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Jon from The Fratellis Speaks to Stereoboard about New Solo Album and Band’s Future (Interview)

Monday, 21 February 2011 Written by Rob Sleigh
Jon from The Fratellis Speaks to Stereoboard about New Solo Album and Band’s Future (Interview)

“I’m not sure if I’m a band kind of person,” admits Jon Fratelli. “I like playing music with people, but I’m not sure if I’m suited to the personalities and the politics that sometimes go into being in an official band.” It’s been nearly two years since Glaswegian rock trio The Fratellis parted ways and, while the former frontman declines to rule anything out, he confesses that a reunion seems unlikely in the foreseeable future. “I’m a great believer in that life has to keep on moving and that everything has its particular time. We were in that band for four or five years together and that seems like enough to me.”

“Having made a record that’s by far the best thing I’ve ever been involved in, if I was to go back to that band, there would be a whole year’s worth of songs that I wouldn’t be able to play. I find that almost impossible to even contemplate.” He is, of course, referring to his forthcoming debut solo album ‘Psycho Jukebox’, which is due out in June. “I think it will make sense to anybody that liked The Fratellis, but it seems to be musically quite different, to me at least. All I know is what I wanted it to be and what I think it’s turned out to be, which is trying to squeeze as many different colours into the smallest space, musically, and to have as much going on as possible. I’m pretty certain that’s how it’s turned out.”

Following the success of his former band, Jon has been far from resting on his laurels. A year after the release of the second Fratellis album ‘Here We Stand’, he joined forces with singer-songwriter Lou Hickey for the project Codeine Velvet Club. However, after only one album, which received a number of favourable reviews in the press, Jon left the duo to start work on his solo career. “It was the path of least resistance, I guess. The easiest way, musically, for me to do what it was that I wanted to do. I can’t think of any other reason that it seemed important to be alone. Just to make life more straightforward, I guess. You can’t split from yourself either, can you? [Laughs] I could try. And I probably will.”

For much of the past year, Jon has been working on songs for ‘Psycho Jukebox’ and even returned to working with Tony Hoffer, producer of The Fratellis’ 2006 debut ‘Costello Music’. Over the course of this period, Jon has found that his own musical development is far from over. “That first Fratellis record was made five years ago now. That’s a long time, really, in terms of your musical life. Unless you’ve learned everything you ever needed to learn before you made your first record, then between your first and your third - or whatever the hell it would be - there’s going to be a lot more going on that wasn’t there when you started. I guess that applies to this record - lessons learned and new things discovered.”

ImageJon’s development into a life of music started back around the time he began playing the piano, aged eight or nine. However, he struggles to pinpoint the exact moment or event that really kick-started his interest in music. “It’s really just one of those things. Like anybody who’s got passions, you know? You probably can’t even trace it to one thing in particular. You don’t have any choice in the matter, it sort of grabs you.” After a few more years, he began learning how to play the guitar and started taking influences from music he heard at home. “I was lucky enough to have parents that had a pretty decent-sized vinyl collection with a lot of great stuff. I’ve always felt lucky that that was the case. It didn’t come from what my friends were listening to or anything.”

As he has grown and his own musical progression has flourished, the same influences have continued to inspire him along the way. Even at the various stages of his career. “If you’re lucky enough, your musical heroes have got such diversity about them that you can pick from different sides of them at different times. My musical taste hasn’t really changed. I have a lot of music, but a lot of music by the same sort of people. It’s never been a problem for me.” However, he admits that his knowledge of the current state of music is not always up to scratch. “What is slightly a problem, and might always be, is that I don’t really know what’s going on out there musically just now. I think it’s sort of important to have people around that do. Not that you’re going to let them steer you in a direction that just isn’t you, but just to keep things on the right side of being new.”

Now, as the launch date of ‘Psycho Jukebox’ approaches, Jon seems keen to get out there and play the new songs to live audiences. “As somebody who was used to playing a lot, to not have been for the last little while through recording and getting to the point where the record was done and all that, you don’t actually get to do that much playing. I’m definitely getting itchy feet to get out and play and just make some noise. I would play every night if it was possible.” At a recent gig in Edinburgh as part of HMV Next Big Thing, Jon was able to road-test some of the new stuff in a live environment and he’s pleased to confirm that they went down well. “It was great, all things considered. The new tracks aren’t that difficult to get. Live, they transfer really quickly and really easily.”

With some more dates around the country expected ahead of the album’s release, Jon promises that the old stuff won’t be forgotten. “I’m lucky enough to have Mince [the drummer] from The Fratellis playing songs with me just now. The whole kind of point for me is just being able to play whatever I feel like playing on any particular night. That will even involve playing a Codeine Velvet Club song or two as well. Hopefully, as you go through your career you’re going to have at least one or two songs from every album that you do that you’re going to like and want to play forever.”

As he looks back over the past few years, Jon acknowledges that, while he is keen to move forward with his new solo career, he has been fortunate to have worked with the various people involved in each project to date. “I’ve been lucky enough to meet and still play with really great musicians. For somebody who sits and plays music all day long and is constantly interested in music, to get to play with people who are truly great at it is a bit of a thrill.” However, he also confirms that being a solo artist is the only way forward for now. “This is it, for me. It’s either this or throw in the towel. And that’s never likely to happen.”

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