INTERVIEW: Frightened Rabbit

by Andy McCall, Music Editor

There’s no question that Frightened Rabbit are among the best of what Scotland has to offer musically.  Starting from humble beginnings, as a solo act, Scott Hutchinson – otherwise known to his parents as a ‘frightened rabbit’- began his musical career performing to a crowd of strangers, an unexpectedly comforting situation for a man who once struggled to hold down a simple conversation with a friend.  Since the release of ‘Sing The Greys’, the album that started it all, Frightened Rabbit have been on a steady upward trajectory, with music becoming more layered, and ultimately more members adding to the band’s landscape, creating a truly unique sound that is proudly Scottish, yet manages to engrain itself beyond its nation’s borders.  Three albums in and Frightened Rabbit had by 2010 secured themselves as one of the forerunners for Scottish music and the rest was history.

Frightened Rabbit’s material, now a dense back-catalogue, has, for some years, provided fans with a band that they can truly worship, despite lyrical themes of self loathing and failed relationships entangled in gloomy situations being an anchor throughout the three previous albums ‘Sing The Greys’, ‘Midnight Organ Fight’ and ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’.  It comes as no surprise that the Scottish quintet has grown beyond a national cult following to garner fans around the world, particularly in America, as shown by the whirlwind tour they have already embarked on.  But crucially, it is a sense of intimacy that front man Scott Hutchinson strives for, as he stresses ‘we’re not arenas, and I don’t ever want to be really… I just don’t like arena shows, I don’t think they add anything to the intimacy of things’.

Indeed, Frightened Rabbit have, for a few years now, been walking the line between a band wholly deserving of that status, yet managing to maintain an astonishingly captivated audience, with gigs promising to be more along the lines of a cramped sweaty room, proven by their string of highland shows which saw the band perform in small local pubs throughout Scotland.  It would appear then that the band’s prolific knack for quality songs, coupled with an ever-present sense of accessibility is what has ensnared a wholly dedicated group of fans.

The Glasgow show, which has been given a second date, is in many ways a home coming show for Frightened Rabbit, and at such a crucial point in their career, it may have been the most suiting time to catch up with front man, Scott Hutchinson to talk about the past, the present and the future of Frightened Rabbit.


1.  Pedestrian Verse was released in February of this year, could you give us a quick rundown of everything that you’ve been up to in the seven or so months that have followed?

SH: Yeah, if I can remember!  It’s been essentially non-stop touring since the release of the album.  We did a UK tour, a US tour, an Australian tour and then a small jaunt in Europe, and then over this summer, we’ve just been hitting the festivals, so it’s been fairly relentless.  It makes me feel tired just talking about it.  But it’s been good and hugely rewarding and completely worthwhile, and it’s not stopping! We leave for a US tour next week.  It’s been full on, but it’s a good thing in my mind, if people didn’t give a shit then we wouldn’t be touring at all, so I’m glad that they do.

2.  You have said that the songs on ‘Pedestrian Verse’ were written with a different approach.  By this you referred to all members of the band getting involved.  It clearly had an impact on the final product, but does it also have an effect within your live performances? Does everyone feel more connected when you perform, does it make you tighter as a band in terms of live performances?

SH: Yes it does.  Everyone feels so.  I mean, before, it was just a bunch of guys, playing parts that I had written.  I had written and performed all these songs in the studio, pretty much by myself.  So you can’t get a sense of ownership, and like you say, the guys didn’t feel like they could muck about with parts of the song, because they were mine.  But now they all have parts of their own, so they can do what they like with them.  Live, it makes the song tighter but at the same time more malleable, you can kind of take it places, and everyone’s a little bit freer with everything, so to me it’s only improved us and it’s made us better in a lot of ways.  It’s certainly made us tighter not just musically, but it’s brought us closer as a band socially, it’s improved everything as far as I can tell!

3.  You have signed to a major label and you recently embarked on a tour of global scale.  Did this mean playing bigger venues than you were used to?

