“It was a much more open and enjoyable experience as a result of it being collaborative.” An interview with Frightened Rabbit (11/02/2013)

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Myself and Taliesin Davies caught up with lead singer of Frightened Rabbit Scott Hutchison before their gig at The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth is the first date officially of your UK tour – are you looking forward to the upcoming gigs?

Yeah! It’s always exciting starting a tour – we’ve got all these new songs and it kinda brings a new energy to the set. Some of the old songs I’ve been playing for like 8 years now, so as much as I love them, it’s nice to get a whole new injection of fresh material! It’s really exciting!

The support acts are sounding great tonight, how did you go about choosing them?

Washington Irving are from Glasgow, so we’ve known about them for a while and hung out a little bit and appreciated each other’s music. Wintersleep, I got into them the middle of last year and just became completely obsessed! It was great to find them and then quickly realized that they were fans of ours and a bit of communication and they’re doing the whole of this UK tour and half the American tour (they’re from Canada). They’re on album number five now as well, so it’s kinda a similar situation to us.

Yeah so Pedestrian Verse, album number four! Number 9 in the charts, how does that feel?

It’s pretty weird isn’t it?!  We never charted really at all – I think the last one got to like… sixty something?

It takes a while I guess.

Sometimes it does, and I think that’s the best way to do it. I wouldn’t ever want to have the instant gratification of your first album doing really, really well – then the only way is down! So for us, it feels like we’re still growing in a nice natural sedate way. It’s been organic in that sense, rather than shoved down people’s throats.

We’re just proud of it! It’s been a while, three years since we released a full length. We worked so hard on making sure everything about it was right and just honing the whole thing. To start to see the reaction even though it’s been out a week, is really gratifying.  

Earlier in the stage of writing the songs, you brought them to the band. Your songwriting process was more collaborative this time round?

It was! A very different process for me. Usually I go away, and essentially write and demo the whole album by myself. I think I was getting a bit bored and lonely writing alone. It’s stressful! I lost a lot of sleep on those first few records! Arrrgh!

Don’t worry about it now!

(Laughs) That was a flashback there! It was a much more open and enjoyable experience as a result of it being collaborative. Everyone was pitching little bits in. I can hear everybody else’s personalities on this record rather than just my own and I can enjoy it a lot more as a result.

I think that shows that you’ve naturally progressed as a band. Would you agree?

Yeah I think it was a natural thing –I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s taken us so long between albums – it took us a wee while to get into the swing of things. It was a new process for us. But once we did, it was a really productive time. For Frightened Rabbit, I would never go back to that old way of writing on my own. Just because I think it would be a step backwards.

Do you feel your lyrical approach has changed as well?

Yeah, I think I tried to widen the lines a little bit and write about things other than my own life. A lot of this album was kinda supposed to be stories – certainly fictional. Aspects of people’s lives that I don’t know. And that was a challenge for me, I’d spent so long writing about myself. It started to feel really whiney! You know when you start doing like an hour and a half set and it’s all about you… I just feel like I’m complaining at people, so I had to open it up, and that was what a lot of this album was about.

I really like The Oil Slick – there’s birdsong at the end… is it a Great Tit or a Chiff Chaff?

I have no idea! I’ve never been asked (laughs a lot). Well… you’ve totally stumped me there. I can find out for you. Someone will know! Bill Oddie! I’ll get Bill Oddie on the cause. 

I also like ‘Holy’! I saw that was the set opener a few days ago – are we going to see a repeat of ‘Holy’ tonight?

Nice one! Yes, it seems like it’s working there. It’s one of my favourite songs on the record! There’s no way it’s getting dropped.

Is it true that ‘Pedestrian Verse’, the title, was a challenge to yourself when you were writing it?

Yeah and almost to people later on who later on were reviewing it as well – to myself it had to be my strongest lyrical content, for it not to be slagged off and called ‘pedestrian’. So yeah, there was that in the back of my mind all the time – if this is what I’m going to call the record, then it has to be everything but, lyrically! Only time will tell – it’s not had too many absolute slatings in the music press yet! There’s been a couple but yeah… they can fuck off! (laughs)

I love your videos, especially ‘The Woodpile’ – they’re pretty tasteful and arty! It was one shot with no cuts wasn’t it?

It was take number thirty five? Basically got up at eight in the morning and started walking across that road once every fifteen to twenty minutes and did that about thirty five times. We finally got the take about twelve hours later after I got up! So I was knackered  – making videos is not our favourite things to do. It’s a long process and we try and be in them as little as possible, although it does have a bit of us playing in it a little bit. You’ve got this opportunity to do something really interesting! The people that we work with consistently since the last record make videos that have a life of their own beyond the song. They’re not just to sit with the song – you can appreciate them both on their own merits.

Your artwork/sleeve designs for Frightened Rabbit are really nice, who designs them?

I used to take care of all the artwork and then found myself with less time so I worked with a guy and also built up a really good relationship with the guy that was doing the design aspects. I’d sent him rough drawings and say to him “make that neat!”

You tweeted that you’re collaborating with Andy Hull from Manchester Orchestra? Those guys are awesome!

Yeah! Me and Andy finished a song, we did it via the internet! I’ve actually never met him! It’s so weird, we’re mutual fans. We’re hoping to do some more together so you know I’d love there to be a tour and a full length record. But that depends on both of our schedules. But we have one song that we’ve finished, I think that’s coming out on Record Store Day this year in April.

How does it work, recording over the internet?

It was really easy actually! We initially just texted each other a voice memo, which is weird for me here listening to Andy sitting in his room playing guitar and singing and I was like “wow that’s awesome”. Then I sent him my one and he was like “man that’s awesome!” So we were like “which one are we gonna do!?” He chose mine and said he’d got something for it, so I did the track in Glasgow and then just sent it over to him, and the night of the next day it was done! His parts were all on it and he’d finished it off. He’s a fast worker – apparently Andy can essentially write a whole album in a day, he’s so prolific, he just works and works and works. So he’s a lot faster than me!

What’s it like doing music as a career?

You should always do it for the right reasons, and if you are then I think good things with become of it. I know lots of professional musicians who are always miserable. It’s very difficult to become massively popular and make an absolute packet from music. But we never wanted to do that. All we wanted was “can doing this pay our rent and buy our shopping?” And it does! Anything above that is a bonus. If you enjoy it and stick at it and you work hard you can make it your life. Hopefully! Go forth, make music!

Pedestrian Verse is out now and you can find out more about Frightened Rabbit by visiting their website. Thanks to Scott and Atlantic Records for the interview.

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