The Fratellis
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The Fratellis

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“You’re in a good place if you’re able to find an audience at home, let alone an audience abroad,” Jon says. Since their inception in 2005, The Fratellis have enjoyed moderate, if a little scattered, spurts of local and global commercial success. “At this point in time, just being able to go and play for anybody is a bit of a luxury.” Post-break, it seems, the boys are organising refreshers with fan chapters rather than just playing rock shows.

“We’re incredibly lucky,” Jon concedes. “Finding an audience in the first place isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. Then keeping the audience you’ve found is even harder.” Grim trials, sure, but Jon assures the band has bested those and worse. “If the last year is anything to go by, it seems we’ve managed to disappear, come back, and find people still come to our shows. We’ve managed to do something right [laughs].”

Maybe they’ve set a foot right, then, with We Need Medicine. Jon says the record came about because the band needed songs to play live, and fast. “I was happy to let the record be whatever it needed to be,” he says. “We don’t sit in-studio for months on end, we never have. And we never could. If we spent endless months in a studio together, we’d kill each other.” Dues still have to be paid though. “We had to spend a little time recording. That’s how we capture any sort of excitement.”

Costello Music – arguably The Fratellis’ best-known long play –dropped eight years ago now. Jon has never cared to look back and evaluate what he’d made. “I don’t listen to our first record very often,” he says. “I know how it goes, what it sounds like; I realise now though it had a personality to it that is hard to pin down. It was a strange alchemy.” He doesn’t know how much has been retained since, but knows it’s not altogether lost from subsequent efforts. “The character is impossible to shake even today. We’re the same three guys.”

Despite their performance-based agenda, it can’t be said The Fratellis rush things. Jon, as chief lyric writer, sets up his scholarly bones well before the prospects of recording and touring are even considered. “Everything – for us, our desire to get out there – gets negated if the songs aren’t any good,” he says. “As I’m writing I’m deciding whether songs are engaging me, whether I’m interested by them. There are songs that you’re just instantly not engaged with. But I find ones that hold my attention for long enough [laughs].”

We Need Medicine was not easily able to receive Jon’s attention but he insists the creative process was relatively painless when the three-piece managed to muster themselves toward completion. “It’s really quite possible that we only wrote 11 songs for the record,” he says. “Even now, we are sort of halfway down the road to making our next record, and that’ll probably happen fairly quickly now too.” Jon reckons he works efficiently with self-criticism. “Even now, as I’m writing, I know which songs are going to be for us and which songs are going to be put aside,” he says. “I just don’t have time to give certain songs any more attention than I do.”

Efficient, too, is Jon’s ability to almost happen upon lyrics to suit songs. He says he doesn’t give them undue attention over music but considers the act may have a secondary value to him artistically. “[The lyrics] are probably more important than I realise, but the ability is engrained in me now I think,” he says. His content, fundamentally, is tailored to suit a hypothetical version of himself who exists purely as a listener. “With writing lyrics, you want to write something that you would find acceptable,” he says. “But there’s a certain style that I’m attracted to, and I think it comes from the books that you’ve read and the artists you’ve grown up listening to. My lyrics have always leant toward the absurd, though.

“When all is said and done, I do like writing records,” Jon says. “A lot of it happens unconsciously; I couldn’t fight if I tried.” Even though The Fratellis have not been the consistent subject of Jon’s widely cast ambition over the last decade, he seems confident in the belief his fans will still gather to see the fruits of his elongated labour. “Going out and playing our songs live can make them a totally different thing,” he says, “and I’m quite excited to see how people find them after so long.”

BY NATHAN HEWITT