Nick Frater is another musician I discovered through Big Stir. I always liked power pop, and the modern guitar pop/rock that takes its cue from it makes me like it even more. The genre has expanded so that anything goes and everything works. Nick's music is creative, melodic, and experimental.
Nick was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
Andrea Weiss: For those who don’t know your work, could you give a short history of it?
Nick Frater: Fast & Loose is my fifth album, and the first out on Big Stir Records. It has been described as Brian Wilson meets Cheap Trick, which is probably pretty accurate!
My last album, Full Fathom Freight-Train, was warmly received by the power-pop world, including being voted Album of the Year 2019 by David Bash (Shindig!/IPO festival).
Having spent my early years playing in countless bands, and every bar in London, I decided that if I wanted something doing I should do it myself. So set up a label, Great Sheiks, and started producing and releasing my own music, and bands I was in or thought were good and wanted to help. With the help of Ray at Kool Kat my early albums came out on CD, and the Nick Frater cult following has been building ever since.
AW: Who are your influences?
NF: Beatles, Wondermints, and everything in between!
It’s a simple question, but very hard to answer! I have a huge love for music from the mid-60s to mid-70s, and many of those bands can be heard in my songwriting and production. But, I was lucky enough to have a very broad musical education. I am a classically trained pianist, though you wouldn’t know it if you heard me attempting to play Brahms these days. In school I was one of the few kids that played bass guitar, so got recruited by bands much older than I was. It was here I met Tom Shotton and Alex Lewis, who are probably my strongest influences, and I still make music with now. They’re on drums and backing vocals on Fast & Loose. I was maybe fourteen at the time, and listening to terrible bands, and writing terrible songs. Before joining their band practice I was given a mix tape that had Van Dyke Parks, Hatfield and The North, Professor Longhair, and all sorts of things that opened up my ears. I then heard their songs, insanely good, but also insanely complicated to learn. I’ve been trying to write songs as good as theirs ever since!
AW: I hear the Beach Boys the most in your sound, which is great. How did you draw on them?
NF: I acquired a bootleg of Smile and became obsessed with the music and the mystique around those tapes. It was at the peak of this obsession, that Brian Wilson finished it and debuted it in London. This remains one of the most incredible gigs I’ve been to, not just to hear it complete, but to see how some of those sounds had been made. To see and hear members of The Wondermints playing this music lifted the veil on what some of those sounds really were on my murky cassette bootleg.
AW: Your lyrics seems so happy and positive, which I like. Do you lean toward lyrics like that as a rule?
NF: Fast & Loose definitely has a few positive tracks. "Would You Like To Go?" for example, felt like a really fun bubblegum tune to write. Much of my music, though, is much darker lyrically, but within the context of melodic, upbeat music might not always sound that way. Writing lyrics is such an unusual part of songwriting; I tend to start with melody and some nonsense words, guided by how it sounds when sung. The meaning is often a surprise to read once it is done.
AW: “Cocaine Gurls” seems to be about sobriety. Or is that a mischaracterization?
NF: In someways I guess, not necessarily mine, though! This song was actually written for one of my old bands, back when we were young and playing sweaty dive bars late at night. I co-wrote the song with our band’s singer, who then decided it was too stupid to sing! This album felt like the right one to revisit it; I nearly called it "Croydon Gurls!"
AW: I read in the literature for your album that you’d recently become a dad. Congratulations! You said that singing to and rocking your newborn baby was a good way to write songs. Did it make recording them easier?
NF: Thanks! I mainly record in my home studio, so don’t have far to go when inspiration strikes. The biggest difference since becoming a dad is, obviously, having less uninterrupted time to spend making music. However, that limitation seems to have made me more productive. Thinking through in advance exactly what I want to do, and getting done in twenty minutes what I used to spend a whole evening on!
AW: A number of guests appear on the album. How was it working with them?
NF: For all its faults, social media has been a positive thing for bringing like-minded musicians and people together. The DIY music world is full of fantastic musicians who are often incredibly generous with their time and talents. I love collaborating with people, and sometimes the challenges of being located in different parts of the world can help take ideas in interesting directions. Whenever possible, I try to help out with other people’s music, too. Always say yes. You never know how things might turn out!
AW: What advice would you give to someone just starting in music?
NF: Being in bands should be fun. Enjoy it, and don’t try and be cool!