk about how special that is to be able to unite people under your sound.
JF: Somebody asked me a similar question yesterday, and the honest answer is you aren’t the one that unites the audience. I don’t know. It’s a collective thing every night. We do the same thing every night. We put the same effort in every night. So, if an audience turns up and isn’t sort of charged, that back-and-forth doesn’t happen. You could throw a party and have the fanciest food, fanciest cocktails, the most incredible decorations, but if the people that turn up to the party are really dull it’s a [lousy] party. The house next door can have a keg of beer, bad speakers, cool people and it’s the best. We might be providing the empties, but you didn’t do it. You would have to claim the invention of music, if that makes any sense. Music was here long before any of us came along. When it happens it’s a lot of fun. There’s nothing like it.
SR: Right. That’s a really cool answer. I always find it interesting when an artist says that the more they give to the crowd, the more they give back to you. It’s this never-ending circle.
JF: Completely! If somebody is on the stage and they’re really lapping up the audience, then they’re missing the point.
SR: Lastly, I know you have a run of shows coming up, I believe in the Pacific Northwest. Looking forward to that, and the next couple of months, what do they really have in store?
JF: Yes, we’re on the West Coast. We usually start east and then go west, but this time we’re starting west. And again, we roll on constantly, so it always feels continued. We love playing live, it’s not work. If all else fails, we know we can do that. It’s not a fallback, but it’s a thing that we know how to do. We do it with, or without, bells and whistles. We would do it for free. Each year that we do it is like, “Wow! We got another year out of it.” We’re really just grateful. It’s not a small thing to us that people keep coming back. We really don’t take that for granted. They have every right not to come back. One day, they won’t come back.