Earl Brutus Revived: Jamie Fry Of The Pre New Interviewed

Mark Emsley talks to Jamie Fry of Earl Brutus about the importance of British Rail and Concorde to the state of music, and the formation of his new band, The Pre New

We crash fast cars / We kill pop stars / We eat Mars bars

We eat Mars bars

We don’t do Voodoo / ‘Cause we don’t have to


The Pre New Anthem

Six months ago, as part of a personal quest to track down a copy of ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ by Union Jackson (a one off collaboration featuring various members of Earl Brutus and Lush that ended up being one of the final tracks the band ever recorded, which was pressed up on promo vinyl and played on radio, but failed to ever get an official release), I found myself on the phone talking to Jamie Fry about life, the universe, and everything.

Given that Earl Brutus’ appearance at the Reading festival in 1996 ended up being one of those life changing moments for yours truly, finding myself listening to his stories and theories of pop was surreal and hugely enjoyable.

As part of the 15 minute discussion he happened to mention the possible chance of live shows with a new band that would revisit glories of the past, as well as forging ahead with new material; and even making an appearance at this year’s Glastonbury. Little did I know that within a matter of weeks I would be in the front row at that band’s official live debut in Croydon with a belly full of beer and a Cheshire Cat grin, experiencing The Pre New ‘doing’ the greatest non-hits of Earl Brutus and World of Twist with a renewed vigour of mid-life passion and a clear need to kick the current music scene into touch.

Now, with a few live shows under their belt, band logos in place, and badges printed, The Pre New are in full sonic force. In anticipation of the band’s appearance at the 1234 festival in Shoreditch this weekend, it’s time to catch up with Jim once more to find out why British Rail and Concorde are so important to the state of music, and just what The Pre New is all about.

As soon as contact is made, it’s clear that Jim is fired up and ready to talk.

First up on the agenda is the use of Concorde as a logo; why Concorde?

Jamie Fry: The Concorde thing represents good old fashioned futurism; supersonic flight for the masses. If you’re nearly fifty like I am – as are Gordon and Stuart – then when we were young Concorde was this fiercely ambitious modern thing, along with Kraftwerk and the space program. There is something acutely modern about it, and these things don’t come out consciously, but when we thought about Concorde, something just seemed to fit with the ethos of The Pre New; as does the human ear off the back of the mouse.

In a time when everything is retro, we can’t all be Amy Winehouse; Concorde represents something very modern. It’s futuristic and sleek, but also carries its own destruction, that makes a lot of noise and shakes the ground. Surely any great band would want to be like that? Also, any good group has to know when it’s time to be retired into the hangar. Maybe it is a cry for help, maybe it is a kind of mid-life crisis, but amongst my peers there is a yearning for modernism; a desperate need for something deep and modern.

Are there more up to date examples of such an object of desire?

JF: The only other thing is the iPod, which is truly modern and has changed people’s lives – and I don’t care how many you go through in a year. Mine has ‘Pop Music is Wasted On The Young’ etched into the back of it. So if anyone ever finds it, and they nick it, they should take that to heart and listen to the music on it.

And the British Rail sign?

JF: It’s just a fantastic looking thing that, despite being on display in every city in the country, doesn’t actually have a home as there is no longer a British Rail in existence.

So, towards the end of Earl Brutus we hijacked it and took it as our own. Nick [Sanderson, lead vocalist of Earl Brutus who sadly passed away in 2008] came from a big railway family, so his other love was railways, and he became a train driver in Surrey when he became bored with the rock thing, leading to the idea of ‘Train Driver in Eye Liner’. The last few sporadic gigs that Earl Brutus did, they had a glitter version of the sign as a backdrop, which is now being looked after by The Jesus And Mary Chain gang as it was used at the benefit gig that The Mary Chain organised after Nick’s death [the benefit concert was billed as ‘Train Driver in Eye Liner’].

It’s got two arrows pushing in different directions, and the ongoing joke was that Nick and I were like that; a kind of ‘Abba from hell’ – not in a camp way, as I had dark hair, he had blond hair, and we’re 2 middle-aged blokes from the north of England. I love the idea that in any great relationship you’re pulling in different directions, and that’s what the British Rail symbol represents, and why it’s been picked up by The Pre New. Many great bands have this type of relationship at the core of the set up, obviously; Mary Chain and Oasis, for example.

