Frightened Rabbit is a quintet of some good old fashion Scottish indie rockers. They’ve released three albums to date, including last year’s critically acclaimed The Winter of Mixed Drinks. The original “Frabbit” is Scott Hutchison, who began playing solo shows under the moniker Frightened Rabbit in 2003, expanded to include his brother Grant (drums), multi-instrumentalists Billy Kennedy and Andy Monaghan, and recently rounded off with the addition of Gordon Skene on additional guitar. They are currently in the middle of a massive US tour with Death Cab for Cutie which runs until the end of August.
My interview with Frightened Rabbit all happened as the result of a chance last minute meeting at the WXPN free at noon concert. As a result, I was forced to throw together questions on the fly while in my seat at the concert. I tell you, nothing compares to being the sad stereotype of the guy alone at a Death Cab concert who is scribbling in his notebook which he took from a messenger bag studded with band badges.
Mid-way through DCFC’s set, I went backstage to a little dressing room and met Scott and Andy, who were enjoying some whiskey after their performance. The guys in the band are a jolly, friendly bunch. Andy sat on the side to interject with a joke every now and again as Scott and I talked about Frightened Rabbits growing success, drinking, Green Day, and The Beaver.
Radio Cures: How’s the tour? This is your second time touring with Death Cab for Cutie, correct?
Scott Hutchison: Yep, we toured with them in Europe a few years ago, 2008. Great band to tour with.
Is there anything different this time around?
SH: A little. We’re a bit more…would you call it professional?
Andy Monaghan: I wouldn’t go that far.
SH: We’re like, not professional but I suppose…
AM: Semi-pro, if you will.
SH: Yeah, semi-pro this time around.
I understand you’ve released your first tour-only EP as well this time around.
SH: It’s three songs that I’d been working on around the time of the last record [The Winter of Mixed Drinks] but weren’t quite ready. It was recorded atThe Diving Bell lounge in Glasgow with producer Marcus McKay who produced our first record, Sing the Greys. It’d been a long time since we’d worked with him.
It was different from recording Sing the Greys. Usually I’ve been focused on making layered and textured albums, almost to the point of pointless instrumentation. On the EP and largely for Mixed Drinks I kind of let up on that.
AM: He even took a break for a few days during recording and left the studio so we could all have at it. We kept expecting him to come back and be like “What the fuck did you do to the record?”
On top of all this, you also had a collaboration come out to benefit [Scottish mental health organization] The Fruit Tree Foundation. What was it like to work in that context with musicians outside of Frightened Rabbit?
SH: It was an experience, I’m friends with or fans of the people I worked with, like Emma Pollock (The Delgadoes) or Rod Jones (Idlewild). The album was the first time I worked with people outside of Frightened Rabbit. It helped me with the recording for our material because I learned how to step back and give other people the control.
So can we expect a new Frightened Rabbit album any time soon?
SH: Definitely. The album’s all written, now we’re just looking for a place to record it. We haven’t really landed on a place, but probably not Scotland. Maybe America.
There’s a lot of drinking in your albums, I’ve noticed. Everyone’s either drinking, drunk or hungover in most of your songs, is there a particular reason why?
SH: Part of it’s just that feeling of…trying to remember the last day you didn’t drink. (To Andy) That doesn’t make me an alcoholic does it?
SH: It’s a very Scottish thing, you see. Drinking is omnipresent in the culture. We make lots of great things.
Roadie: (holding up whiskey bottle) like this!
SH: Like that. Would you like a taste?
Do you have a favorite beer?
SH: I’ve got a few. I like Anchor Steam from San Francisco. There’s a fair few from Scotland but I’m fond of BrewDog. I like a good wheat beer.
I think ultimately after the band maybe that’s what I’ll do.
SH: You know brew beer, make cheese, whiskey, that kind of thing. Fancy stuff.
Another recurring lyric seems to be the phrase “Scottish rain.” You’ve used it at least twice now, on “Modern Leper” and the new track “Scottish Wind.” Stupid question, but is there something different about the rain in Scotland than anywhere else?
AM: Well first off, there’s a lot of it.
SH: There’s a lot of it. Although I do like the idea of that image being something you can follow from record to record. It’s kind of an ever present situation like the alcohol, it just never goes away.
Do you have a favorite place to write your lyrics?
SH: I like to change it up a bit, do something different for each record. Last time the whole band moved out to two houses in the countryside to write the album.
Growing up, did you have a favorite venue nearby?
SH: The Barrowlands in Glasgow. It’s where I saw a lot of my first concerts as a teenager: Green Day, Foo Fighters, etc. – stuff I probably wouldn’t go see now. First place I got drunk in Glasgow.
I have a little difficulty picking you as a Green Day fan.
SH: Oh yeah, I saw them during the tour for Nimrod, I think they’re still a great band, always have been. But again, wouldn’t go see them now.
I have one last question…Have you ever heard of a film called The Beaver?
SH: (laughs) Have I? Of course. I haven’t gotten to see it yet, have you?
Yep, I saw it because your songs were featured in the trailer. Were you aware when you agreed to put “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” on the soundtrack that it was a movie of Mel Gibson talking through a sentient beaver puppet?
SH: When they request your songs for a movie, they send you the plot and all that along with the contract. I was a little wary at first, I saw the name Mel Gibson and thought, well he’s a bit of a dick…and I read the plot and I thought, this could either be really genius or terrible. Which was it?
I’m still not sure exactly.
SH: Ah, well that’s better than it being either way. We made a fair bit of money from it, so I’m not complaining. It’s nice because now when we get home from this tour I won’t be worried about working in a bar to try and make ends meet.