[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the heat of a moment of inspiration, where will you be and what exactly will you do with a lightning bolt of an idea? Will you let it fall and fade away, or will you work and work at building it into something to be proud of and share with both friends and perfect strangers?
For The Fratellis frontman John Lawler (code name: Jon Fratelli), it’s about capturing these momentary flashes of inspiration. The Fratellis latest and forth studio record, the interesting and rhyming titled Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, drops on Friday and returns to the original rock n’ roll rattle that gave the Scottish rock trio their first taste of fame here in the States upon the release of 2007’s Costello Music. But here, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied is a return to their debut in more than one interpretation of the word.
Back is producer Tony Hoffer, the man behind the boards for Costello Music, which birthed instant rock-party anthems “Flathead” and “Chelsea Dagger.” Hoffer’s work with the band makes things easy for Lawler as a songwriter to mold his songs to the magic that the producer can perform to get the songs to their finished product state.
“We kind of know what to expect from him,” Lawler says. “We know that we’re going to have a record in the end that we like to listen to. That’s not necessarily something that happens all the time, y’know? We know we’re going to get that. We know that we’ve got someone that likes us.”
It was a reconnection that was necessary, both to reignite the chemistry from the Fratellis past work and to move forward from it.
“There’s no point in working with a producer and give him material that’s a million miles away from their normal state,” Lawler adds. “It just makes no sense. I just like the kind of records he makes. So I can just almost tailor them towards him, which I guess I’ve never done before. That was a big part of it. It made writing songs for this record quite easy. Before that I wasn’t quite sure where they were going. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of record we were trying to make. But as soon as Tony was around, he saved it to that point.”
Lawler’s songwriting on a few of the new LP’s tracks came from an almost unexplainable place. He’s almost notorious for not listening to outside musical influences while writing, but “Slow,” a standout piano-driven ballad on the new record, includes a nod to the prose of poet Charles Bukowski.
The tune started out as one of Lawler’s early morning ideas and soon became an almost self-made plaintive heartbreak plea. “’Slow’ really wrote itself one morning. I say that it wrote itself and I’m being quite literal. It arrived almost completely formed,” Lawler says. “The line ‘If you have to leave me, do it slow’ came from a Charles Bukowski poem. It was a line that he had said that was to that effect of, ‘If you have to leave me, do it long and slow.” It just sort of hit me between the eyes, y’know. I like that.”
Songs like “Slow” that seem to come together all on their own, are not a new phenomenon to Lawler, but one that has his utmost respect.
“Your job at that point is to sort of get out of the way,” he stresses. “It’s something I’m far more aware of now, and I’m quite happy to say that some songs write themselves. You just need that one second flash of inspiration. No person or album makes that happen. Where it comes from, God only knows, but when it does happen — like a song that 30 minutes ago didn’t exist, and then 30 minutes later it does. As exhilaration goes, there’s nothing like it. In fact, I’ve never found anything that can beat that. I’ll quite happily stick around for those three or four seconds.”
Fans of that signature Fratellis sound will be happy that Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied includes the type of sing-along choruses and danceable riffs that made the band famous. Still in the mix is a sound built heavily on the raucous echoes of old American rock and roll and traditional country sounds.
This melting pot of sounds on the new record has Lawler excited, if not even a little antsy, to get out on the road and bring these new songs to the stage.
“We’re actually — we feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to come over and play in America,” he says. “It’s not a given that that happens. When you have a new record, you’re desperate to go out and play it. It’s the first place where we’re able to play all of the new stuff.”
The Fratellis’ North American jaunt starts next month in Toronto before parking on Commonwealth Avenue for a date at the Paradise Rock Club on September 19. Playing before an audience in Boston is a thrill for many bands from around the 617 area code, but for the Fratellis, the Hub feels a little bit like a taste of home — even as their biggest hit, “Chelsea Dagger,” has become synonymous with the Chicago Blackhawks, our hometown team’s longtime NHL rival who defeated the Bruins in heartbreaking fashion in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
“It has a definite Celtic feel to the audience,” Lawler says. “They’re a noisy bunch. We’ve had some great memorable shows in Boston. There’s a particular noise to the audience. We have some friends there that we have collected over the years. They’ve come to see us all over the world but they’re from Boston. So we must be doing something right with those guys.”