Why the use of the twins in the logo?

JF: Ahh, the guitar logo. The new end of the group: LB and New Stu, who take care of the guitar and electronics, they really are the engine room in the band. They are on which everything pivots and swings, as it allows me to ramble on, Shinya to do his thing and go out on a tangent, and George to be George; and so they are known as ‘Boys of Guitar’, almost like Shinya is ‘Boy from Japan’.

Actually, no-one knows this, but in Japanese Shinya means ‘New Boy’ as he was the second son, and Hayashida means ‘Of The Fruits Forest’, so his full name means ‘New Boy of the Fruits Forest’. So we’ve got ‘New Boy of the Fruit Forest’ on bass, and ‘Boys of Guitar’ on synths/guitars, and so when it came to the twins, we decided one would have the Concorde sign and the other the British Rail logo

There is a strong visual culture that belongs to The Pre New; I can’t play an instrument so you have to have the tunes, but you also have to have something to say and something to offer.

Are you enjoying the recent gigs, and your role in them?

JF: [long pause] Yeah, the gigs are fine, there was a lot of talk about getting a group together with Nick for a long time before he died. Then Nick got ill, so nothing happened for a year for good reason; I don’t think anyone was in any state to deal with it really. And it seemed a bit like ‘sacred ground’, I’d like to respect the past and handle it properly. That’s not a duty, it’s how you feel inside.

Suddenly it was about playing gigs; straight away we were offered quite a healthy slot at Glastonbury, so that was on the horizon, us going to Glastonbury, and not just pissing around, not just being a shabby little group. So, where Earl Brutus was more of a PA set up with computers, The Pre New is a live act, with new members who were brought up on G-n-R, and so don’t give a shit about Sex Pistols and Bowie which is quite interesting and healthy.

It was a lot of work to get us into shape for Glastonbury, and to be fair, we pulled it off well and truly. A week before Glastonbury we played GlamRacket and we tore the place apart. We have really galvanised ourselves into a group so it’s going fantastically.

We know we can pull it off as a live band, but now we’ve got to pull it off in a studio. I have every confidence we’ll do it, because that’s where we come into our own. It’s in a state of flux, but it’s going in the right direction; though we can’t decide what to call the album, maybe ‘Wifflet Asda Sex Riot’ which is one idea I’ve had in my notebook. I was trying to imagine a war painting; an album should be like a war painting with lots of things going on, and no single point of focus, with a lot coming at you from all directions.

So, there is an album already on its way?

JF: Oh yeah, that’s not going to be a problem. We can spend time in the studio and away we go, we tend to work fast and raw. An album is different now, that’s changed with the whole IT thing with Twitter and Facebook pages, and the way we record is now very different; and then the opportunities to distribute that information, either as regular downloads, one track at a time, one a month, or as a proper album with artwork or not.

So this is where our secret weapon comes into action with the new guys New Stu and LB as they understand the modern 21st century approach, with them being the ‘New’ of the band , again referring back to the arrows pulling in different directions.

The yin and yang of the old and the new in the band?

JF: Don’t use the term yin and yang for an English pop band, we may have been to Glastonbury, but…

Speaking of Glastonbury, given the history of the band, you’re not the most obvious band for the festival; did you end up having a so-called ‘Glastonbury moment’?

JF: Earl Brutus played on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the new bands tent when Pulp were headlining. It was pissing with rain, we were all in a bad mood, we got there at midday, played at 4pm and left at 1am. So that was my impression of Glastonbury.

The only other thing that I thought was hilariously funny, was due to the mud, our gear had to be carried in on a land rover, and we had to walk and got covered in mud, but in front of us was Sean Lennon being carried by 2 roadies so he didn’t get his feet dirty.

We went on stage doing our thing, and a friend of ours was on the side of the stage when Sean walked up to him and said ‘what’s this shit?’. To which our friend said ‘That’s Earl Brutus, and your dad would have fucking loved them’, leaving Sean stomping off in a strop. Of course, the fact that we had a full tent for our show that completely emptied when he came on after us was just hilarious.

This time though, I got it completely, really got it. People coming together listening to music, no violence, not getting your wallet nicked, sun was shining. I just thought ‘this is what it’s all about’. Previously I would have been the first to knock it and take the piss out of it; I used to think it was all about people with dogs on strings, and stilt walkers. It wasn’t. Plus the line up was brilliant, with bands that only my son would know about.

