Jon Fratelli returns to his roots and lines up Edge Festival show
Former Fratelli's frontman is solo and ready for the next chapter
This article is from 2010.
Having eased himself out of an enormously popular band, Jon Fratelli has gone back to his roots for his new solo project. Camilla Pia hears from a man who is finally at ease with the world and his music
For many it came as a bolt from the blue when much-loved Glasgow trio The Fratellis announced in April that they were to split. It was a break ‘for now’, they claimed, but following their frontman’s ventures into markedly different territory with Codeine Velvet Club and drummer Mince’s dabblings in Throne o’Diablo’s metal, it felt much more permanent. Certainly when I caught up with Jon Fratelli (real name John Lawler) in sun-drenched LA, his old band seems far from his mind. Fratelli’s focus is elsewhere ‘for the foreseeable future’. But Fratellis fans will be comforted to hear that his thoughts are on a new solo project which is very much a return to the raw sound that made them fall in love with his music in the first place.
‘You can only deny your instincts for so long before you have to just go with them,’ he says about his latest venture. ‘Codeine was a conscious attempt to do something completely different, but you find yourself slipping back into wanting to crank it up. And I am definitely looking forward to getting loud and sweaty again,’ he chuckles. Fratelli has a refreshingly honest approach to the music he wants to make, and with this new project he plans to re-embrace it.
‘I’ve listened to the same stuff since I was 16,’ he explains. ‘I rotate it, but it’s still the same classic artists: Dylan, The Stones, Springsteen; it never changes for me and I have accepted that now. Life has got a lot easier as a result. I used to worry that I was a dinosaur and I thought I should be getting out there and watching bands. I tried it and it was horrible. So now I’ve realised I’ve found the things that speak to me and I’m going to stick with them. And there is just so much mileage in rock’n’roll, so much you can go back and be inspired by and use if you are clever enough and dedicated enough.’
We haven’t heard much of his solo material yet – one live version of ‘She’s My Shaker’ is posted on his website – but what we have heard is as bluesy, boisterous and rootsy as you might expect from an ex-Fratelli. ‘I am all for giving audiences what they want to hear,’ he says. ‘So I’ll be playing a couple of Codeine songs, a good bunch of Fratellis songs and a good bunch of new songs too. I think people will like it because it’s not a million miles away from what we were doing before.’ He pauses before laughing: ‘Unless they’re expecting me to be all melancholy with an acoustic guitar, because it won’t be that, it will be a full-on rock’n’roll show.’
After this Electric Circus launch, a solo album (with Costello Music producer Tony Hoffer on board) is due, reams of songs having already been written and set for recording in LA around September time. Fratelli, by now hoarse from rehearsing and chatting, can’t hide his enthusiasm. ‘I’m desperate to get on with it. I’m as excited about this as I was about making the first Fratellis record. I hope never to lose that wee boy excitement of just being desperate to do stuff.’
The stuff he is determined to do now requires a period of being on his own. ‘I don’t want to paint myself as a miserable bastard that doesn’t want anyone near them or anything but some people find it easier to see the way forward on their own and for me it’s the best way to do things at the moment. We never said how long a break we would take, but I’m trying not to overthink it. For now I have no plans to work as part of the Fratellis. Will that change in the future? I’m not sure. I don’t like fuss and things that get in the way of playing and so I decided to simplify everything and just do whatever makes me happy and it’s this. Music will always be it.’
Jon Fratelli, Electric Circus, Market Street, 0131 226 0000, 22 Aug, 7pm, £10.