INTERVIEW

“Ben Garrett’s reputation is already preceding him. The teenager also known by the moniker frYars is recounting a recent interview: “The guy hadn’t really heard any of the music, and he turned up expecting me to be this dark lord!” As all prodigiously talented teens have to, Garrett is fast learning how to deal with […]

“Ben Garrett’s reputation is already preceding him. The teenager also known by the moniker frYars is recounting a recent interview: “The guy hadn’t really heard any of the music, and he turned up expecting me to be this dark lord!”
As all prodigiously talented teens have to, Garrett is fast learning how to deal with other people’s expectations. As a 16 year-old posting demos on the Internet, frYars was already drawing comparisons with the likes of Bowie and Nick Cave. Those expectations don’t faze him, but the idea of people who’ve not even heard his music, let alone ever met him, drawing premature conclusions as to his personality clearly bemuses the singer.

If there were ever to be a perfect example of a Myspace-generation artist, frYars is it – he’s only ever sent one demo out to a record label (to Tummy Touch, when he was 12), instead posting his demos on Myspace, where The Bees’ manager found him, as did the NME, who were tipping him as ‘the next big thing’ well over a year ago. Now 18, he’s worked with Luke Smith of sadly-defunct electro-poppers Clor and released his debut EP ‘The Ides’ in September.

Garrett is comfortable with the high hopes people have invested in him so far, though he is concerned about his fledgling career being defined by the success of others. He went to the same school as Cajun Dance Party, with several other schoolmates such as Bombay Bicycle Club following in their wake. Whilst being glad for their success, he admits it carries with it certain frustrations: “Five acts from my school have been in the NME in the past year, which is fucking impressive. But it can be annoying too. Everyone around me is like, ‘Hey, you’re in music now – Bombay Bicycle Club are number two in the Indie chart… Cajun are everywhere… What are you doing?'”

The title track of his debut EP was itself largely responsible for building that reputation. With the chorus ‘You should have died that very night/Good job for you I wasn’t born a killer’, it’s almost literally a killer hook. Writing lyrics based on classic themes of murder, tragedy and betrayal, it’s little wonder people have been quick to draw the Nick Cave comparison, though Garrett denounces any idea that Cave was an influence on him: “Definitely not. I find him quite distressing – I think you can afford a lyrical content like that when the music is desirable. When it’s not, it’s more like an art project than music. I’m more influenced by producers than artists, really.”

One thing frYars definitely does is make desirable music – he writes all his songs on the piano at home (he’s self-taught, though he is trained on the drums), before putting it into the computer. He gets the song almost entirely finished in demo form before moving into the studio, where he can concentrate on moulding the sound, adding and taking away elements. He describes Smith as his ‘energiser’, and finds the most difficult part of the process is the self-editing part: to learn when not to add extra elements.

At the point when we meet, he’s putting the finishing touches to his new song ‘Green Eyes’. It will feature on his next release – a double A-side vinyl, with a new version of an older song, ‘Benedict Arnold’. Garrett describes ‘Green Eyes’ as his Pop Song – it’s synth-heavy sleazy funk-pop, with another of frYars’ murderous, sinister chorus lyrics, ‘You have a womb/You’ll deliver me a child/And he’ll have my olive eyes’ – whilst ‘Benedict Arnold’ has more in common with ‘The Ides’ EP. “It’s a song for Radio 2, and a song for… Kiss!” He’s also preparing for his first proper live dates, at London’s Slaughtered Lamb pub. He’s scrapped his original plans to feature a full backing band, with the set-up now being him and his girlfriend on synths, with projected visuals. He feels the approach to be more honest: “Too many people do the live band thing for the sake of it, turning it into something it’s not.” He’s also not particularly fond of the idea of touring, though he could be tempted: “It would be cool to go on tour and support a great band. Like the Flaming Lips.”

He’s setting his sights high, but, then again, people are already doing that for him. Just don’t call him a Dark Lord.

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