FRUIT TONES INTERVIEW - BUZZCOCKS ARE A BIG FRUIT TONES INFLUENCE
FRUIT TONES have released their second studio album, PINK WAFER FACTORY, in november last year. Tom Harrison (guitar and vocals) answers our questions.
First of all, how did you come to Rock music ? What was the first time you enjoyed music and which band was it ?
The first music I ever bought was Pulp’s Common People single on cassette, I got into more rocking stuff through listening to my parents music collection, my Dad had a Sex Pistols CD that was probably my introduction to punk and my Uncle gave me his old records which had a lot of Velvet Underground, Beatles, Stones kind of stuff. An old man at a cafe I worked in on weekends saw me wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt and gave me a load of the old blues stuff that influenced the Stones too so I started exploring all the roots of that sound as well.
How old were you when you first played an instrument ?
My Grandad had a piano/organ that I used to mess about on as a kid and I remember a small toy guitar as well but I couldn’t really play anything properly. I was 17 when I started actually learning to play on a borrowed guitar and got my first guitar - the one I still play today - for my 18th birthday.
What was your first band ?
My first shows were just solo in bars and folk clubs playing country and blues kind of stuff, sometimes on harmonica as well. I played in quite a few short-lived bands before starting Fruit Tones - Peace Signs was probably the longest standing one. I also play in a band called HONK at the moment and a new thing called Products.
Did you know each other before forming Fruit Tones ?
We kind of met through Fruit Tones - I started writing stuff that became Fruit Tones after Peace Signs stopped playing and there was quite a few line up changes up until 2019. I met Walmsley (drums/vocals) and CJ (bass/vocals) through playing and going to shows around Manchester, they were both in other bands, I started playing with Walmsley in 2017 I think - that’s when we were able to start touring properly and jamming all the time developing that chooglin’ drum/guitar interplay, CJ started playing with us in 2019 just before the Natural Selection tour and we’ve been fully blasting ever since.
What is the meaning of the name of your band ?
It doesn’t mean anything really, I just liked how it sounds and how it looks written down. Not too serious and a bit silly so it kinda suits the music. I used to make up stupid band names and what their music would sound like and that’s where it came from. I think I pictured a bright colourful cartoon version of a 60s garage band for Fruit Tones and as the songs started to come together that name seemed to fit.
What are your influences ? Which bands and music styles do you like most ?
I guess the Fruit Tones sound is based on early rock n roll stuff like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Link Wray but mixed with punk. We love old garage rock comps, The Kinks and Dr Feelgood. A lot of the vocal melodies come from 60’s girl groups and country stuff like Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn and the playing style from proto-punk stuff like New York Dolls, The Stooges, and The Velvet Underground. The budget rock recording sound is really influenced by all the Billy Childish bands and stuff like The Mummies, The Penetrators and The Gories.
Have you ever met them or shared the stage with them ?
Yeah actually I interviewed Billy Childish for Salford City Radio when he was up here doing a talk and we’ve opened for Flamin’ Groovies and The Gories which were both amazing, I still have a bottle of Thunderbird signed by The Gories as a souvenir from that show!
We've interviewed Odgie from The Worst, a Punk band from Manchester. How old were you when Punk happened in your town ?
None of us were even born when that first wave of punk hit Manchester!
What do you think of bands such as Joy Division, Buzzcocks, The Fall ?
I love those 3 bands, Buzzcocks in particular are definitely a big Fruit Tones influence. Those early punk bands are my favourite from the old Manchester stuff, bands like those and Slaughter and The Dogs.
Are there a lot of places, clubs, in Manchester to play in ?
There are definitely a lot of clubs but it could definitely do with a DIY space or a few more options for putting on low budget underground punk shows, there’s not as many small DIY bands touring through here as there should be at the moment.
After Natural Selection in 2019, Pink Wafer Factory is your second album. Why this title ? Is there a particular meaning in it?
Our friend Dom who was the original Fruit Tones bass player used to work in the Pink Wafer Factory in Wigan, I loved the sound of it when he told me and pictured it as this Charlie & The Chocolate factory kinda thing but he said it was a horrible, soul-destroying job and wouldn’t eat pink wafers anymore but I always wanted to write a song about it. We chose it as the album title too because we write and play music as an escape from real life - that’s what most of our songs are about and the feeling we try to put across so the sugar coated model of a bleak Manchester factory on the sleeve made quite a good visual representation of that.
Where did you record it and who produced it ?
We recorded, produced and mixed it all ourselves in our practice room in an old Manchester factory during the last covid lockdown. It was mastered by Mikey Young who mixed and mastered Natural Selection.
How long did it take to be recorded ?
We did all the drums, bass and guitar rhythm tracks live in one day, same as the last LP and then overdubbed the vocals and extra guitars over a few days. Because it was lockdown and we’d set up a make shift studio in the practice room it had a kind of “Stones in exile” feel so we spent about a week going for full budget rock Rolling Stones production on a few of the songs and adding daft stuff like the tape loop in-between ‘MSG’ and ‘Space Angel’ and the drums falling down the stairs noise at the end of ‘Back In The Night (Again)’.
Who design the cover ?
We designed and made it with my girlfriend Tash - rock and roll pastry chefs! It took around 200 pink wafers and was fully edible although we were all sick of pink wafers by the time it was done! We actually had to make it twice because I dropped the first one before we took the picture - ironically trying to take it somewhere the cat wouldn’t break it!
It's only available on LP, is it your own choice not to manufacture it on CD or the label's choice, and why not a CD ?
We talked about maybe doing a CD, but we tend to sell more LPs and cassettes than CDs so usually only make CDs to take on tour. Maybe it’ll happen if there’s demand at the live shows.
The first album was released on Greenway Records, the second one on Alien Snatch. Why did you change the label ?
With Greenway being based in New York and us in the UK the first one was quite hard for distribution because we sell most records in the UK and Europe but the LP was essentially a US import, so they’d sell out at our shows and everywhere that stocked it over here then it was a lot of shipping costs to keep getting more records over so it made sense to do the next one with someone based in Europe. Really pleased with how everything turned out with the first one though and we hope to release something with Greenway again at some point, maybe as a co-release with a Euro label to make distro easier. Alien Snatch! is a label we’ve been following for a long time so we’re stoked to work with them for this album!
We hope to see you on stage soon, will you come and play in Europe soon ? France ? Germany ?
Yes! We’re booking for 2023 now, trying to bring it to everyone! Everywhere we’ve been before is on the hit-list and as many new spots as we can. We’ve just got a booker for Spain so our first Spanish tour is on the cards, Germany and France will definitely be happening in the usual places, hopefully we’ll make it to some cities we haven’t played before too!
Thanks Tom for answering our questions.