Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Fratellis

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IN AN era of bands picked for their looks, the Fratellis are something of an exception. One reviewer summed them up as "Stig of the Dump on drums, your overweight uncle on bass and a curly singer who looks naked without Orville the Duck up his arm".

However, the blend of punk and folk that drives the three-piece band propelled them into music's A-league with a Brit award on Wednesday night for best breakthrough act.

From their first gig in the basement of O'Henry's, a Glasgow pub, in February 2005, they have shot from indie niche status to the brink of massive mainstream success. Singer Jon Fratelli, 27, said: "If you stop and think about what's happened, it's all pretty crazy. Then again, we're in the middle of things, so it all seems normal to us."

The trio - Jon is joined by bassist Barry and drummer Mince - were formed after Mince placed an advert in the window of the Glasgow music shop Sound Control. It stated: "Only people that want to conquer the world need apply."

Jon honed his musical skills playing cover versions of Eric Clapton and the Proclaimers at weddings, occasionally slipping in a subversive version of Chris Rea's Road to Hell to amuse himself. While many bands are now polished to clinical perfection, the Fratellis' story revolves around music with sharp hooks built for noisy singalongs - Henrietta and Chelsea Dagger are prime examples.

Stuart Clarke, of the industry trade magazine Music Week, said the band were spotted by an artists and repertoire scout for an indie label based in Scotland in early 2005. "A month after the scout discovered them, labels were flying up to Scotland to see them. Most, if not all, the major labels and a handful of indies showed a lot of interest in the band. It's the strength of the live act that wins you over."

In the event, they were signed to Universal Island, and the deal produced a Top 20 debut album, Costello Music. Tracks such as Baby Fratelli and Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night have become live standards.

The buzz around the band led NME magazine to anoint them "the best new band in Britain" last August. The strength of their live show meant two performances at Barrowland in Glasgow sold out in seven minutes.

Costello Music, taken from the name of a rehearsal studio in Glasgow, was released in September and went to No 2 in the charts. The album itself was recorded in the Sunset Sound studio in Los Angeles, which has been used by Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys. Jon said of the sessions: "There's a bit of magic on the old Sixties mixing desk in studio three and I think some of it rubbed off."

The album's appeal has also lured advertisers. The new single, Flathead, has been used in a TV commercial for the iPod.

Ben Perreau, the editor of NME.com said the band's success was rapid but could be put down to a straightforward cause. "These are good, solid songs from good, solid songwriters," he said. "They write fantastic melodies with an immediate hook that people can relate to very quickly."

The band's website now boasts 10,000 members, and counting.


Henrietta - based on a friend of Jon Fratelli's mother

Clean out the bank and bump off your daddy/ You can come live with us among the has-beens and the addicts/ These are crazy times down at Costello music/ You can answer the phone and talk nice any way you choose it, come on

Chelsea Dagger - said by Jon Fratelli to be about a showgirl

Chelsea, Chelsea, I believe that when your dancing slowly sucking your sleeve/That all the boys get lonely after you leave/ And it's one for the Dagger and another for the one you believe

Whistle for the Choir:

And it's four in the morning, and I'm walking along beside the ghost of every drinker here who has ever done wrong/ And it's you that's got me going crazy for the things you do

Jon Fratelli

Aged 27, Jon is the band's singer. He grew up in Cumbernauld and picked up the guitar at the age of 16, when his first songwriting experiments began. His influences are retro - he cites The Beatles, Dylan and The Clash - and he has declared: "Nobody knows how to write songs any more." Fratelli's lyrical flow may owe a debt to his stated love of the 1950s Beat Generation poets, in particular Allen Ginsberg. He lists his occupation on the band's website as "Are you kidding?"

Barry Fratelli

Bassist, 27, from Greenfield, Glasgow, was once a professional croupier. He claims to have been "sacked from more jobs than I can remember" and says he was turned down for a job at Tesco a month before the band was signed to Island Records in 2005.

His musical influences are, for the band, typically diverse - from Johnny Cash to the Who, Madness and Elvis Costello. He has described his favourite relaxation as "listening to Sinatra naked with a bottle of Stella in my hand".

Mince Fratelli

Mince, 23, is from Paisley. When he placed the advert to form a band in the window of Glasgow's Sound Control, he was a guitarist but then switched to drums.

His fellow band members say they are baffled by the name Mince, for which the drummer has "a different story every day".

Mince's musical influences are eclectic - from Glenn Miller to Queen and Rage Against the Machine. He describes his occupation as "business hippy" and admits: "I have a wandering mind."