Holy Trinity Church is slowly filling up. Couples, groups of friends and even lone individuals linger waiting for Fryars aka Ben Garrett to take to the stage. It’s true you can’t help thinking that it isn’t right that a gig is taking place in a church, but for Fryars’ performance I get the feeling that it’s perfect.
At just 22, he’s been hotly tipped as the next Mercury Prize winner with a lot of expectation to live up to. Ben started making music in his bedroom and caught the attention of high profile fans like Kanye and Depeche Mode. Now he’s at Live at Leeds after some time out to show us all what he’s been busy working on and I had the opportunity to find out more from the man himself in the very interesting location of the band’s tour van.
Fryars are about to release the beautiful yet sad track ‘On Your Own’ focussing on themes of alienation and loneliness. When asked how he would describe the track Ben explained, ‘As a general track I don’t know. I read press and find it really interesting when people say don’t read your own press but I think it’s great to read it, even if it is terrible. Not so you can change things on there as a result but some press are saying it’s (the track) like R’n’B and I think that’s like really way off because of proceeding singles and the way they are fed music in today’s culture. But essentially it’s kind of like a Beach Boys-y ballad at quite a slow pace.’
And the rest of the album?
‘The album is a completely mixed bag, it’s a concept album and it journeys through time and geography so the different styles reflect that.’
It’s not just his own music he has been busy with either. Check a musician’s Twitter and you can find out a lot more about them. Fryars is no different and I find Ben’s
been working with Professor Green. What was it like working him and can we expect a collaboration any time soon? ‘He won’t be on my record. But I actually do quite a lot of writing and production for well-known charting musicians. He’s just one of many customers. He’s a very lovely guy.’
As well as the writing and production side of music, Fryars has also released a number of remixes. He told me, ‘literally this is how remixes work the bulk of the time, someone
sends you an email saying will you do this for this amount of money hence people like Diplo and Aphex Twin have both had records of remixes along with their albums. That’s essentially how a lot of the remix world works if you do sort of swaps. So someone at a label has decided they want to send you something because they think it will be a good match. It’s actually where labels get to sort of do something creative. But I only do the ones I think that I can do something good to and I usually destroy everything. I only take the vocals when I do remixes. So usually if the vocals passable or the right sort of style then I’ll do it.’
Live at Leeds is one of the first few gigs Fryars have played since Ben decided to take some time out, but for him producing music isn’t about being in any kind of spotlight, ‘I was always working on bits of my stuff or other people’s stuff and I think actually if you do stuff well, it actually does take quite a lot of time.’
In the time the band have been out of the spotlight they seem to have taken a different approach to communicate with their audience. At their gig at St. Pancras Ben tweeted his audience. What was the reasoning behind this? ‘Basically I made loads of terrible jokes and lots of in jokes that about only three people tittered at and I decided I should stop doing that because in a way the set should be quite moody and I thought that actually it ruined the mood. So by tweeting, it meant that I had the attention of all the people on their phones at gigs anyway. And it meant I didn’t talk which is good and lets me update the feed.’
What did Ben think of the band’s gig in Holy Trinity Church? ‘It’s quite a weird atmosphere I think, you know because it’s bright, a lot people are just hanging out in a church having a drink. But I think the gig was great. It’s a great venue, really nice. I mean it would be really great to do these sort of things later when people are seated and I’m pretty sure that most of the people had no idea who the f*** I am.’
It’s clear that obviously for a band they prefer to play for people who like their music and have heard of Fryars before, but for those who are hearing their music for the first time, what could they expect if they went to just a Fryars gig?
‘Well I suppose in the actual show there’s quite a lot more visual elements and it involves it being very dark. So anyone who saw us today and sees us again properly will see that it’s more of a sound and light show. The sort of spoken word interludes go with the visuals as it runs through the record. Essentially it’s a lot more artful than that which was just witnessed.’ And what can be expected from the band in the future? ‘Then I guess yeah like maybe some sort of feature on some crap dance act that gets to number one.’ Ben laughs at the thought of it.
Fryars have a strong stage presence in an intimate space and while they may not stand up and speak to their audience, they could capture the attention of even the rowdiest group of people standing at the back. From my interview with Ben it’s clear to see the band have no problem discussing their music seriously and have a laugh at the same time. It’s refreshing to see a band so humble about what they do and appreciate the fans they have. So, if you ever get the chance then I strongly suggest going to see Fryars live or simply check out their music online.
Taken on my iPhone by Ben himself