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Interview: Jon Fratelli discusses his band’s latest album

In “His” Own Sweet Time

Following the 10th anniversary tour of their debut album Costello Music, The Fratellis returned to the studio last year to begin recording their newest project, In Your Own Sweet Time—the Scottish rock trio’s first full-length record in three years. The album, which was released around mid-March, has already landed the Scottish rock trio at the top of the UK album charts.

Debuting at No. 5, In Your Own Sweet Time, has become the band’s highest-charting record since they achieved international acclaim in 2006. Salute Magazine recently spoke with the band’s principal songwriter and lead singer/guitarist Jon Fratelli to discuss the band’s latest album, their creative process, and plans for the future.

SALUTE: The band recently released its first studio album in three years. I wanted to know what was the process like to record ‘In Your Own Sweet Time’?

FRATELLI: We’ve never really been the type of guys who would spend weeks on end in the studios. If we spend weeks on end in studios then we’re doing something wrong basically. So, it felt, as far as I remember, pretty simple.

Usually, we go in and record 15 or 16 songs and pick the ones that we like the most that will make the album. This time, we picked the songs beforehand and we recorded 11 [tracks], which I think is the least amount we’ve ever recorded. We basically picked the songs we all liked so there was never going to be a track on there that any of us would want to skip. And there were two or three songs on the album that we knew was going to take more time to record then they had previously. Aside from that, it was as simple as an album should be.

SALUTE: What has it been like working with Tony Hoffer again?

FRATELLI: He’s the perfect producer for us. He can take what we do and push it to a level that we can’t. This is the third record that we’ve made with him and each time we do it, we’re looking to pushing things a little further each time with him. You get to a point where you completely trust the person you’re working with and you kind of let them take the lead. So our relationship now is just one of ease. But he really does push things further than we’ve been able to push them ourselves.  

SALUTE: How did the music video for the single “Starcrossed Losers,” come together?

FRATELLI: That’s a good question and I’m the wrong person to answer. When we make videos it may have our name on them but we’re kind of uninvolved. Personally, I don’t have a visual sense. We really just hand the whole thing over to a director and say come up with an idea and we’ll get two or three of those and we’ll pick the one idea that sounds the best to use and usually that’s the one that doesn’t have us in the video, because really we weren’t supposed to be in front of the camera as far as I see it. And I think it’s a far more interesting video if you don’t have us in there, because really all we would do is stand there and pretend to play. So it’s nice just to hand that over and we do that with our artwork as well. We get somebody free rein to do whatever they want with whatever they hear from the music.

SALUTE: When you wrote the track “Sugartown” was there always meant to be a sense of irony? The melody has a real sweet and uplifting kind of doo-wop sound but the lyrics are rather dark.

FRATELLI: I think with us there always is going to be that contrast between the sweetness of the music and there’s usually a sting in the tail with lyrics. I think that one is as sweet as we can get lyrically. It’s fair straight lyrically, but these things are made to be played around with. The contrasts are there to be played with.

SALUTE: What made you decide to go with a more blues heavy slide-guitar sound on “I Guess, I Suppose?”

FRATELLI: It’s more to do with the song. The song dictates the sounds that you use although with that particular song it had been an instrumental for about a year before that. I had never really considered doing anything with it. It was Tony who persuaded me. “Man, you got to find a song to work with this.”

It’s kind of as heady as we get. We’ve never been so overly heady. I’m not a massive fan of those distorted guitar sounds. The guitar sounds on that song to me are still quite jangly, but they’ve got more depth on them then we would usually have and that also comes from the fact that there were a couple of songs on this record that had a couple of strange open tunings. Tunings that I had never used before and they only work if you push them a little bit. You can’t play those sort of things with a clean sound. Especially with open tunings, there are lots of notes in there. You need something with a bit of grit and dirt to carry those notes through. We never worked out how to play that song live. It’s one of those songs where you kind of know as recording it that you’ll never play it live, which is nice because then you can do whatever you want because you’re never going to have to recreate it.

SALUTE: How does your latest album stack up to the rest of your discography?

FRATELLI: To me, it’s the best thing we’ve done, hand’s down. It felt like we had almost gotten to a point there was very little I can find fault with. I can usually find lots of faults. To me it suites my years at this point in my life. It also suites our band at this point. And it kind of feels like we had been working towards this kind of record.

You hope that you’ll never get there, because if you get there you may run out of reasons to keep doing it. I definitely feel like we’ve gotten closer. It’s not that we have a destination in mind but it’s definitely gotten close to the point where I can listen back and say “Wow. I can’t find that many faults with this record,” and it’s a nice place to be. But I definitely hope never to get to the point where I can’t find a few faults, because then I may just stop there.

SALUTE: What’s next? Are there any projects you’re currently working on?

FRATELLI: As soon we finished making this record, as soon as it was mixed and mastered I started to work on the next one. So, at the moment, I’m back in the zone of playing around with the next record. I love making them. As soon as they’re made I want to do it again. We’ve got about half a new record at this point. Maybe we will get the next one out a little bit quicker. Given the speed that the music industry moves, possibly not, but it just rolls on. To me, this is the way I spend my time to have fun. So it’s always a sort of continuous process.

We’re doing a North American tour and a lot of our year is starting to fill up now. So really it’s all about the next record. I’m enjoying the fact that people seem to be enjoying this record. It charted higher in the UK than we have in a long time and I can only imagine that’s down to the strength of the record. But we definitely stopped falling into the trap of trying to recreate what we’ve done before. So whatever we do next will be purely for our own entertainment and if it entertains other people after then that’s the purpose.

For upcoming tickets, tour dates and more information be sure to check out the band’s official website.

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