Friday, May 23, 2008
Success has given many an appetite for the finer things in life; haute couture, yachts, fois gras and more success, but the same can't be said for Barry Fratelli aka Baz, bassist with Glaswegian rockers The Fratellis. Relaxing at his home in home in England ("shh, don't tell anybody!") he's getting some time in with the missus before hitting Europe, the States and then our own shores. "It's true to say that Glasgow is a place where no one will let you get too big for your boots, and being away, I do miss my family and friends a wee bit, but I love it here in the country; lots of sheep and ducks. I'm my happiest at home." At my suggestion of hiring someone to be Barry Fratelli on stage while he writes, he brightens up "That's my ideal game plan man! But no, I wouldn't change any of it. It's good to get out and see this world of ours and get a different perspective on life."
With the release of the new album Here We Stand Baz is similarly thoughtful about possible interpretations of the title, "It was never supposed to be a profound statement, but it does seem like that now - the fans and us. I mean we did produce it ourselves, it was done it in our own studio and it's exactly the record we wanted to make. We never wanted to do Costello Music mark II, we were always set on it being a different record and it just ended up being a pretty good title." Taking over an old schoolhouse in Glasgow's West End (a place that reminds them "you can't disappear up your own arse"), The Fratellis set about building the record literally from the ground up. "It's definitely different, it's just better in all regards; the songwriting the musicianship and the production. That's what we took from touring so much; the touring improved the musicianship. It was very important to us not to bring out another guitar album, we didn't want to be lumped in with all these other guitar bands, we're better than that." he says with a Gaelic pride. "Improvement, I think the point of any band with every album should be improvement and diversity, I would have been disappointed with a Costello Music mark II and I think the fans would have been too. If you are lucky enough to get the chance to put an album out you should take it to somewhere else and do something different. We removed the safety net and did it ourselves." That they did, nae danger.
Having said that, Baz is keen to point out that the band are still obsessed with the same films and CDs as when they made the first album, "There's been no new influences I don't think, we're rooted to the past to some degree, only now we're a bigger rock band. Costello Music, as good as it was, had a sheen over it. On reflection it's a bit poppier than we wanted it to be. I'm still very proud of it and I still listen to it occasionally, though, having said that, I'll skip certain tracks," he laughs. "I still get a buzz when I see it in a record shop. I had a break in Thailand after the last time we played in Japan and I found it at a little stall in a market in Bangkok, this guy had a handful of CDs and man, it made my day!" he enthuses like someone with half his fame.
The world must certainly seem The Fratellis' oyster. Over a million records sold in the UK, a Brit and an NME award to their name, their bright pop tunes adorning advertisement for everything from iPods to Burburry perfume, their songs so invasive and catchy that you have most likely heard them whether or not you knew it. Chelsea Dagger was used in so many films and trailers that the band ended up saying no to Shrek the Third and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. "It just got to a point where you realise it's starting to get ridiculous, we thought we'd never be able to move away from that track. We're glad it did end up being used for films we liked, like Simon Pegg movies, so we decided we didn't want it featuring in the trailer and not the movie; it became a hook thing, like a media studies thing just to entice people. For some other things though the money was too good, like [lubricant manufacturers] Pennzoil wanted to use Chelsea Dagger for an advert in Texas and they offered a LOT of money. And, y'know, I don't care that much, and none of my mates are gonna hear it, you'd be an absolute idiot if you said no to some things."
It's hard to begrudge a band so down to earth, particularly as they seem so grounded success almost seems to be ricocheting off them. "We were a really young band when we got signed," reflects Baz, "we'd not even played 30 shows, but what a lot of people don't realise was that we went through a lot of shit just before we got signed. We had a really tough time and that really helped us bond as a band. You spend more time with your band than you do your family, and we've got a very weird relationship. We know when to give each other space, when it's time to drink together and when it's time to rock out - that's when you don't bring your missus along."
Straight after playing here, Barry and his missus are tying the knot in Japan, thankfully, she sounds like a woman with few illusions. "She's tolerant of the lifestyle. She knew what she was doing when we got together and knew what I did when we met. It's work y'know? It's a very, very, very good job, and it's got a lot of perks but there are downsides too of course, namely never getting to be at home." This means that the Australian leg of their tour will be particularly special for the band. "Yeah, all my pals have been telling me Byron Bay is the best place to go in Australia," he says referring to the band's Splendour in The Grass date, "So I'm really glad that that's where our first show is. I was really sorry not to make it there the last time - too many gigs, not enough time man!" he laughs. He'll clearly not be making that mistake again.