Jon Fratelli, (seen here in the centre), front man with Scottish band The Fratellis chats with Kevin Cooper about his postman asking him for tickets, his solo album Bright Night Flowers, The Fratellis’ latest album In Your Own Sweet Time and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Jon Fratelli is a Scottish musician and songwriter best known for being the front man with the band The Fratellis. Formed in Glasgow in 2005, other members of the band are bassist Barry Fratelli, and drummer Mince Fratelli. They are not related but have later changed their surnames.

After their Hop Farm Festival appearance in July 2009, The Fratellis entered an indefinite hiatus and each member moved on to new bands and different projects. Jon formed a new band with singer and songwriter Lou Hickey called Codeine Velvet Club. He released an album with the band in December 2009 and toured during late 2009 and early 2010, before declaring that he will be leaving the band to pursue a solo career, taking the backing band with him. He has since released his debut solo album entitled Psycho Jukebox and has embarked upon tours in Scotland and the UK. A second album was recorded (entitled Bright Night Flowers), but to date, this has not been released.

The band reformed in 2012 when they released their third album, We Need Medicine. A fourth album, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied was released in 2015.

Whilst busy preparing for their forthcoming tour, Jon Fratelli took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Jon how are you?

I’m good Kevin thanks how are you?

I’m very well thank you and let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem, you are very welcome.

And just how is life treating you today?

(Laughter) well I have to say that life at the moment is in fact treating me very kindly. In fact life couldn’t be sweeter.

I have been playing the new album, In Your Own Sweet Time for the past couple of weeks now and to be perfectly honest with you I have to say that I really do think that it is a great piece of work.

Oh thank you, that is very nice to hear today.

Are you happy with the album?

It is the happiest that I have been with anything that we have ever done. We are getting very close now to the point where I can listen to any record that we have made and not find holes in it or pull it apart. I always feel that it is part of my job to listen to what we have done and either be happy with it and also at the same time experience that feeling of ‘oh I could have done that a little better’ (laughter). However, with this record there are very few places where I am able to do that and that to me is a very good sign.

Having read a lot of reviews of the album, it would appear that a lot of people are already saying that it is your best work to date. Would you go along with that?

Well, being totally open with you, yes I would actually. I know that it can be a very clichéd thing for musicians to say “this is the best thing that we have ever done” so I guess that at some point it has to be true (laughter). But as of 2018 I most definitely feel that this album is the best thing that we have ever done. Or maybe my way of answering your question would be to say that it is just the happiest that I have been with something that we have made. However, I have to say that I hope that I am never completely happy because then there may not be any good reason to make something new. That really was how I have recently spent all of my days.

I have been sitting here for the past few weeks doing interviews and it seems that is all that I really do with my time. It’s not a complaint as I like it, but it is really perfect for someone like me to sit and talk about this music so I really do hope never to get to the point where I go ‘wow’ and I am completely happy (laughter). If that ever happens then music may never again give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

I recently asked Jim Kerr (Simple Minds) the same question and he said ‘no not at all because if I say that this is the best work that we have ever done, then that must mean that the last thirty odd years’ worth of work must have been a load of rubbish’ (laughter).

(Laughter) it’s a good point, but I am just completely happy for people to listen to the new album and have their own opinion on it. A lot of people may very well think that our first record was our best one, and I am completely fine with that. Like I said, it is my favourite up to this point.

Please don’t take this as anything other than a huge compliment but I have to say that, in my opinion, The Next Time We Wed has a definite Prince feel to it. Would you agree with that observation?

Oh god, I could never take that as an insult. There are a few songs on the new record which I think because of that falsetto voice together with the disco groove which is on there, there are certain elements in there that are impossible for me to escape comparing them to other artists but I am absolutely fine with that. As soon as you use a falsetto voice, you automatically think of either The Bee Gees or Prince, especially if you are a guy (laughter). So I am absolutely fine with that. The interesting thing though is that I didn’t suddenly start listening to Prince and Bee Gees records whilst I was writing the songs for this record (laughter). In fact I didn’t listen to any music.

To be honest I don’t really listen to music as a daily thing. I personally feel that people listen to far much music. However, if you have got a decent set of ears, once you have heard enough music, then it is all in there. There is simply no escaping from it.

At this point I would be saying to you “I like this track” or “I like that track” but with this record I simply can’t say that because I honestly feel that each and every track can stand on its own feet and be judged on its individual merits.