SH: Yes definitely!  It’s definitely scaled us up a little bit, not in a ridiculous way, there are no arenas on the cards, but we’ve definitely taken a jump.  But it’s a combination of both things, it’s the most complete and best record we made, so there’s that, and also the label does have infinitely more resources than Fat Cat, our old label, used to.  So it’s given us a very strong foot up in terms of everything.  But we’re not arenas, and I don’t ever want to be really.  I’m very happy with where we are now!

4.  How did it feel reconnecting with fans that maybe haven’t seen you play in a while, or fans that had never had the opportunity to see you perform before?

SH: That’s always the best thing.  And it’s still happening, we’ve got this US tour coming up and we’re hitting a lot of cities we’ve never been to before, and I love the feeling you get from a brand new audience.  It’s one of the best experiences.  Likewise it’s the same playing big festivals.  We’ve found a lot more fans coming on board simply because of the number of festivals we’ve played this summer.  People wander into a tent just to see what’s going on, and then leave a convert!  I love brand new pairs of ears, it’s really satisfying to play to them.

5.  It’s clear that as band, you have been touring a hell of a lot since the release of Pedestrian verse, can you tell us about life on the road, the highs and the lows, and how it feels when you have to readjust to down time?

SH: My policy is not to complain about my job, but it is really exhausting.  It takes its toll both mentally and physically on you, but it’s just such a great job!  So the highs have to be playing all these shows, ha.  Playing for instance, Lollapalooza, we played to maybe around 8000 people, we finished the show, and there we are in the middle of Chicago, and we can go and get plastered in the city.  It doesn’t really get much better than that.  But at the same time, we’re constantly moving, and have really little time to spend with friends or girlfriends and form relationships.  It’s really difficult to maintain that whilst you’re away.  It’s a very antisocial job in a weird kind of way; it’s very social, but it’s also very difficult.  Whenever we get back, we feel like just sitting in bed and watching DVD’s, but you get messages like ‘Hey, are you back? Do you want to go for a pint?’ but you’ve just been drinking for three weeks straight, and then you eventually end up going out.  To be honest, its knackering, and I’ve probably taken years off my life just by doing this, but the flip side is, you pack a lot more in than many people get out of their life.

6. Frightened Rabbit also released a record with Manchester Orchestra for record store day.  What was it like working with the genius that is Andy Hull?

SH: Yeah!  He’s brilliant!  Well, it was weird, basically Andy and I got in touch via our label and our management, and we were just texting each other, essentially just wanking each other off saying ‘oh I love your band, ooh no I love your band more.’  I love his solo stuff as well, particularly Right Away Great Captain.  I’d never met him, and we wrote the song that way.  I came up with parts, and sent it to him, and he came back with this amazing vocal part and it really worked.  So it was really only three or four back and forth emails before the song was finished.  I finally met him and he was really busy, I think he’s only just finished a new Manchester album, and I was relentlessly busy as well.  I think we’d like to try, whenever there’s time, to write more together but it’s just been kind of full on for us both.  He’s someone I admire and count as a friend I have met him, well…once actually, ha!  It’s one of those things, he kind of kicks me in the arse a bit, because he’s so productive, I’ve never really known anyone to be so prolific, and he writes all the time.  I’m a bit of a lazy slow bastard, but he’s a really inspiring person to work with and a really great person.

7.  Have you played it live?

SH: We did it once and it went down pretty well because me and Andy performed it together in Atlanta, which is where he and the band are based.  So yeah just that one time, and I wouldn’t do it without him…that would seem wrong…because he wrote half of it, ha.  I’m sure next year, if we have festivals together, or if our paths cross, I would love to perform it with Andy at any opportunity.

8.  You also played T in the Park a few months back.  It seemed as though you were truly humbled to be given the opportunity to play the NME stage, how did it feel to play after having waited so long?

SH:  It’s definitely great on the part of the show organisers, who thought we were capable of playing that kind of stage, whereas I didn’t necessarily think we could.  But it was a really lovely experience.  That was our third time at T, and each time it’s been one of these kinds of landmark moments for us.  The first time we played the T Break Stage and we could believe how many people turned up, and then the second time we were like ‘fuck there’s even more people!’, and then even more this time around.  It was a really big thing for us and it’s one of those things, it’s the first festival I ever went to, and it’s had a special place for me since I first went when I was 14 or 15 or so.  So yeah, it was really great.

