IT’S NOT every day that you ring a hotel in Zurich only to be paged through to the wrong Scott Hutchinson’s room – but after that minor mishap, our conversation could only improve. Luckily, the Frightened Rabbit singer was a lovely chap…
Let’s start with a very obvious and clichéd question, but an important one for fans to know, nonetheless. The name.
It’s a very quick answer. It’s a nickname that my mum and dad gave me very briefly, when I was much younger. I still am, to a certain extent, quite shy and afraid of social interaction, so whenever I was thrown into kids’ parties, or whatever, I would just sit in the corner with a frightened rabbit look on my face – so that’s pretty much where it comes from.
The band began as pretty much your project, and you’re still the main lyricist and songwriter. Does the responsibility of that ever weigh heavily on your shoulders, or do you prefer to have it that way?
Well, I think the only thing is that I feel criticism a little bit more heavily than anyone else in the band, and I tend to do most of the interviews, and most of the work. But to be honest, there’s no complaints, because it’s my decision to keep it that way, as well. I think, in some way, I’m gonna try to let the reins loose a little bit with this next album, or when we move forward. It’s still my project, and I just have to put up with whatever comes with that.
The Midnight Organ Fight was a ‘break-up album’, in your own words – do you find it hard to recreate personal songs with unhappy connotations night in, night out on tour, or do they start to lose meaning and just become songs after a while?
Yeah, they do lose the original sentiment, because that naturally has to disappear. But I think, actually, strangely enough, in spite of the fact that the album is quite sad in places, most of the time when we’re playing those songs live, it’s a very uplifting, and joyful and fun experience. So actually, the whole sadness aspect of it doesn’t really occur to me anymore, because people are having a good time to these bleak-ish songs (laughs)
Was it more difficult to write the new album, after the success of The Midnight Organ Fight?
Yeah, but it was a sort of good pressure. I think there’s two ways you can deal with it – you can either fold underneath it, or try to use it to make yourself better, I guess. So I like the fact that there are people out there who are waiting for our next album, and who are excited about it, and I don’t wanna disappoint them, y’know? I don’t agree with the attitude that you only write songs for yourself, because that’s just not true anymore. I write songs first and foremost for myself, yeah – but I also write them for other people. So it’s good to have that kind of pressure, because if no one cared, I would be more worried, I think.
You decided to work with Peter Katis for a second time for The Winter of Mixed Drinks. You obviously feel that he’s a producer that just ‘gets’ what you want to do.
Yeah, I think the first time we worked with him, we were still kind of getting to know each other, and he was still trying to feel out what we wanted to do, and it was a slightly slower start. So we felt if we went back, we’d have already done that part, and the start wouldn’t be so fresh. I think in that case, that was why we went back, because we’d already built up a relationship with Peter – so it seemed natural just to go back and give it another bash, because he’d done such an amazing job with the album before, and on other albums, of course.
I know Grant [Hutchinson, drummer] said in an interview that the sea influenced a lot of this album, too, as you wrote it in Fife… is nature something that plays as big a role as personal relationships when it comes to lyrical inspiration?
It wasn’t important to be beside the sea, no – but in the end, when it started coming together, I realised that it was having an effect. Although the reason that I went there was because a friend of mine had a free house. I wasn’t really even going out to write songs, I was just going out to be there and relax and stuff, and it just started happening. But yeah, my geographical position definitely does affect how the songs come out, so it did matter in the end.
You said that the writing of this album involved a very set routine every day, involving long walks, porridge, bacon and Dickinson’s Real Deal. It is a marvellous programme.
Oh yeah, that was my break in the afternoon (laughs). At 3pm in the afternoon, I would have an hour to take my mind off the whole thing, and it just so happened that Dickinson’s Real Deal was the mainstay for that hour.
Can you attribute anything whatsoever on the album to David Dickinson?!
I don’t know, maybe there’s some hidden messages in there that I haven’t looked into, haha. Something about antiques, maybe.
You started off as a trio and have added members steadily over the past few years, with Gordon being the latest to join the band. How many more are to come? Will Frightened Rabbit become a Polyphonic Spree-style indie orchestra?
Nawww… (laughs). I think we’re done, and also, we couldn’t afford to add anymore members (laughs). We’re already stretched. But I think now, as we are as a five piece, it’s a good time to start working as a five-piece band, in the studio, as well. Up until now, it’s been mostly my project, as you said, but hopefully now with the five of us, we can get together and make this a real ‘band’ album next time.
You’ve done better than many UK bands in terms of coverage and popularity in the US, and playing moderately big venues. It’s an obvious question, but how exactly do gigs over there differ from gigs in the UK or Ireland?
They’re not that different anymore, really. There was a while when the US was ahead of the UK, in terms of how many people knew about us, and how many people came to gigs. I think a lot of the time, people are surprised that you make it over to the US at all, they’re just pleased you’re there. So there is a sense of enthusiasm for it that perhaps some places in the UK is slightly less. But it’s not that different these days – the main difference is that we’ve now got a tour bus in the US, which is a massive luxury for us. But apart from that, the shows are quite similar.
I remember reading an interview with you once where you made an interesting point about the differences between Scottish and Irish bands, and how their outlook was different – that Scottish bands are more lyrically wry, whereas Irish bands are more heart-on-sleeve clichés. I think that’s true.
I don’t know, I think it’s just there to be heard – and it wasn’t a criticism of either, really. I think the Irish outlook is a much more positive one than the Scottish one, generally. There’s a huge history of miserableness in Scotland, and a lot of the Irish people I know personally are a hell of a lot more upbeat than the Scots I know (laughs). And that comes through in the music, I think. There’s a greater sense of hope in Irish music, and I have no idea why that is. There must be some big historical reason… or maybe something to do with Dickinson’s Real Deal.
You said that you’ve moved away from songs about girls with this album – do you have anything in mind, theme-wise, for the next batch of songs you’re going to write?
Well, I think I’ve been thinking about, just through necessity, really, about widening the scope of what I write about, beyond my own life. Because my own life now doesn’t make for a great album (laughs). I’m touring a lot, I’m quite comfortable when I’m back at home, in a really lovely relationship with a lovely person, and that doesn’t really work for a record. So I’m gonna have to look elsewhere, I think – and that’s fine, I think it’s nice to challenge yourself. It’s easy to write about the darker aspects of life, but I’m trying to look elsewhere these days for inspiration. To extend my scope.