Thank you so much for saying that. Whenever I hear comments such as that it really does mean so much to me. I think that probably comes from trying to make a record where not only did we put songs on the album that we liked, we only actually recorded songs that we thought were good enough to find their way onto the album. We have never recorded less tracks for an album than we did with this. We only actually recorded eleven songs in five weeks which for us was just unbelievable. In the past we would have recorded sixteen or seventeen songs in five weeks. But for some reason, we were only going to record the tracks when we finally had ten or eleven songs that we thought were all strong so that we didn’t have a point in the record where there had been something just flung in there in order to make up the numbers.

However, the funny thing is that I don’t really listen to any of our albums anymore and I was speaking to a friend a few weeks ago who told me that they are not a fan of sitting down and listening to an album from the beginning to the end whereas I am kind of old school, I am traditional and always have been. My music collection is really based around my dad’s record collection in lots of ways and those are record collections that were based around albums (laughter). Saying that, the modern way of consuming music really does suit me because I have a really short attention span and I love the fact that I am now able to just dip in and out of multiple different artists at any one time. However, I feel that whenever we make a record, even though I no longer listen to albums in that way anymore, I still want to make something that will make sense as a record. If you wanted to you could listen to it from the beginning to the end and it would all fit together.

I have been collecting vinyl now since I was ten years old and I totally agree with you. The whole method of how we now consume music has changed beyond recognition.

It seems to have gone that way, and I have to say that there is something about this modern way of consuming music which simply suits me, especially streaming (laughter). I love the fact that I can just pick people at random and spend a few hours listening to some of their works. By the end of the day I have sometimes listened to over thirty different artists and bands. That kind of suits me.

So I have to ask, where do you stand on the resurgence of cassette tapes?

(Laughter) this is all a new one on me. I can remember when we were planning on bringing the new record out and the production team informed me that we would be putting it out on cassette. I’m just totally amazed that any of the kids have still got access to a cassette player (laughter). I have no idea as to where you would even buy one. I even gave up on vinyl. I had worked my way through so many different record players from the most expensive to the cheapest and simply became frustrated with them all in the end. I guess that cassettes and vinyl are a niche thing at the moment, and to be honest I think that it is quite nice.

However, I won’t be having a copy of the album on cassette simply because I don’t have a player (laughter). It’s funny because cassettes really were my thing back in the 80s, I would, like most of the younger generation, record the charts show on cassette. There were so many records by so many people when I was younger which I would never have heard if people hadn’t recorded them for me on a cassette. At that time it was perfect but I have no desire to go back to them; I don’t want to clutter my house with cassettes, it has enough stuff in it already (laughter). Even when CD’s and DVD’s came along, I was not organised enough to keep them all in the right boxes. I love having everything in a MP3 file, which to me is perfect.

With streaming and MP3 files it just feels to me that there will soon be no record collections as we know it because there is simply nothing for the kids of today to collect.

That’s a very good point. However, it all depends upon whether or not you define a collection as being something physical. I personally feel like I carry my record collection around with me, even if I don’t have my iPhone with me, it’s there. Once you have heard it, to me that is your record collection.

You have a release date of Friday 16th March for the album. Are you now at that stage where you are just wanting to get it out there?

This may surprise you but no, not at all. That may seem to be a strange thing for me to say but the very day that we finished recording the album, to me, that was the day that I had done my job. After that I really do not have anything to demand from the listeners. It really does seem odd to me whenever I hear an artist’s telling everyone and the world just what they want the listener to take from the new record after hearing it. To me it feels much more natural to make the record and then give it over to other people’s ears and simply let them make what they want of it. So I have no nerves at all regarding the release of the album. As soon as this album was finished I moved straight on and started writing songs for the next album.

I had thought that you may have taken a break from song writing whilst you toured the latest album?

To be honest I had nothing to take a break from. It’s funny because people keep saying to me “when was the last time that you had a holiday” but in all fairness my whole life is one long holiday and I mean that genuinely (laughter). I get to do the one thing that I kind of know how to do, and it is the one thing that brings me so much enjoyment so why would I want to take a holiday from that (laughter). That is why I am saying that as soon as we finish one record my first thoughts are ‘okay let’s make a start on the next album’ and that has always kept me excited.

Do you still enjoy touring; does that side of the business still excite you?

Yes I do, I really do enjoy being out there on the road touring. The other thing is that we all feel as though we don’t really stop touring. Although the last full tour that we did was towards the end of 2016, last year we felt that we played enough shows throughout the year to feel like we never really stopped. We know how to play live; we have been doing it for so long now that if all else fails, we still know how to go out and do that. The other thing is that I don’t really keep up to date online to the people’s reactions to the new music that we have made so the first place I get to see people’s reactions is at a show.

