Scott Hutchison, lead singer of Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit, talks to Grace Murphy about breaking the US, mumbling nonsense and storytelling
This last year has been an outstanding one for Glasgow-based band Frightened Rabbit. The release of their third studio album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, was followed by a highly successful US debut and a European tour. o-two catches up with the band in Zurich, and wonders if they found any major differences between European and US audiences.
“It’s actually not so different now,” says Hutchison. “It’s different to generalise it into one country. Each night, you can wildly vary in audience size. In general, the two are more similar than you think. It’s a bit of a cliché, but Americans are definitely more vocal than British people in terms of their responses. They like whooping and hollering and going wild. It’s quite nice actually. They react accordingly which is kinda good.”
The band’s previous album, Midnight Organ Fight, was incredibly personal and almost an autobiography of sorts, yet The Winter of Mixed Drinks seems to be taking a different tack. “Yeah, I had to do more storytelling with that one. [It’s] partly because I didn’t want to make another album that was quite so heavily personal as that last one, and partly because there wasn’t much material.
“I was touring and I was happy and things were going well, and that really doesn’t make for a very good album. It was a challenge for me, because I’ve really only written about myself. And so playing those songs over and over again each night, I realised it was a bit indulgent. I wanted to look further afield than myself for material.”
Frightened Rabbit started out as Hutchison by himself, “mumbling nonsense half the time”. Did the addition of four other members call for the change in material? “Maybe that’s part of it. Realising now that we’re set as a band, there’s no more members on the way, now we can start working as such,” he says, adding: “Up until now, it’s been pretty much my project.
“I think it’s taken a little bit of time for me to loosen the reins on that a bit, because it has been very personal and it’s difficult to let people in. So I think from now on, we can start doing that a bit more, which is sort of exciting actually.”
And how does it feel to share something so personal with a different audience night after night? “It doesn’t occur to me when we’re singing them – the original sentiment has faded and I think now the live show certainly is more euphoric and everyone’s having a good time. The sadness doesn’t really occur to me anymore. I think playing them night after night does help the sentiment fade as well.” So it’s like therapy? “It is like therapy, except I don’t need to pay for it. I get paid for it.”
With tracks such as ‘Not Miserable’ and ‘Living in Colour’, The Winter of Mixed Drinks is a much more euphoric album. However, ‘Nothing Like You’ is its one anomaly and it seems as if it would better fit into their previous, melancholic album.
“Yeah, bits of it were written during Organ Fight, it’s definitely a straggler from the last album, he says. “It just perfectly encapsulates that inbetween period in relationships where the person might not definitely be ‘the one’ for you; I don’t know how to put it without being crude.” Getting under someone to get over someone else? “That’s the phrase I was searching for.”
The band have gone from strength to strength, having played the tour circuit last summer: “Glastonbury was amazing, one of the highlights of the year.” And Belle and Sebastian have just asked them to play the Bowlie Weekender festival in December. “It’s gonna be pretty big, a bit of an end-of-year party. We’re calling it the Frightened Rabbit Christmas Office Party, it’s gonna be fun.”
Given that the project started as a one-man, blues-mumbling show, does Hutchison regret the successes they have achieved and all that comes with it? “I don’t regret it. My girlfriend would probably disagree, she never sees me. But yeah, I think sometimes you can catch yourself cursing the lifestyle.
“It’s really anti-social to all the people you call your friends. But I can’t complain really. You have to pinch yourself, I’m really lucky to be able to do what I’m doing, so you won’t catch me complaining for much longer than like, ten minutes.”
Frightened Rabbit play The Academy on December 9th.