We camped for 2 nights with our The Pre New ‘For Sale/To Rent’ signs, causing me to be described as a ‘deranged estate agent’ in one review. Which is quite flattering.

Did you wear the suit?

JF: Yeah, I always wear the suit on Saturday nights.

Could you explain more, given that Earl Brutus were not a suit wearing band?

JF: Always be true to yourself. Earl Brutus were a garage forecourt type of band, eating kebabs, but that was 13 years ago, and a lot has happened. Listen to the words in the new stuff; there is a truth to the new stuff, and we are no longer dysfunctional teens. Earl Brutus was talking about growing up in our thirties, now we are about a different era of pensions and property schemes.

I’ve just spent 2 years on a property venture, in a bid to try and make money because I want a bit of money in my pockets when I get old. It didn’t fail, and it didn’t succeed, but I tell you what, it was fucking boring. I was exposed to that world, and so the words reflect that.

Yeah, I put on the suit, dressing up and making a big deal of it. It’s a northern thing, as Londoners don’t seem to do it. I’m a middle aged man, and a middle age man wears a suit; I’m a grown up father of two, so I’m not going to talk about being broke on the dole, as I’m not.

Plus if you’re 6ft 1, you can get away with wearing a suit.

Of course, I have to mention Martin [Fry, Jamie’s older brother, lead singer of ABC] and the legend of his suit…

JF: His was quite retro; mine’s from Zara. Well, when I put on the suit, I do look like the big brother, but every band Martin and I ever listened to dressed up; like Dexys, Dr. Feelgood and Roxy Music. Me putting the suit on gets everyone going: last Saturday George [a fine drummer with recommended tales of his times in Marion and Electrafixation] wears a military outfit, and then Shinya says ‘tonight it’s showbiz night Jim’ and pulls out a full Kimono and headband, and the twins put on their Clash styled t-shirts.

So, what’s starting to forge is a ‘beautiful line up’, hopefully making people say ‘where the fuck did these people meet?’

Speaking of Shinya having to work and play bass on stage; is he into it now, as last time I chatted to him, he wasn’t too happy, as he would have preferred to just stand on the stage and get wasted (as per his role in EB)?

JF: Well the story of Shinya was that Earl Brutus joked that their first fan should join the band, and Shinya used to come the Dublin Castle and stand in front of the stage doing impersonations of us, so we invited him in, as he was the first person that ever liked us.

Actually, here’s a competition idea: we have a Facebook page, with 100 people signed up. So, the 200th person to sign up will be able to go out with Shinya to Pizza Hut, and the 300th person will get to pick anyone in the band for four hours to do whatever they want"

How do you view your role as lead vocalist – as this is the first time you’ve been in the limelight?

JF: I see my role as ‘house vocalist’, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have guest vocalists; like a guest wine, where the wine is more expensive and better. This can be either people from other groups, or people we know. In fact one person I’d really love to work with would be Al from the Parkinsons; I’ve known him for years, and I’d love to get involved with him.

So Shinya will hopefully sing one track, Stuart will have a spoken piece – ‘Bring Me The Head Of Susan Boyle’ [an update to Stuart’s spoken vocal part for ‘On Me Not In Me’ from Earl Brutus’ debut album, Your Majesty We are Here ]. I don’t think you’ll be seeing me as lone front man for much longer. I enjoy it once I’m up there, it’s great fun. But I think it’s a bit boring for groups to have one singer.

It’s not my band, it’s a group effort. Though it may feel like it, as I’m the tallest and I shout the loudest.

To finish off the chat, I ask what happens after the 1234 Festival, and it sounds to be a bit of an open book.

First up, there is hopefully an upcoming radio session, and some attention on the band’s website, for which they have big plans.

The idea for the site seems to involve images that relate to the band’s ethos (mice with ears on their backs and Concorde will be making an appearance I would suspect), having a two column design, with one column allowing members of the band to drop lyrical ideas live, and then visitors to add their own, or react to the suggestions.

But as ever with The Pre New, such plans can easily be diverted by shiny sleek futurist modern-looking gadgets of mass destruction.

Finally, don’t forget to join The Pre New’s Facebook page for the chance of a Pizza Hut meal with Shinya.

For details of The Pre New’s gig this Saturday at the Shoreditch 1234 festival, click here.

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