I was on the Northern Line reading an article in the Metro about how kissing has been banned on public transport in Vienna after a couple were caught having sex. As I started to imagine what would happen if this law was enforced in London, I was interrupted by a sudden jolt.
A tall guy sat down next to me, then ever-so-gently nudged my elbow off the arm rest. I turned to give him a glare (as is standard tube etiquette), maybe even stare him down with the “I’m a potential psycho” look, but was feeling too smart-casual to pull it off. Instead I just glanced at him vacantly, as I realised I recognised this guy from somewhere. I wasn’t sure if we had met socially, but I had definitely seen him before. He couldn’t have been older than 25 and had a faded black Nike jumper on, and a long green coat. Suddenly it clicked – I’d been checking out his video ‘Cool Like Me’ on YouTube that morning; this was none other than the elusive musician, Fryars. Relatively little is known about this young British singer/producer considering he has worked with an eclectic range of pop stars from Lily Allen to Depeche Mode. From what I’d heard of his songs, his music walks the fine line between pop hook with interesting lyrics and soft melodies. Think dreamy electro-pop with hints of hip-hop and rock ballads. I reduced my glare to a friendly nod and before I knew it, the unthinkable happened – I started a conversation with a stranger on the tube.“You’re Fryars, right?” I asked, and he nodded back with an awkward “Yeah.” He seemed friendly enough, so I ran with it.
Some kind of involuntary journalistic impulse took over and I attempted to conduct an improvised interview. “Where you off to tonight?” I asked. Fryars revealed that he was “On the way to play five-a-side with some old friends called the Young Boys”. “I’ve heard some of your tracks, they’re pretty good; are you working on any new stuff?”, I asked. “Yeah, I’m working on a few songs at the moment”, he replied in his distinctively high yet gravelly voice, and proceeded to play me a demo on his phone. It had a kind of rap on it, a melodic voice reading a story over textured layers of production. I was feeling pretty excited that this wasn’t even an ‘interview’, more like a chat and yet I was getting an exclusive listen on what could be his next hit.
What I really wanted to ask was where the name Fryars had come from, I’d guessed was that this some kind of childhood reference to Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. When I asked, he divulged that it was a “name by design,” he wanted it to end in S so it was ambiguous whether it was one person or a group behind the music. The name is also an acronym but he’s never unveiled what it stands for.
He cleared his throat and asked me, “What you up to then?” I tried to match his late night five-a-side and told him I was on my way to an exhibition to meet a girl I was seeing, although, frankly, a kick-about sounded more fun. He smiled and looked up at the tube map. “The next station is Euston” announced an assertive digitalised female voice on the loudspeaker. I wasn’t sure where Fryars was getting off but realising it could be soon, I was now feeling under pressure to wrap up the interview, so I steered it towards something topical and pointed at the Metro asking what he thought about public displays of affection being illegal on TFL. He replied that he felt quite strongly on the matter insisting that it “was ridiculous”, continuing, “I mean are there really going to be undercover officers waiting in the carriages for couples to kiss and then slap them in the face with a fine?” And with that, we rolled into Kings Cross and Fryars exited the carriage.
At this point I started trying to put some context on to what just happened and decided this was a form of ‘vigilante journalism’. Of course, if I’d been playing vigilante cop the suspect would have got away and I would have been shot, probably by my own gun. But something made me try my luck, and not only did I get to meet the man himself but a private preview of some new music.
Now, when I hear Fryars on the radio or out and about I realise that his music captures something of the way London sounds, the simultaneous grit and beauty of the city is echoed in his lyrics and production. His songs are like a perfect feel good soundtrack for walking around, people watching or just a little bit of escapism from the long tube ride home.
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