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Q&a Frightened Rabbit - On new album Pedestrian Verse, "cleaning up messy times in my life" & more

Q&a Frightened Rabbit - On new album Pedestrian Verse, "cleaning up messy times in my life" & more
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Over the last decade Selkirk-born Scott Hutchison has led his band of friends and family – as well as a growing army of fans – through bitter sweet balladry and bar room-belters, spawning beloved breakup anthems like The Modern Leper and the undeniable Keep Yourself Warm along the way. With growing American acclaim, yet a new approach to song writing, we caught up Frightened Rabbit leader to talk about recently released album Pedestrian Verse.

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How the devil are you?

“Good, thanks.”

The band, or at least its name, is a decade old this year – did you imagine you’d get this far?

“I have always hoped that I would be able to build a long-term career in music. I had no idea whether that would be with Frightened Rabbit or not, but I’m very happy with where the band is right now.”

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Looking back, how do you view your early, solo recordings?

“In the same way that one might view pictures of themselves taken years ago – there’s a lovely warm nostalgia coupled with total embarrassment at the naivety and occasional awkwardness of those recordings. Some of the lyrics sucked. A lot!”

What do you think the key progressions were to turn Frightened Rabbit into a band?

“The most important development has occurred in the past two years, with the whole band getting involved in the writing process. It’s changed the band for the better, as not only has the music benefited, but we feel more like a unit working towards the same goal.”

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There’s always been an element of black humour to your songs to go along with some serious self-loathing. Is it important to almost be able to laugh when things go really wrong in life?

“It’s a classic Scottish, and to an extent British, trait – that whole attitude of: Well, it’s all fucked, but at least we’re still alive! I’m inspired by writers such as Aidan Moffatt, Stuart Murdoch and Withered Hand – all working in Scotland and making sad, funny and heartbreaking music. It’s good to be part of the tradition.”

You tend to veer towards pretty big themes – sex and religion among the topics that crop up the most. Do you find that writing about these things gives you a way of dealing with them personally?

“It’s a good way to clean up some very messy times in my life. A song can be a very neat frame around a chaotic painting and I definitely use my writing to understand why things happen the way they do.”

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How did the recording go for the new album?

“We’ve never had so much time, space and freedom to make a record as we did with Pedestrian Verse – the possibilities of how and where we could make the album were much wider, and much more open-ended. We didn’t record until we were absolutely ready, and the label were very sensitive to that. Perhaps on the last record, we were a little rushed, and that was detrimental to the music.”

On Pedestrian Verse you seem to have pushed the envelope a little bit more in terms of experimenting with different sounds and arrangements – are you trying to move away from a rock band sound?

“Not intentionally. I think the inclusion of the other members in the writing process has seen the music take a slight left turn away from the path I set with the first three records, but we do still mostly adhere to classic rock/pop structure and I still love a grand chorus…”

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Do you think you’ll replicate the collaborative approach in future?

“Well, as much as I’m wary of simply replicating a process, we’ll definitely be continuing to write collectively from this point on. It feels like the start of something very exciting for the band, and I’m looking forward to hearing where it can go next. I guess from that you can infer that I have no idea what the next record will sound like, and that’s for the best.”

Do you see yourself as part of a lineage of Scottish bands? Or do you feel that American influences may be more important?

“I’d love to be considered part of the fabric of Scottish music at this time, and the influence of Scottish bands, from Errors to The Phantom Band to The Delgados is absolutely everywhere in our songs. Of course we’re influenced by a wide spectrum of music, as are most groups, and that includes American bands and artists. It’s not for me to say where we belong in the canon, but we are very proud to be just one horse in Scotland’s healthy musical stable at this time. First and last time I use that horse analogy, by the way… Bit weird.”

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Recently Aidan Moffat suggested that The Proclaimers were important because they had a strong Scottish identity and it was a shame they’d been written off. What are your views on the bespectacled brothers?

“I agree with that. They haven’t really been cool at any point in their careers, but within Scottish pop, they were trailblazers for the use of our own accent – as was Aidan, it must be said. That was really important, and the effect of that is so evident in current Scottish bands. Singing with the accent is pretty much the norm now.”

Who will play you in the Frightened Rabbit biopic?

“Paul Giamatti would play me from 40 onwards. Some super hot buff guy will obviously do the early years… I think it’d be a laugh a minute.”

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Finally, on Acts Of Men from the new album you sing “Sorry, selfish and trying to improve”. How closely does that sentiment relate to you?


Michael James Hall@michaeljamesh

For more head to Frightenedrabbit.com.


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