I've enjoyed frYars - London teenager, Ben Garrett - for over a year now ever since I first heard his track Chocolate. While I haven't really been too excited about the other musical teens in his milieu like Cajun Dance Party and The Bombay Bicycle Club, I've become quite hooked on frYars. He's been compared to Kid A-era Radiohead, and quite appropriately, to Patrick Wolf. I hear the Patrick Wolf similarities in the fanciful, often dark imagery, and the blend of classical and electronic elements - where Wolf uses violin, frYars uses piano. frYars, like Wolf, seems to be a young man out of his time - perhaps from the 19th century, but the mention of ketamine replaces any reference to opium. He gives me the impression of smirking precociousness - after all, he is only nineteen years old and if I had written songs like Chocolate and The Ides when I was seventeen, I would be rather smug as well. His low, slightly warbly, slightly mad voice is perfect for the quirky, often sinister, musical stories he tells - he has the sort of imaginative self-contained narratives that the likes of David Bowie and Morrissey used to create.
frYars released his first EP, The Ides EP, last year, but it was only available in independent record shops in England (most likely only in London), and via iTunes. I had managed to order a vinyl copy of the title track The Ides single with the b-side happY on which he declares "produced with the wonderful luke smith & i did the picture after sana drew it first," continuing the rebellion against capitalization - except for "y's" (apparently this is so he wouldn't be confused with actual friars and it would make it easier to search him on the Internet - odd, but practical I suppose). On March 17, he'll be releasing a new EP entitled The Perfidy EP, featuring the songs The Novelist's Wife, Benedict Arnold, Olive Eyes, and Benedict Remixed. This time, the EP will be available via Rough Trade's Web site (http://www.roughtrade.com/), where you can also now purchase The Ides EP and The Ides vinyl single.
Produced by ex-Clor member, Luke Smith, The Ides EP featured a concise four songs, The Ides, Madeline, happY, and Chocolate, but they're all fantastic tunes. The plonking piano at the beginning of The Ides, a morbid narrative about shooting a former lover and then running away, makes me think of some 19th century vaudeville show. Then a bunch of electronic flourishes come in, kicking off into a chorus that is so catchy, I often walk around singing, "You should have died that very night, Good job I wasn't born a killer" (not recommended in public). Chocolate, which as I mentioned earlier was my first listen of frYars, is a nearly nonsensical story of two children named Alice and Ivy who appear to eat chocolate given to them by a doctor and subsequently switch genders, but with the cheerful, bouncy music, the song takes on the quality of a Roald Dahl or Lewis Carroll creation - child-like, but then again, not so child-like.
First The Ides, now The Perfidy - I detect a theme of betrayal and disloyalty. In his latest EP, frYars sings about Benedict Arnold, the infamous, treacherous soldier in the American Revolution, a mellow composition with a syncopated beat. Paul Butler, from psychedelic-indie band, The Bees, takes over production for Benedict Arnold and for The Novelist's Wife, a more piano-driven affair, rather than electronic, which recounts the Titus-like story of a writer who is unfaithful to his wife, prompting her to bake a pie containing his Hungarian mistress, whom the novelist then eats, unknowingly, for dinner. Olive Eyes, sees the return of Luke Smith as producer and fuzzed out beats and a bubbly electro feel, reflecting shades of Smith's old band, Clor. Thanks to Olive Eyes, "You should have died that very night, Good job I wasn't born a killer" has now been replaced in my head by "you have a womb, you shall deliver me a boy." Still doesn't work well in public.
frYars has a number of tour dates lined up in the UK and Europe, including an opening slot on Goldfrapp's tour. My hope is that one day he will create a full album full of choruses I shouldn't sing in public. I'm including a couple of tracks from his first EP and an early demo called The Rise of Jack and Chloe. To listen to the tracks from The Perfidy EP, visit frYars's MySpace page: www.myspace.com/fryars.
The Ides - frYars
Madeline - frYars
The Rise of Jack and Chloe - frYars