For me, that is kind of the test as to whether or not these songs work; do they work live, are they keeping people’s attention, are they wandering off to the bar and the bathroom when we are playing the new songs (laughter). I personally prefer that because what you are seeing there is a genuine reaction, an instant reaction and I really can’t wait until we play live in order to get that reaction.

On the subject of the tour together with the new album, have you worked out yet which of the new songs will make it onto the set list?

At this stage no, not completely. To be honest the songs will usually take care of themselves. Some of the songs will be really obvious, but we are always careful because there really is no point in us playing shows where you saturate it with new stuff. If you do that then I find that the whole show simply doesn’t flow in the right way. So we will always play the songs that the people are more familiar with and we tend to stagger it that way. We have gotten ourselves into a pattern where we will play old, new, old, new, old, new which seems to work better as it keeps people’s attention. It just doesn’t make any sense, even if you are desperate to play the new stuff, it just doesn’t make any sense to saturate people with it.

You will be playing here in Nottingham at Rock City on Monday 26th March. I have to ask you, is Rock City a must play venue for you?

To be honest with you, I don’t think that we have ever done a UK tour and not played there. I think that Rock City has been on every UK tour that we have ever done since 2006. And all that I can say is that there must be a very good reason for that (laughter). In reality you will go and play wherever there is an audience and the fact that Rock City has been on every tour for the past twelve years, to me that is a pretty good sign. Each time that we play anywhere and we go back to the places that we have played before, and we find that there is still an audience there wanting to see us is another massive sigh of relief (laughter). It’s like ‘okay, people are still interested’ (laughter). You are always waiting for that tap on the shoulder when someone says to you “okay boys you have had your time” (laughter).

Well I have to tell you that I will be at Rock City to both photograph and review the gig just as I was the last time that you visited Nottingham.

Really, good man. I’m pleased that you have told me that. I will try to ensure that we are all looking our very best up there at Rock City (laughter).

(Laughter) that would be very nice of you. Anyway speaking about you personally for a minute if I may, will your solo album Bright Night Flowers ever see the light of day?

(Laughter) well I’m glad that you have mentioned Bright Night Flowers because I can now tell you that as soon as we finished recording the bands album back in June, I immediately went back into the studio and I actually re-recorded that record. So I can now announce that the album is finished. However, it is a different record than it would have been if I had released it when I had recorded it originally. But from a personal point of view, I am so glad that I waited to get things finished. Three or four of the original songs have been re-recorded and four or five new songs have been written. So in answer to your question the album will most probably see the light of day, simply because it has cost me a fortune (laughter). I have now recorded it twice so I may as well put it out there and see if anyone is interested.

Now that it is finally finished and you are happy with the album. Do you have a release date in mind?

Oh god no (laughter). Can I just go and answer the door Kevin, I’m expecting a delivery today.

Of course, that’s not a problem.

Right I’m back. Sorry about that it was actually my postman asking me if I could get him tickets for the gig at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow which is sold out (laughter).

I was just thinking about your album, perhaps you could do what The Skids did back in 1979 and 1980 when they put out two versions of the Days In Europa album.

(Laughter) that’s a good idea but to be honest with you I don’t want anyone to ever hear the original version. There have been a lot of changes in my life and personal circumstances since I originally recorded the album back in 2010. There have been a lot of changes during those eight years, my voice has changed a lot in that time, and to be honest I am a lot happier with the new final version.

What was the first record that you bought?

That was Thriller by Michael Jackson.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

(Laughter) that was Michael Jackson.

Which tour was that, Thriller, Bad or Dangerous?

That was during his Dangerous tour. I was just a wee bit too young to see him on his Bad tour plus the fact that he only played Wembley Stadium and didn’t come up to Scotland. In 1992 he bought the Dangerous tour up here to Glasgow so that was my first gig.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Oh god, just where have you been hiding that question (laughter). As I said earlier I don’t listen to music every day but then, every once in a while, the whole thing explodes and I tend to go through crazy periods and if I ever do cry then they would be tears of joy. I recently had one of those moments when I was over in New York and I can clearly remember thinking ‘that really is a punching the air moment’ whilst shedding a few tears of joy. Now don’t laugh at this but the song which led me to shed a tear of joy was Come On Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners which was being played in the hotel lift (laughter). So as you can see, if I do ever cry at music it is never because it is sad, it is simply because it is joyous.

On that note Jon let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great. You take care and I will see you here in Nottingham on the 26th.

Thanks very much Kevin. You take care and I will see you at Rock City. Bye for now.