It’s the tune everybody knows. Seven years after its release, The Fratellis’ ‘Chelsea Dagger’ is still heard at football grounds and at various events around the world. But for frontman Jon Fratelli, a sense of bemusement and curiosity still prevails. Fratelli maintains he had no idea ‘Chelsea Dagger’ would take on “a life of its own”, and that the 2006 album, Costello Music, would be a raging success. “Not really – nobody ever does, do they?” he says in his broad Glaswegian brogue. “Still to this day, I’m baffled by [the success of ‘Chelsea Dagger’]. It’s just another song. I always thought it was just another song in a bunch of other songs.”
“It’s nice to have. There was a certain point where I really disliked it, but you have no control over it. But now, most people would be desperate to have one hit, so there’s definitely a part of me that feels it would be morally wrong to have any problem with it. My overwhelming feeling is always bafflement – it’s not pride, just this one thing has this whole other life. You sort of lose ownership of it after that. You collect royalties and I wouldn’t throw that away, that would be crazy. I’m left with no real explanation for it.”
Costello Music won the three-piece a 2007 BRIT Award for the Best Breakthrough Act. This success was founded largely on the popularity of the hit single that peaked at number five in the UK charts. A second album, Here We Stand,followed in 2008, but was far less successful. Five years have passed with no action – the band officially ‘on hiatus’ in that time.
“A hiatus? That’s a nice way of saying we’d split up, isn’t it?” says Fratelli. “I guess we got sick of each other, just like most people do. The difference being that some people would deal with it differently to how we did. My way to deal with that was to decide never to do it again, which I only know now as a slightly odd way of dealing with it. Taking some time away from each other would have been enough.”
And so it has proved: The Fratellis are back with their third record, We Need Medicine. Despite the passage of time, Fratelli says there are similarities to draw between the pre-split and post-split Fratellis. “We’re the same band, aren’t we?” he laughs. “We could spend endlessly futile hours trying to be something we’re not, but there’d be no point to it. We have to be an extreme version of what we are. But then at the same time, time dictates that things change; it’s impossible for us to try and make the same kind of record again. [But] I wish we’d have made a better second record, or not made one at all.”
Still, the band now has the chance to make amends – and Fratelli says there are no regrets from the first time around in any case. “We got to do a lot, we fitted a lot into a short space of time. There’s always things you would have changed or done differently, but there’s a part of me that feels it would be really ungrateful to dwell on that, especially when we got to do so much.”
BY MATTHEW CONNELLAN
We Need Medicine out Friday October 11 through BMG/Cooking Vinyl.