Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview: Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison

Posted by Andrew

Why aren’t we all smart enough to pay closer attention to Scotland by now? Countless great bands have been coming out of the upper UK for years, yet the majority of attention is focused on London.  Of course, every once in a while a Mogwai or a Franz Ferdinand breaks that trend, but too often our backs are turned and we realize too late what we’ve been missing out on for a while. Luckily, there’s Frightened Rabbit, a band leading the way for the new Scottish sound. With 20,000 leagues of lyrical depth and a passion that immediately warrants more than just a cursory listen, Scott Hutchison’s songwriting pulls the heartstrings, while his brother drummer Grant pounds the eardrums.

Frightened Rabbit will be in Chicago this Thursday, November 4th, hitting up the House of Blues on what seems like a never-ending tour in support of The Winter of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat). Plants and Animals and fellow Scots the Phantom Band are supporting. While on the road, Scott was able to take some time and give a’s to my q’s, offering insight into future FRabbits recordings, sibling rivalry and not holding back on subject matter. Read on and dive into his brain.

WCR: Frightened Rabbit originally started out as a solo project, very stripped down, but you continue to evolve the sound, adding more members, becoming more expansive. Do you anticipate a return to the stripped down sound?

SH: Yeah, I do, especially with the way the last record turned out. It was kind of one of those things where we overblew it in order to move forward. On the first two records we didn’t have a chance to put all the kind of arrangements and instrumentation that we wanted, we didn’t have the budget or the time to do that. For the last record we had both budget and time, and kind of just went for it because I had to get it out of my system. So I do sort of see the next album being really, really more stripped back than that and even more stripped back than [the Midnight] Organ Fight. 

Since with every album you seem to add a new member, if you’re going for a more stripped back sound, do you think this is going to be the final lineup?

Yeah, I do, I do - it’s definitely finished now. I’ve always seen it as being at least a four piece or maybe a five piece. A lot of the times Frightened Rabbit is pretty much my project but hopefully we can see forming as a band in the studio instead of just people around me. 

Location is definitely a very important part of the song writing process, like how you isolated yourself in Crail in Scotland. Do anticipate doing something like that again, isolating yourself? Do you have any other setting where you’d want to settle down and write?

The idea behind writing in Scotland is that it’s home...after you’ve done the tours - you know we’ve been on tour a lot this year. And I think once you do that, especially since we’ve got girlfriends and friends and family, I think it’d be great just to spend some time there. So I’m anticipating doing most of the writing for the next record back home. 

You’ve been in the band with Grant, your brother, ever since it became more than just a solo project. When you guys are on tour, are there any tensions or sibling rivalries that get in the way?

Well, you know, we’ve had some…arguments. We’ve been pissing each other off for years and years and I think that continues to happen once we’re on tour because we’re in such close quarters and it can be quite annoying. It’s almost always extremely petty and for no reason whatsoever. But it never comes to blows because I think he’d probably be able to beat me up at this point. 

Yeah, just listening to him play he sounds like a pretty strong guy. Like at Pitchfork a couple years ago, he closed out the set just beating up the drums.

 [laughs] His upper body strength is definitely superior to mine because of his playing, you know? 

You’re known for your lyrics being really personal and honest. Has there ever been anything you’ve felt was too personal, that you might have started and thought 'well, maybe I shouldn’t write about this'?

Yeah, I mean not in terms of subject matter, but in terms of how close to the bone you get. Obviously I’ll stop short of actually naming people and stuff. But yeah, there’ve been a couple things where I thought I was being just a bit spiteful and it was not really necessary, so I’ll definitely cut out parts like that. But everything, really, anything goes. I think people have come to expect a certain level of honesty from music and although parts of Midnight Organ Fight were a bit too coarse for me even, I still think that it’s about what’s kind of going on with me. 

After listening to Midnight Organ Fight so many times, I can’t imagine the stuff you would have cut out considering all of the stuff you left in...

[laughs] But I did! I did. I did have to cut. 

How did the tour with Plants and Animals come about?

What happens is we get a list of bands, and I’d seen them play before and had become a fan so when the list came here it was like destiny - it was really weird. And you’re trying to find bands that not only you think the audience would like, but selfishly it’s gotta be a band that I can watch each night, so that’s definitely been the case with this tour.

Since it seems you’re always over here in America, how do you stay connected with the Scottish music scene? Any up and coming artists we should keep an eye out for from over there?

I think in terms of what’s really, really happening I’ve got my finger way off the pulse, but there’s a couple great bands from Scotland that don’t get as much attention as they should over here. There’s a great artist called Withered Hand. He’s actually starting to work for a label over here so hopefully more people will see him soon, but he’s got a great album called Good News which is one of my favorites from last year.

Do you still explore any other creative arts? You did the album cover for Midnight Organ Fight, are you still doing anything visually artistic like that?

Yeah, actually most of the covers you see are still done by me. I draw here and there but I don’t have much time, so it’s one of those things that once this whole band’s done, and even after the tour, I would like to do a bit more often. I would love to be able to sell or exhibit my art as well at some point in life. But obviously Frightened Rabbit takes up most of my time. 

So I was trying to think of a more ridiculous question to end the interview with: Chicago hot dogs and deep dish pizza – is that as weird to Scots as haggis is to us?

I don’t know because I think the stuff that goes into haggis is definitely weird. It’s basically lambs lungs and stomach and other organs. I love Chicago hot dogs, but I can see how people can maybe recoil slightly at the thought of what goes in haggis.


  1. Great interview! I liked reading about the sibling rivalries ;)

  2. Can't wait for the show on Thursday!

  3. Cool article..Frightened Rabbit are so good!!

  4. Great interview and was surprised to see them on here as there not strictly Chicago!