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Life In Your Own Sweet Time: A Conversation with Jon Fratelli

Photo credit: Courtney Coles

Jon Fratelli is not a man of many words. When I call him for our interview, he’s in the idobi Studios for a day of filming and talking about the band’s forthcoming album, In Your Own Sweet Time, a collection that should be taken for exactly what it is.

I don’t think we necessarily do stories, we don’t necessarily overthink things,” Jon leads in. “We really just make a record that we think is entertaining to us.” The hope is that listeners will think the same, but he’s not asking them for that. The vocalist, who’s best known for tracks like “Henrietta” and “Chelsea Dagger” (yeah, the one in all the commercials) wants people to hear what they want to hear. “I love the fact you get thousands of people listening to the one record but basically hearing thousands of different records,” he explains. “It evokes something different in everybody. That’s kind of exciting, but I just don’t have it in me to demand any reaction from people.”

His thought process when it comes to music is just as simple. There’s nothing that Jon is expecting out of the industry—what comes will come and what doesn’t wasn’t meant to be. In the band’s own sweet time, they’ve built a career where everyone knows their name, and they’ve done it without any expectations. “There’s nothing I regret doing and there’s nothing I regret not doing.” He mentions a point after their first album release, where the band was endlessly busy for over a year but, even so, he wouldn’t choose to slow it down. “I’m not even sure what that would look like, to stop and take any of it in. I can only imagine that it would be along the lines of, ‘Wow, look what we did’ and that’s not really us.”

A good show is like going to a good party. You don’t give a good party that much thought.”

The Fratellis’ trademark seems to be lack of ego. Talking to Jon, you’d have no idea his band has charted a handful of times in the UK, or that their new album has been anticipated for months. To him, he’s just thankful to get onstage everyday. “Every single show we get to do is another show where you feel like, ‘Wow we still get to do this?’” Even thirteen years in, the band is still expecting to be pulled offstage anytime—not that it’s a decision they’re eager to make themselves. “The thing is we’ll do it until somebody says stop. It won’t be us that says stop.”

Jon is even more grateful for his time in the band because it’s all he knows how to do―it just comes naturally. I ask the frontman what he’s feeling when he hits the stage and he tells me like it is: He’s not thinking of anything. “You know if you’re doing something you really enjoy, you’re not thinking about it. Right? Whatever it may be, thought is gone at that point.” He explains that if you’re really having fun you’re just participating in the experience. “A good show is like going to a good party. You don’t give a good party that much thought.”

 Photo credit: Courtney Coles

By immersing himself in the music, Jon has taken his band around the world, giving himself a wider view of humanity. “Travelling and sort of seeing the rest of the world completely changes how you interact with everybody. Until I was 26 I’d never been outside of Scotland. So I needed to hang out with other people.” As far as music, he’s not sure how travelling has impacted the band’s sound but he’s also not sure if their hometown of Glasgow has either. “I’m almost certain that being from anywhere that has a strong identity will impact on your character for a start. I’m not sure if it impacts on the music. In fact I’d probably say that it doesn’t impact on it at all.”

Part of the reason for this is that Jon pulls from the inspiration he gets but he doesn’t ask where it came from. Again, he won’t overthink things and it lets him live a lighter life. “It definitely leaves you less heavy,” he tells me. “So that probably does leave you with more energy to devote to the things that you like doing.”

We seem fascinated by creating labels for things that are completely unnecessary.”

What he likes doing is making music—even if he’s not listening to it. As we dive into conversation about old school influences on the album, he credits his parents’ record collection but that’s about where influence ends. “I’m kind of notorious amongst people who know me for not listening to music very often.” Especially when writing his own music, he strays away from listening to anyone else’s. What you hear on a Fratellis record can be attributed solely to the creativity of the band. “I don’t listen to music when making my own and I spend a lot of time making my own.”

 Photo credit: Courtney Coles

Without indulging in other people’s music, I assume the vocalist must have some artistic outlet. He tells me he used to read a lot but hasn’t in years. One form of media he can get into, though? Netflix. “I do love Netflix, and that’s perfect for tour buses.” When it comes to hanging out at home, he proves rock stars really are just like the rest of us. “There’s almost too much TV, I don’t really know where to start. If you had a camera in my house, and if you sort of saw me going about my day, you would just be disgusted at how little I actually do,” he jokes. “Like, ‘What does this guy do? He doesn’t seem to do anything.’ But I’ve got it down to a fine art.”

Speaking of being a rockstar, Jon sees no need to tack “indie” onto the beginning of the sentence. “People tell me that’s what we are and if that’s what they think we are then that’s absolutely fine. I don’t know what that genre of music is.” To him, a bunch of guys playing drums and guitars is rock and roll and he doesn’t care if that’s old fashioned. “We seem fascinated by creating labels for things that are completely unnecessary.”

It’s a mutual thing. You could take a huge venue, stick a band on a stage, have no audience, and it’s nothing. It’s not a show. You could take the same venue, fill it with a thousand people, and have no band on stage, and it’s still not a show.”

He ditches labels, expectations, and ego to achieve everything on his list of what he wanted from the music industry. It was a small list but the thing that topped it has become the most important. “I just wanted freedom. I prize that above everything else and I got that—or I have it so far. And I live a life that’s completely based on walking to my own drum.” That life is due to a career he’s constantly grateful for. “It’s hilarious that we get to play guitar and sing and people seem to want to pay us for it because we would do it for free, y’know?”

 Photo credit: Courtney Coles

On the topic of playing live, the band has plenty of shows coming up in support of In Your Own Sweet Time but, with The Fratellis, things are different. They’re creating this experience with the audience, not for them. “It’s a mutual thing. You could take a huge venue, stick a band on a stage, have no audience, and it’s nothing. It’s not a show. You could take the same venue, fill it with a thousand people, and have no band on stage, and it’s still not a show. It’s a completely mutual thing and it’s absolutely as much their show as it is yours,” he explains. Every song only exists because there are people listening. He hands over the power to the fans and, when he has their attention, he knows he’s doing his job right. “The idea that you’re sort of creating that and commanding it is a complete hoax. It’s a two-way street. We do the same thing every night, we put the same amount of effort in every night. And then once we’ve done that, it’s completely over to an audience to react or not to react, but that makes it even more fun to know that you’re not doing it on your own.”

To tour the new album, first they have to release it, and that day is just around the corner (3/16). It’s a colorful album, deserving of its artwork, and Jon is proud of what he’s created. The band has been growing for a long time, with no plans to stop, but he won’t be throwing any parties to celebrate this particular milestone. Not because he’s not excited but because he’s perfectly happy with his day to day life. “My life’s perfect, I have no great need to improve it.”


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