As The Fratellis bassist Barry Fratelli prepares for his DJ set in Dubai, Hannah Lewis finds out what’s on his playlist and gets to the bottom of those split rumours
Unless you’ve lived in a sound-proofed box for the past few years, you can’t have missed The Fratellis’ painfully catchy, riff-driven single ‘Chelsea Dagger’. As bassist Barry Fratelli puts it, ‘it’s not rocket science; it’s “da da daaah, da da daaah”.’ That’s the beauty of the song – everyone can (and does) sing along. But while the track is still doing the rounds, The Fratellis themselves seem a little quiet. We’ve even heard rumours of a split. Could it be true?
‘No. And that’s the honest answer,’ explains Barry. ‘We just don’t have any plans to do another record soon. We wanted to tell the fans – it would have been unfair to them not to say anything – but the announcement snowballed and it became Chinese whispers and suddenly the word ‘split’ is everywhere. But the Fratellis haven’t split. We’re just all kind of working on different things.’
For Barry Fratelli, ‘different things’ includes DJing. Fresh from a two-month stay on a beach in Thailand with his family, he’s chosen Dubai to host his first set of 2010. ‘The great thing about this job is I get paid to travel. Dubai is one of those places that I’ve passed through but never really been to before, so I’m looking forward to it.’
DJing allows Barry to meet fans in a way he wouldn’t on a live tour. ‘I’m a musician first and foremost, but DJ sets can be great because they’re more relaxed. People seem less intimidated, so you get to have a chat with them. It’s hard to talk when you’re playing, but I try to go to the club before the set and then hang about after it.’
Barry isn’t new to playing venues alone, but there are still situations where it’s harder without the band. As his first gig in months, he’s ‘pretty nervy’ about playing Alpha, although he’s just hoping for an enthusiastic crowd. ‘One of the worst experiences of my life was playing a UK club and there was no one there,’ he reveals. ‘The guy just never promoted it. We had to pack up our stuff early, so we went next door to a club that was absolutely jumping.’ And what did he find there? ‘Two thousand kids dancing to ‘Chelsea Dagger’.’
So what kind of music can we expect from his Dubai set? ‘I try to tell people not to expect to hear the latest chart-toppers. I tend to play classics and anthems; mainly indie. If people request songs and I like them, I’ll play them. If I don’t want to play it, I won’t, but I’ll tell them why. I try to educate people, which usually ends in trouble, but it can be part of the fun.’
For Barry, a good indie club night has become all too rare. But that doesn’t mean he’s limiting himself to the genre – his aim is to play music that gets the crowd going. ‘If you play a song like ‘Billie Jean’, or ‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin, people just love it. You get too many DJs that worry about being cheesy, but I just want to keep people interested as long as possible. And once you get them back on side, you can play something a bit different.’
His main aim is to keep the audience happy. ‘I never used to play any Fratellis, because everybody was expecting it. But now when I put on ‘Chelsea Dagger’, it puts a big smile on my face because you see how much people love the song. In the past, even The Fratellis have moaned about it. But the reason you start a band is because you want as many people as possible to hear your music. You can’t moan later when everybody likes it.’ As for stuff he just won’t play? ‘Don’t expect to hear anything by Cheryl Cole. Unless I’m really, really… tired.
Event: Barry Fratelli DJ set When: June 18, 9pm-3am Where:Alpha, Garhoud Tickets: Dhs75, ladies free before midnight