Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – The Fratellis

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: frontman Jon Lawler takes the test

You headlined NME’s 2006 Rock ‘N’ Roll Riot Tour (supported by The Maccabees and The Horrors). Which city did the first date of it take place?

“Fuck! Do people actually remember these things?! Cardiff?”

WRONG. It was Leeds.

“At the time, we were oblivious to the honour of it. There was a hope all the bands on the bill would hang out together and you’d get loads of gossip and incidents to go with it. We were the wrong band for that ‘cause we always keep ourselves to ourselves.”

It was reported you nearly came to blows with The Horrors after frontman Faris Badwan repeatedly daubed black paint on your stage backdrop…

“That’s absolutely not true! I can see how a fight might have happened with them, because I could imagine one of us making an off-the-cuff remark to them, but I can’t even remember having a conversation with them. I’m so terminally shy that I even avoid eye-contact, so that tour – where there’s three bands – would have been my worst nightmare.”

Who once commented that The Fratellis “sound like a family-run firm of ice cream manufacturers”?

“I don’t know! The Horrors?”

WRONG. It was Jarvis Cocker – when presenting you with British Breakthrough Award at the 2007 BRITs.

“He’s right! What a great description. I couldn’t have put it better myself. We were adamant we weren’t going to go to the BRITs that year because we couldn’t be arsed, and it was our only day off from touring. Our label had to break the rules and tell us we’d won to get us there.”

Apparently as you were walking up to receive the award, Lily Allen – who you beat to the accolade – shouted ‘You’re a robbing shit” at you…

“Probably! That sounds like that time. The funny thing is, we love Jarvis and Pulp, but at the same time, we’re all huge Michael Jackson fans and were still upset at him disrespecting Jacko at the 1996 BRITs by invading the stage during his performance of ‘Earth Song’. So walking onstage, Mince [drummer] did the same bum-wiggle to Jarvis Cocker that he had done to Jacko, and it went over everybody’s heads. I remember Mince bringing his Irn-Bru up with him and leaving it onstage. As we were being interviewed backstage, he exclaimed, ‘Oh, fuck – my Irn-Bru!’ and just wandered back onstage while the awards were still going on to collect his bottle of nuclear orange liquid.”

What unusual form of currency did you reportedly demand to be paid in when you played Princess Caroline’s Rose Ball in Monaco in 2009?

“We said we wouldn’t go on until our tour manager had gone and collected the entire gig fee in casino chips – because the casino was part of the complex we were playing in.”


“Poor guy! I mean, obviously I was bluffing! It was the last gig we had booked and it was after that night we essentially split up. We were playing at that goddamn thing with Chuck Berry, and it was the perfect and shameful way to finish up. The poker chips incident was the least dark part of it. But we started the evening as we meant to go on, as it turns out!

“Our poor tour manager ran around collecting £9,000 worth of chips – a quarter of the actual fee. We were supposed to play three songs. I didn’t know what the event was and within a minute of going on, I was so disgusted with myself and the whole thing ‘cause it was just Europe’s richest families sitting eating their dinners. I just wanted everybody to put their forks and knives down for a second! And I wondered if I was just to smash everything up, would that make them put their cutlery down? And it did. So we smashed up all our gear onstage – not realising most of it was hired and also Chuck Berry’s band’s gear. Mince excelled himself. Drumkits are hard to destroy. So we didn’t earn a penny that night ‘cause of all the damage. But it felt great – it was the perfect not full-stop, but comma, at that time.”



What number did ‘Chelsea Dagger’ reach on VICE’s Top 50 Greatest Landfill Songs of All Time list in 2020?

“It depends on how much they disliked us. Quite high up, I’d imagine. Number One?”

CORRECT. Number One – in with a bullet! 

[Laughs] “Amazing! Quite right!  I didn’t see it, but I live in my own bizarre little world. My dad still knows where I’m on tour in three days’ time before I do! But I remember the first time I heard the ‘indie landfill’ term being used, I thought: ‘I bet they’re referring to people like us’. Some might think it’s snobbery, but let’s face it, we’ve all got a bit of the snob about us – I certainly have. ‘Chelsea Dagger’ produces this sort of total abandon that’s a pleasure to stand back and watch. Most nights you don’t even have to sing it ‘cause the audience will take care of that. It’s a song that’s never dipped below a level of sheer fucking happiness for us.”

The Fratellis once rejected the opportunity to record a theme song for the debut US game of which British footballer?

