I spoke with Grant Hutchison, the drummer and younger brother of Frightened Rabbit frontman and creative force Scott last week, he was in Bristol at the time and very excited – he told me it’s one of his favourite cities because they have good cider. It’s a far cry from their Selkirk roots in the Scottish Borders where I imagine slurping on fermented apple juice is probably frowned upon.
Frightened Rabbit started life as the solo enterprise of Scott and he took the moniker from what his mother would call him as a wee lad on account of his almost crippling shyness. I wondered if their mother had a name for Grant too. “I’d just get called the bairn on account of me being the youngest” he explains in good humour, “there’d have been no way that I’d have ever been compared to a frightened rabbit when I was growing up – I was something more akin to Warner Brothers’ Tasmanian Devil” he laughs, “I was the polar opposite to Scott.”
While Frightened Rabbit released what is widely being referred to as their ‘break-through’ album Pedestrian Verse earlier this year, it is the project’s fourth long player and from the outset it’s been clear that much of Scott’s creative output comes from some pretty dark places. I wonder if this darkness from his older brother has ever surprised or worried Grant.
“It absolutely does!” offers Grant with a slightly disconcerted tone. “Although not so much anymore, we’re four albums in now and I’ve figured out the tone of Scott’s lyrical content. But, initially when we first heard The Midnight Organ Fight (Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 sophomore album) – because he’s a very inward person, it came as a surprise when all these emotions came out in songs in what is, essentially, a very public medium – especially some songs like “Floating in the Forth” for example – to hear some of the lines and sentiment was worrying and upsetting. I think, though, that both myself and the family quickly realised was that by getting these things out into song was a form of therapy. Essentially, when he sings about suicide it doesn’t mean he’s gonna do it, y’know…”
Previous to their latest album, Pedestrian Verse, Scott would go away to some isolated house and hole himself up to write and bring the songs back to Grant to add drums to. But with Pedestrian Verse, Grant tells me the whole band got involved very early on in the demo process and writing, so Scott was working on lyrics concurrently with the music being created. Grant tells me that he found this process much longer and at times frustrating and he saw Scott have some difficulty relinquishing control. But in the end “I think the band and Scott benefitted from it, because, when it was a more solo effort Scott felt the pressure so much more, but with this record the pressure was more evenly shared.” This record is, then, quite the evolution for Frightened Rabbit. “Absolutely. I mean it wasn’t a clean slate or anything like that, but certainly a fresh start… We didn’t change the way we sounded, or the style of music we were trying to write or the people we were trying to reach… but I think Scott felt that he was seeing patterns in what he was writing and almost a Frightened Rabbit formula which he didn’t want to repeat in making a new record. We made a conscious effort to avoid that.”
Moving forward, Grant tells me, that the lessons learned in making Pedestrian Verse will stand in good stead in making album number 5 “I feel we’ll hit the ground running, we can actually start from a better starting point than we did with the last one.” Which naturally led me to ask about when there might be a new record. “We’re going to a bit of time off after we’ve been down there for Laneway and hopefully come back together in Summer to start writing and demoing. We want a new album to be out in 2015; there way three years between the last two records and I think that was too long.”
Speaking of Laneway, I asked if there’s anyone on the line up in particular that he’s keen on catching. “(exasperated sigh) Almost everyone! It’s incredible – I’ve not seen a line-up that strong in a long time. The worst thing about festivals is always the clashes, but we’re lucky to be playing all of the dates so I’ll manage to see different bands each time. And also, I’m really looking forward to seeing some local bands from Australia and New Zealand who I might not of heard of yet.”