The Fratellis are not above adhering to the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed…”
The Scottish rockers’ upcoming Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied (due out Aug. 21) actually represents the second iteration of their fourth album. “We tried to do it in January of last year, on our own, kind of right in the middle of touring, but it didn’t quite work out then,” frontman Jon Fratelli (nee John Lawler) tells Billboard. “When it’s not right it’s not right. We started recording this version of (the album) a week after we finished all the live dates that we had. We were just ready to do that, I guess.”
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Only two songs from the original album sessions remain on Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, including the lead-off track “Me and the Devil,” which Billboard is premiering exclusively below. Fratelli estimates the tune — inspired by the 2012 Nick Tosches novel of the same name — “had four different incarnations before it arrived where it has,” but he adds that, “I’m quite happy we waited until it was right. Some things, you need not push them; you need to let them arrive somewhere, and that one definitely kind of arrived.”
Listen to “Me and the Devil” below.
Fratelli credits producer Tony Hoffer, who worked on the group’s 2006 debut Costello Music and Fratelli’s solo album Pyscho Jukebox, with helping the band resolve the mess of Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied‘s aborted first attempt and turn out a cohesive album.
“As soon as he was on board I kind of knew what he would expect,” Fratelli explains. “Tony’s very hands-on. If the songs aren’t right they’re not right and he’s gonna tell you, and then he’s gonna tell you what would be right.” And, Fratelli acknowledges, “It’s only a recent thing that I enjoyed that. I enjoyed sending certain songs I thought were great and getting no reply, and you go, ‘OK, maybe they’re not quite good or they’re not quite right this time around,’ and you keep pushing until they are, and it’s so worth it.” He and his bandmates were also happy to surrender the producing duties to Hoffer in the end.
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“It’s definitely what I needed,” Fratelli says. “I can write some songs and I can sing them and play guitar on them, but past that I would much rather hand the responsibility over to somebody who really knows how to put records together, and Tony just does.” And, he adds, “When I asked (Hoffer) to do this record, I couldn’t even get the words out of my mouth before he said, ‘Of course,’ and the next words out of his mouth were, ‘I’m your biggest fan.’ You just don’t hear that that often, so it’s, ‘Great, you do it, then. You know what you’re doing’ and it just falls into place after that.”
The Fratellis plans to be “back on the merry-go-round” of the road shortly after Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied is released, starting Aug. 29 at the Victorious Festival in Portsmouth, England, then begin a North American tour on Sept. 17. The group marks its 10th anniversary this year, but Fratelli says there are no plans to commemorate it other than to realize “we’ve never felt luckier that we’re able to do what we do for people and to have anybody to play to and to be able to go out and share with an audience. There’s a lot of people who would love to be able to do that, so we don’t take it for granted.”