“Was it David Beckham when he went to LA Galaxy?”

CORRECT. In 2007, you were allegedly asked to re-record the Beatles’ ‘Hello Goodbye’ for his debut match.

“I’ve no memory of that, but it sounds ridiculous enough to be true! There would have been many reasons for turning that down, but chief among them is that it’s not my favourite Beatles song. Everyone around us would have been going ‘Fuck! Please do it!’ and tearing their hair out. We were supposed to record ‘With You Without You’ for a Radio 2 ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ 40th Anniversary album, but Oasis came in at the last minute and took it from us. We were offered other songs, but we didn’t like them, so we left it, which annoyed our management. We turned down so many things – there was a whole US tour I decided I wasn’t doing because I was exhausted. The head of our US label phoned me up personally and said: ‘Do this and we’ll make sure you’re set for life’. To which I said: ‘Och, no, you’re all right’. They couldn’t understand our mentality.”

In which 2019 Richard Curtis film does the lead character wear a Fratellis T-shirt?

“People keep telling me about that. Was it Yesterday?”

CORRECT. Which is about a failing songwriter who wakes up in a world where he’s the only person who can remember the Beatles.

“I’ve seen bits of it. At the end [spoiler alert!] Robert Carlyle appears as John Lennon, who hasn’t been assassinated, as an old man. For me, it was really fucking emotional. At least a couple of times a year I have a heartfelt cry at the memory of John Lennon being shot and killed. I still find it tragically sad. So to see him depicted as an old man was too much. It’s stopping me in my tracks even talking about it.”

What is track eight on your other band Codeine Velvet Club’s 2009 self-titled debut album?

“It’s these sort of things I know! Would track eight be ‘I Would Send You Roses’?”


“Which was originally written for The Who’s Roger Daltrey to sing. We had a chat backstage with Roger at an award’s ceremony and he asked us to write a bunch of songs for him and proposed we do an album together. Writing for him, you have a specific goal in mind and it was so much fun; it felt like being a kid playing with Lego. I don’t know what stopped that from happening in the end – maybe he thought better of it. He’s a hero to us and feels like a mythical figure. I remember [his Who bandmate] Pete Townshend calling us up when we were playing South by Southwest [in 2007]. He was giving the keynote speech and asked: ‘Can I come and play during your set?’ He asked us to send him all the songs we were playing and he learned them. That meant something. That was the stuff of dreams. Him and Roger Daltrey are everything you’d want them to be.”


The Fratellis recorded a version of Baccara’s disco song ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ to coincide with Scotland playing at the 2021 Euros. Can you name any other single by Baccara?

“No, because I didn’t even know that song – or who originally did it – either, so I haven’t a clue.”

WRONG. Among others, you could have had: ‘Sorry, I’m a Lady’, ‘Darling’, ‘Koochie-Koo’, ‘Parlez-Vous Français?’, and ‘The Devil Sent You to Lorado’  As Richard Osman says in Pointless, well done if you got any of those at home.

“I haven’t listened to the original much – only to try to come up with a version we could do. When we recorded it, I didn’t think we’d ever play it again. But when we play it live, it gets the same joyous reaction as ‘Chelsea Dagger’ does, which has taken me completely by surprise. We were told that one of Baccara heard and appreciated our version.”

The Fratellis’ 2006 debut album ‘Costello Music’ charted at Number Two  for three weeks straight. Name the two albums that beat you to Number One.

“I can’t name two but I’m pretty sure Justin Timberlake had an album that came out the same day as us?”

WRONG. You were beaten by Justin Timberlake’s ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds’ and Scissor SistersTa-Dah

“Scissor Sisters! That makes sense now. Success during that time felt like being in Black Mirror; you turn into a robot, where you’re reading the expression on a person’s face and trying to react accordingly. You’re judging: is this seven out of 10 exciting? Or 10 exciting? Everywhere you went, people were handing you another Gold disc, but you had nothing to compare it to.”

What was the working title of The Fratellis’ 2006 single ‘Whistle for the Choir’?

[Laughs] “Our title for it was ‘Knickers in a Handbag’.”


“Which was a Billy Connelly line. On our setlist every night, that was our name for it but it was never meant to be called it.”

The verdict: 6/10 

“I’m happy with that score.”

– The Fratellis play the Neighbourhood Weekender, Victoria Park, Warrington, May 28 – May 29