24-year-old Londoner Benjamin Garrett, AKA Fryars, sits down before his gig at Birmingham’s HMV Institute as Rae Morris’s support slot, for a chat with Burn FM.
Welcome to Birmingham! How’s the tour going so far?
Good! It’s nice and relaxed. We had a really good time in Glasgow, which surprised me! I don’t know why. I guess because the last time I went we were just on a bus stuck in a concrete-y, grim place. I just had bad images in my head. But this time we were there for two days and we walked around some really nice places. And I had lunch in a garden center in Birmingham near Hare & Hounds which was really nice. I couldn’t believe it was Birmingham.
How would you describe your sound?
Pretty eclectic. It’s essentially whatever it is in that little bit of time it was made in. This record is very different to the first one that I made, and the one after this will probably be quite different. But I suppose I’m very interested in melody above all else.
What’s your favourite track on the album?
The one that’s closest to a perfect song is On Your Own.
Some of your tracks like China Voyage really stood out to me. Do you take a lot of inspiration from music from different cultures?
I’m quite into Moroccan music, the really repetitive stuff. It just goes like “dong-a-dong-a-dong-a-dong-dong-a-dong-a-dong”… It’s just really hypnotic.
At what point did you decide to try out music professionally?
I kind of thought about it way earlier than I should have done. I think I got ahead of myself a bit. But if I hadn’t done that then I probably wouldn’t be doing it now. I was in NME when I was sixteen and still at school, thinking, “I’m smashin it”, but now I think of that as quite meaningless, to an extent. It was fun but there were no guarantees of anything. And now my music has gone in a very different direction.
What’s your creative process and what influenced you when making your album?
So I started out by writing a script for the album, 30-35 pages of a story of a guy who goes to America. I recorded half an hour of dialogue but just left a little bit in the album. The plan was to have a speaking track in between each song. So this guy goes and builds a machine with his partner who’s very ambitious and wants a lot of success, but uses him to get it. And, then he gets ideas above his station and it all goes wrong and spirals out of control. So he goes and escapes to China in his boat. It was just something for me to write to, with these characters. I wanted to make something of a certain scale and eclecticism. And having that script was a framework for me to do that. And also, I don’t get the point of the modern album now: putting out a bunch of tracks that don’t relate to a bigger concept, because of people’s listening habits. But I would rather stick to a concept.
When I listen to you, it reminds me of Tame Impala, Cloud Control, Phoenix… what musicians inspire you?
I like Tame Impala’s stuff. It’s quite sweet and melodic and comes from quite a 60s-ish place. The Beach Boys are a real guide for me. I really like the band Dirty Projectors. And Kanye. He’s the only person from the last ten years who, when he puts out a record, I will always go and buy it. Because his albums are different every time, and have a concept or scope vision and it’s fun. And I don’t really see that with anyone else.
Who would you love to work with?
Apart from Kanye West? Well, just for the kudos, probably someone like Beethoven. That would look impressive on the CV.
How did you get involved with Rae Morris’s tour?
I’ve been producing stuff for Rae for a few years. And we wrote her track “Grow”. And we did a duet on her album. I just called her up and asked her. She was like, *begins Rae Morris impression* “Are you sure?! Are you sure you wanna come? Aren’t you too good for it?”… *laughs*
Where did you get your stage name from?
It was my old Myspace name. And I just wanted something that would come top on Google straight away…
Do you have any guilty pleasure songs? Not that you should ever feel guilty for liking anything.
I used to listen to a lot of crap growing up. I remember taping “Lucky” by Britney Spears onto a cassette. But I still think that’s a great song. The first thing I ever bought which I really liked was the song covered by Tin Tin Out featuring Emma Bunton (“What I Want”). But years later I found out it was a cover song and I ended up preferring the original, so I think that takes away some of the guilt.
What’s the most nervous you’ve ever been?
Pretty much every gig. But I went on that Sunday Brunch program on TV, and having loads of people behind the kitchen staring at you, being watched and recorded, I found that quite stressful. I had to have a lot of tequilas, before 8 AM. And then the other time, right after that, was this party that Alexa Chung had in a penthouse. They only invited like 80 people, milling around. And I had to just play four songs.
Wow, how did you get involved with that?
She just asked me! And I had Daisy Lowe and Pixie Geldof just sitting on the edge of the sofa. They were the only people really watching me. And they had apparently all just been on holiday and had been listening to my record. They were singing along…
What’s the future looking like?
When I finish this tour, I’m off to LA to work with someone on their stuff. And I’ll work on my own music when I’m there, and hopefully come out with a hit.
Fryars’ album is called Power and it’s out now!