9. What about the future, are you aiming for the main stage next?

SH: Nah, Nah.  I think also, you know, I don’t mind playing main stages; we’ve done that in a bunch of places.  But I think that T in the Park in particular might well be moving away from our kind of music anyway.  So I wouldn’t expect us to be troubling T in the park’s main stage.  We’re not adverse to that kind of thing though, I do love a big audience, and that’s the difference.  At festivals an audience does feel more united than they might possibly feel in an arena.  I just don’t like arena shows, I don’t think they add anything to the intimacy of things.  At a festival, it can be a wonderful experience playing, so were not against it by any means; I just don’t think T will ask us to do it.

10.  You embark on a US and UK tour in a few months, how long does this last for, and what are the main venues you’re looking forward to?

SH: Well the US one is 8 weeks long, and ha…there’s so much.  We’ve got two and a half weeks opening for a band called The National, and some of those venues are incredible.  We play Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver.  Its cut out of the rock, it’s incredible!  And…where else are we getting to play?  Oh yes, we get to play the Ryman Auditorium, which is in Nashville.  It’s this amazing, old style venue and it’s not that big of a place either, so even just to see The National there will be incredible.  When I get back, of course I’m looking forward to playing Glasgow.  That’s going to be incredible.  Well, we haven’t played Glasgow since the start of the year, so it’s a very exciting prospect for us.  And Brixton academy is also a big deal as well.  There are a lot of big things coming up.

11.  Your Glasgow gig sold out and has been given a second date, are you excited to be playing this home show, given the huge demand for it?

SH: It’s amazing that the first one sold out so fast, it’s crazy!  It’s just nice to know that people still give a shit, and you know, when we come home it’s the last show of the UK tour, it’s the last show before we head off to Europe.  It will be one of those, end of the road kind of brilliant nights I hope, I’m really excited about it!

12.  What songs are you as a band having the most fun playing right now? And what songs do you feel are getting the best reception from the crowd?

SH: Well it’s quite funny.  It’s evened out a lot.  I think at the start of the year, people obviously we’re still getting used to the new songs.  For this next tour, we’ve just been in rehearsal, and we’re bringing in a lot of old songs that weren’t previously in the set, so we’re really enjoying playing them.  But this year it’s developed a lot, for me, there’s one new song called ‘Acts of Man’, and when we play it live it has this big, sort of unexpected, heavy metal ending and I love playing that haha!  I don’t know, it’s my inner kind of inner grunge kid and Kius fan that’s playing that really!

13.  I noticed very recently through Facebook a new song called ‘Radio Silence’, which sounds great.  Could you tell a little bit about the song itself?

SH: Yes, it’s part of an EP.  Well, radio silence is one of three songs that’s on that EP, it accompanies the Woodpile.  It’s really about a very common tale, when you know, you’re waiting for someone in particular to phone you or get in touch, and inevitably they fucking don’t.  I don’t know, that kind of waiting for, let’s be honest, your ex-girlfriend or something, ha!  It’s one of those things where I enjoy taking really small and normal things and elevating them into something more dramatic in the song, and that’s what Radio Silence does really.  I suppose I wrote it just before the summer, so it’s a really new song.  We had these three songs, and we figured we may as well put them out, so that’s the idea behind the EP.

14.  Finally, once the tour is finished what is next for Frightened Rabbit, back to the studio?  Continuing touring?

SH: There’s going to be down time, I think we’ve earned it.  We’ll have a good Christmas holiday.  But then after that… I think we’re off to Australia again and there’s probably more touring on the cards next year.  But I want to start thinking about the next record.  And maybe even in between times, I’m quite keen to do something on my own, perhaps a solo album with my own stuff, or maybe with other collaborators.  I’ve done Frightened Rabbit now for years, and I think it would be nice to have a break from that for a wee section of next year.

ST: Well thanks for your time, it really has been great to hear about everything, and I wish you the best of luck for the upcoming tour and whatever comes after!

Frightened Rabbit embark on a massive U.S tour this September and return to the UK in November.  Those lucky enough to nab a ticket before both Glasgow dates sold out will catch the band at The O2 Academy on November the 16th and 17th


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